Second Opinion: Wolfenstein II

I wasn’t going to write anything about this game with Sir Lucius already having done a review on it, but now that I’ve finished it, I find that my thoughts are so unexpectedly opposite to his that I can’t seem to contain myself.

First of all, daaaaaamn it really was hard. Even just playing on Bring ‘Em On difficulty (which is their equivalent of Normal mode) was incredibly tough. There are frequent checkpoints, and you can manually save at just about any time, so you never lose much progress, but man do you die a lot along the way.

It also took significantly longer to finish than people on the internet are saying. I guess if you do only the main story missions and don’t explore at all you can blow through it pretty quickly, but with all the secrets, side quests, and optional challenge missions, it ended up pushing near the thirty hour mark. More content than expected is always nice.

Let’s talk about that story though. A lot of people, at least back when they revealed footage of the game, were very excited about the story and the crazy, detailed look of this alternate version of America, but having experienced it for myself, I thought the plot and characters were quite awful. It doesn’t seem to help matters that the game seems confused about whether it’s a super dark and serious drama or a wacky slapstick comedy.

The game goes from showing us horrible Nazi atrocities, the graphically violent and racist behavior of BJ‘s father in flashbacks, and has this ongoing subplot in the first half where BJ is slowly dying due to the massive injuries he sustained in the end of the first game, and the only thing holding his guts in is this super armor he’s wearing. It’s all very dark and gloomy, and then about halfway in everything just suddenly shifts into comedy mode and the game becomes a complete parody of itself.

It just seems to suddenly give up entirely on being serious and every cutscene and character interaction becomes some kind of contest to see who can be the most annoyingly quirky. There’s Fergus with his ridiculous robot arm that seems to somehow be sentient and childishly plotting against him, despite that making no actual sense. There’s the bizarrely stereotypical tough, sassy black woman and her cliched ufo conspiracy nut boyfriend who just won’t stop rambling incoherently. They’re all so simultaneously edgy and quirky that I found them pretty unbearable. I didn’t find myself caring for them or sympathizing with them like Sir Lucius did, I actually wished they would just die so I could stop listening to them and get back to the battling. I get that this was supposed to be like an irreverent, campy grindhouse feel, but it all feels so forced and out of place that I just wasn’t into it.

There’s also an absolutely ridiculous plot twist in the middle that’s like something out of a bad superhero comic book (you know the one I mean if you played it), very strange and sudden transitions between locations at times, and an ending that feels kind of rushed and incomplete. It’s hard to tell if they were in a rush to finish the game, or if someone’s bosses decided the game needed more humor half way through, or if things were left kind of hanging for the sole purpose of leaving room for sequels or DLCs or what, but I just really didn’t like almost any of the non-combat content at all.

I don’t know, a lot of people seem to like the story and characters just fine, so much that Sir Lucius and many others are calling it one of the best games of the year, so I guess maybe I’m just not quite in the target audience anymore for some reason, which is a bit disheartening to someone who’s been following the series since Wolfenstein 3D. It’s not a bad game at all, I still really liked the gameplay, but I felt like this could have been so much more and I’m a little bit disappointed if this is going to be the new direction for the series. Not enough that I won’t probably still buy another sequel someday, but enough that this series has now dropped in my mind from “need to play ASAP” to “I’ll wait until it’s on sale for 1/3 the price”.

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