There’s little arguing against the fact that the Nintendo Switch is a nifty video game console. The ability to play big budget, AAA video games both at home and on the go - with a seamless transition between those play modes - is really cool. Taking the likes of Skyrim, Bayonetta, and now Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus with you on the train, car ride, or flight is nothing short of awesome. These games play well enough on the Switch but because of the machine’s technological limitations compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, concessions have to be made. Graphics snobs that have grown accustomed to the increased enhancements offered by the Pro-edition consoles won’t have many good things to say about Wolfenstein II’s transition to the Switch. And if we’re being honest, they wouldn’t be wrong.
Right from the start, you can see where Panic Button, the studio responsible for the Switch port, had to scale back in order to make this thing run. Texture pop-in, cutting down the resolution on assets like posters, warning plaques, and other elements of environmental storytelling take a pretty big hit. Particles effects are simplified and scaled back and frame rate gets iffy when things get really busy. Wolfenstein II on the Nintendo Switch might not be the ideal way to experience the game as Machinehead intended but this review is not meant to be any sort of indictment on them or Panic Button who, all things considered, did a great job bringing this beautiful, weird, outrageous adventure to the Switch. It’s true that you’ll notice lessened quality, especially if you’ve played it before on a more powerful machine, though that really doesn’t matter because you’ll be too busy having fun to really care. Wolfenstein II’s greatness doesn’t rely on cutting-edge graphics and photorealistic textures (this isn’t Rage). In here, it’s all about the thrill of cutting down an entire army of evil Nazi scumbags single-handed.
Beginning mere moments from the end of Wolfenstein: The New Order (which is elegantly recapped at the start of the game), all-American Nazi hunter B. J. Blazkowicz and his friends of the anti-Nazi resistance group the Kreisau Circle have launched a successful raid on the hideout of Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, a sadistic scientist responsible for the technological advancements of the German army. Left crippled and broken by Deathshead’s final attack, B. J. is taken aboard a stolen mega-submarine to recover only to be harassed and antagonized by video gaming’s greatest and most hateful villain, the evil Irene Engel, whom B. J. crossed paths with previously at a Nazi concentration camp. Engel harbors an obsessive grudge against B. J. and promises to spend every resource to track him down. Without getting into too much detail - a lot of what makes this game great are the numerous surprises contained within - B. J. spends much of the game in a broken, dispirited state as he laments his battered state. This portion of the game is bleak, depressing, and tailored to make you feel weak as you’re left to frequently scrounge for health and struggle under the weight of the Nazi Empire.
And then there’s the twist. That amazingly absurd, wild, cartoony twist that turns Wolfenstein II upon its head in a course reversal that ends up being so empowering and exciting that you feel like nothing the Nazis throw at you will ever be enough to take you down. (unless you’re playing on harder difficulty settings). At one point, B. J. comments to another character that he feels like a freight train and she replies, “You look like a motherfuckin’ freight train. ” Hard guitar riffs ramp up the excitement as the other character outlines your mission, which also happens to be your first Nazi engagement since the twist. Caught up in the moment, I allowed myself to throw a fist in the air and shouted, “I AM A FUCKING FREIGHT TRAIN. LET’S KILL SOME NAZIS.” And from that point on, the game is the most exciting and exquisite downhill roller coaster of fun. The missions get crazier, the people you meet are more ridiculous than the last, and the battle to ignite the spark of revolution in Nazi-controlled America culminates in the most satisfying ending to a video game I have experienced in a long time. To go into deeper detail with any of this means ruining the game’s surprises and I don’t want to do that on the off chance someone reading this didn’t play it before now. All you really need to know is that Wolfenstein II is a fantastic and empowering shooter that is an absolute joy to play through and graphics be damned.
Another thing that makes Wolfenstein II so special is its cast of characters. The game deals a lot with the topic of family and it is what you make out of it. B. J., Anya, Grace, Max Hass, Wyatt/Fergus, Bombate, Super Spesh (I LOVE SUPER SPESH), and Set Roth couldn’t be any more different from each other yet their experiences and mutual hatred of fascists bring them together into a unit stronger than any picture-perfect nuclear family. Some of the best moments in the game are those where B. J. interacts with his team in between missions, either by performing errands or just listening to them talk with other people on the team. Wyatt, for example, wanders across a stash on LSD and spends the entire game experiencing a wild and crazy psychedelic adventure. A meeting with the New Orleans resistance turns into a philosophical debate with an idealistic communist while his sniper picks off Nazis as former band leader Paris Jack soothes her nerves with clarinet jazz music. There are so many more examples I could bring up that highlight the game’s fantastic writing, character development, and voice acting and while I’d love to keep pointing out my favorite scenes, I really don’t want to give anything more away.
To be frank, there isn’t a whole lot more that can be said about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus that hasn’t already been mentioned here or the dozens of reviews written when it first came out last year. As far as the Switch port is concerned, the game has been downgraded to make it run but not once did I ever feel I was missing out on anything or compelled to stop playing it on Switch and move to the PlayStation 4 or PC. The truth is, you’re going to have far too much fun slaughtering Nazi scum to even care about some fuzzy textures and the occasional broken particle effect.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.