As a kid of the 80’s nothing was more exciting than that one time when Nintendo released its first Gameboy. I remember firing up the brick-sized device, the monochrome screen flashing Nintendo’s logo across the screen and that unforgettable sound of a coin being collected. Portable gaming had finally arrived. Yet, for all of its great achievements mobile gaming has accomplished, it has always lacked the capacity for bringing one of my most beloved genres to its tiny screen.
The Nintendo Switch, more specifically developer Panic Button, has changed all that by bringing some of 2016 and 2017 best shooters over to the little console that could. Most recently the developer has successfully ported Machine Games’ brilliant Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus to the Switch. And over the past two weeks, I have been putting the title through its paces seeing just how well it would hold up on Nintendo’s flagship console. As mentioned in my first impressions piece, this was the first time I had touched a Wolfenstein game since 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein. So after two weeks of some intense Nintendo Switch shooter action, I’m ready to give my final thoughts. So grab that coffee, kick back, and enjoy our review of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus for Nintendo Switch.
*It should be noted that this review will be separated into two parts, the first being a brief review of the game itself as Jatobi has already done a great job over giving a full review last year. The second part will be a much more in depth review of how Wolfenstein 2 performs on the Nintendo Switch. So without further ado let’s dive into this.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus follows a story that asks the grand question of “What if?”. In this particular case, it follows tells a story that flows out of the question, “What if the Nazi’s had won the war, conquered America and ruled the world?” As a continuation 2014’s The New Order, the story picks up essentially where it’s predecessor left off throwing you right into the action. As someone who hadn’t played any of the previous titles in the new series, it was a bit disorienting at first but the game does a pretty good job of catching you up through the use of quick cutscenes and inner monolog.
The story itself follows William “B.J.” Blazkowicz on his journey of trying to liberate America and by extension the world from the iron hand of the Nazi empire. As a man on borrowed time, The player gets to hear a lot of inner monologuing from B.J himself which really adds a layer of depth to the playthrough.
The story isn’t afraid to hit some pretty dark notes along the way either, dealing with issues like emotional and physical abuse, brutality, the value of human life and bigotry. These dark issues, which are unfortunately very much a real part of the world’s current cultural state, aren’t always handled well in the game but there are some moments where the themes and message that Wolfenstein is trying to present to ring true and create some pretty powerful moments for the player to experience.
One critique I did have in relation to story had to do with NPC models, specifically player faces and expression. Unlike the superb dialog, which felt alive and engaging, the actual character models looked mechanical and lifeless. It’s unfortunate really as I tended to get distracted by this fact during what was some otherwise excellent cutscenes and storytelling moments.
The reality is that there is hard tension that must be balanced when engaging with an IP like Wolfenstein, which is both grounded in a very dark point in history but also has, over the years, been an over the top shooter that isn’t afraid to pull from both science fiction and the supernatural for inspiration. Trying to tell a compelling story that touches on some very real issues while also taking the main character to places like Venus to try out for a role-playing, yourself, can be tricky. Machine Games attempts to walk that delicate line and aside from a few minor missteps, walks that line fairly well.
As a shooter, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is grand. Its fast, over the top brutality, is reminiscent to 2016’s DOOM and as a long time fan of the genre, it’s refreshing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously in regards to realism, instead opting for a more arcade style of gameplay, with over the top guns and weapons giving the player the freedom to engage enemies multiple ways. Stealth, finesse and pure brutality are all viable options for players allowing you to really cater the game to your style of play.
The game offers a nice range of weapons and perks as well as weapon upgrades that allow you to tweak and modify said weapons to your playstyle. As someone who tends to lean more towards a spray and pray approach to shooters, being able to spec into extended mags and faster reload on weapons without having to spend points on silencers and suppression upgrades was a welcome feature. The game is also chalked full of collectibles, a node to its many predecessors. These collectible offer everything from the aforementioned perks to concept art and additional lore.
Overall Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus as a game is a superb shooter that struggles a bit at times to find the balance between serious and silliness but for the most part expresses well the story it’s trying to tell. As mentioned I wanted to spend some time talking specifically about how Wolfenstein 2 handles on the Nintendo Switch seeing as this is possibly the most difficult port that Panic Button as done to date for the platform.
The first thing to note is that The New Colossus is going to require you to free up at least 23 BG of space on your system. You will realistically need a micro SD installed in order to play the game. However what’s impressive with this is not how large the game is but rather how small it is compared to, say the PS4 version of the game that weighs in at over 48 GB. The fact that the game is been trimmed down is an impressive feat but it does raise one crucial question, “ What fat was trimmed?”. The answer to that question can be summed up in a single phrase, visual quality.
From cutscenes to in-game visuals, the overall visual quality of Wolfenstein 2 has been reduced to make the game functional on the Switch. When playing in tablet mode it really isn’t an issue. The reality is that images aren’t quite as sharp and you don’t get the crispness of color you would expect from the PS4 or Xbox One version but it still looks pretty solid. The gameplay itself is smooth as silk with some impressive framerates.
In fact as someone who has played both DOOM and Wolfenstein on the Switch, I would have to say that the latter actually runs better than the former. However, I did notice an issue with cutscenes running into a stuttering effect (see my first impressions piece for more detail) when more than a couple of characters were on screen at the same time. It didn’t always happen but when it did it did take away from the immersion.
The other issue I ran into a couple of times was that it did on occasion take a few extra seconds for the game to draw in detail after an initial load time. This seemed to be the cost of smooth frame rates though and arguably it didn’t actually impact gameplay. It simply took away from the visual experience overall. Addressing load times briefly, I have to say I was quite impressed with how quickly the game did load levels. It’s a notable improvement over DOOM’s load times and I wonder if the aforementioned rendering delay plays a part in that.
The controls for Wolfenstein are another area that needs to be discussed briefly. As much as Love that I can play triple AAA FPS titles on a mobile device with traditional analog sticks, I have to say that you can definitely feel the difference in quality between the Switch joycon sticks and something like the PS4 controller. Whereas the latter offers a smooth, accurate shooter experience, the former is a bit rougher making accuracy in shooting more difficult to accomplish. Sniping, in particular, took some serious time to adjust to as I found the controls to jerk around when zoomed in. Based on my time with the game, I think it has more to do with the limitations of the hardware rather than an issue with the port itself. It’s definitely not a deal breaker and the game is still a whole lot of fun to play on the Switch, it’s just that you will definitely feel the difference if coming from another console.