Believe the Hype: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Has GOTY Potential [E3 2017 Preview]

Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata – all potential Game of the Year candidates, with Persona 5 and Breath of the Wild leading the pack. All of these titles got a huge boost, too, when Red Dead Redemption 2 was delayed to 2018, ripping 2017’s race wide open. After E3, a fifth title has entered the race: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about the quality of Wolfenstein II, but most of that was based on the admittedly amazing-looking eight-and-a-half minute reveal trailer. Having gone hands on with the playable demo, we can confirm that the hype is real: The New Colossus is a legitimate Game of the Year competitor.

The basics are easy: BJ Blazkowicz survived after the first game, and Wolfenstein II picks up right where the original left off. Although, unlike the original where BJ wakes up from a 14-year catatonic state just as ready to kick ass, muscular atrophy and injuries actually matter, so BJ isn’t as powerful as he’s used to be (more on that later).

It starts with polish, and The New Colossus has it in spades. It’s the most graphically impressive game I’ve played all year. At certain points in the demo, I had to stop and admire the lighting alone, which changed from room to room, and never missed a frame in the process. This was especially impressive considering that the demo was played on PC. Granted, I’m sure Bethesda spared no expense and got the mack-daddy of all PCs, but it’s still a good sign that they didn’t hide behind console optimization.

The attention to detail by The New Colossus continues with enemy interaction. If I shoot an enemy in the leg, they react as though they’ve been hit in the leg. And these animations aren’t one-and-done either. Since enemies take more than one shot to go down, their reactions can change bullet-to-bullet. Say I start at the leg, but the fire takes my gun up to their torso – their reactions change accordingly. These little things can go unnoticed, but they make a huge difference in how the game feels.

More than anything, though, what great GOTY candidates always have are impressive set-pieces, (think the leaning building in The Last of Us) and the demo of Wolfenstein II is essentially is one giant spectacle. Since BJ is severely injured, he is rolling around the demo in a wheelchair. But, rather than treat this like a limitation, from a game design perspective, Wolfenstein II treats this like an opportunity, making use of conveyor belts, elevators and giant rotating wheels to creatively allow BJ to move around the demo level. My guess is that this is just a taste of things to come, and we’re in for a fun-house of creative set-pieces to blow us away.

Wolfenstein II is releasing in an incredibly crowded month of an incredibly crowded year. Its Oct. 27 release date is up against Super Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Origins, and this will be just a few short days after The Evil Within 2, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus can easily stand up to all of those, based on what we’ve seen so far. By the time December comes around, it would be a shocking development if Wolfenstein II isn’t right in the thick of the Game of the Year race.