Wolfenstein II’s New Orleans Level Highlights Its Greatest Strengths and Flaws [Hands-on Preview]

At the recent Bethesda fall showcase event, we previewed various titles from the major publisher coming between now and the rest of the year. This includes games for every platform out there from Skyrim for Switch, Fallout 4 VR, DOOM on Switch, and The Evil Within 2.

In the final segment of our hands-on previews, we were given the chance to try out a never-before-seen level from Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus ahead of its launch next month on October 27th, 2017. At the start, I was given the option - for the first time since its announcement - to choose between using the LaserKraftWerk that BJ had in the first game or the new DieselKraftWerk debuting in Wolfenstein II.

As a fan of the laser's style, I immediately went with it. Upon choosing, I was given a set of cutscenes from the middle part of Wolfenstein II that set the groundwork for the level I was about to play. It certainly cemented a different type of tone that was persistent throughout the three or four minute-long scene.

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In it, I was given more time with some of the new characters like Resistance leader Grace Walker. She is a no-nonsense type of person who wastes no time sending BJ to New Orleans to help liberate that area. Though she is hard and rather abrasive, it is easy to tell that she has a kind heart and really cares about freeing America from the Nazis in this alternate history game.

Wolfenstein II

Despite the serious nature of the plot, Wolfenstein II certainly takes a hand from the parody-centric Fallout series. The tone of these scenes were goofy and off-the-wall. The characters never fail to have lighthearted jokes and humor that offsets the bleak state of the land.

Even though I was amused by the humor, there was one part that left a sour taste in my mouth before I'd even jumped into the preview level. The cutscene ended on an uncomfortable moment that was tasteless, especially in a professional setting like the one we were in. It was awkward and, while it's fine in private, had no place at the event.

Once I'd shaken those images out of my head, I was plopped right on the battlefield of New Orleans. The environment was gorgeous, with spectacular lighting reflecting off of the realistic water. Unfortunately, the actual areas I visited - as someone who has family from New Orleans - lacked any of the flair and style that makes the city so memorable.

Attribute it to the fact that it's a Nazi-controlled alternate version of the city, but you could've told me it was any other American town and I'd believe you. Despite that, the various areas of the level were different enough in design to keep things interesting. The starting location was broad and open, allowing for numerous approaches to kicking Nazi butt.

Wolfenstein II

I began in the midst of water, with the option for a direct assault on the patrolling enemies or diving under the water and swimming closer for a surprise attack. I opted for a third option, sneaking into a nearby building and stealthily assassinating the few soldiers inside before making my way to the upstairs balcony.

From there, I had a great vantage point and could pop shots at the soldiers with my rifle. But it wasn't long before I was overwhelmed by the entire group, leading to my swift death. I tried a different approach my second time around, and then in my third before finally advancing past that section.

In the next area, Wolfenstein II became far more narrow and tight, encouraging stealth as to avoid alarms. One tiny mistake happened, however, and the alarm was tripped. Immediately, countless soldiers surrounded me and I was dead again.

At this point, it was clear that The New Colossus is far more difficult than the The New Order, but in a completely unbalanced way. I was forced to crank the difficulty down a notch to normal if I had any hope of finishing the level in the 30 minute time limit. This sentiment seemed to be universal, as others in my group made the same note about its unfair difficulty.

WolfensteinBJ

That was unfortunate, as the level design was great. Slowly advancing through a building, avoiding enemies and alarms while still attempting to fulfill a required objective had me constantly on edge. Once I finally made it through the building, I was greeted with an enclosed arena of sorts with no escape.

Essentially a mini-boss battle, I was stuck in this small area with about a dozen soldiers and a Panzerhund. I had to think and act fast to survive, due to its claustrophobic nature. This battle was brilliant, forcing me to be constantly on the move. Camping in one corner wasn't possible, and it created a wonderfully tense situation that resulted in a heavy sigh upon completion.

With that out of the way, I was treated to an upbeat, jazzy scene before ending my demo with a five minute preview of what it's like to ride an actual Panzerhund. Having commandeered this mechanical beast, I had a childish level of fun laying waste to countless Nazis with its heavily armored body and flamethrower mouth.

It painted a positive gleam over what had been a surprisingly disappointing preview. For every smartly designed map, there was an unfair difficulty spike or bland-looking environment. I can only hope that the rest of Wolfenstein II is more balanced and interesting than the New Orleans level when it arrives next month.