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Wolfenstein II, Six Months Later

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It’s been six months since Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus launched for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. This sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order appeared during a tense time in US politics, promoted and released while racism and white nationalism were at the forefront of Americans’ minds. Here’s how things have gone six months later.

  • Wolfenstein II was teased at E3 2016 and announced officially at E3 2017. Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett made a pretty great tweet.
  • The game quickly attracted attention for its political relevance, as America saw alt-right demonstrations and the tearing down of Confederate monuments across the country. In an August interview with PCGamer, developer Machine Games’ creative director Jens Matthies said “the game isn’t a commentary on current topics...we are making a game about Nazis and Nazi ideology, so on some foundational level it is a political game.”
  • A Switch port was announced at a September 2017 Nintendo Direct.
  • Despite Matthies’ statement that the game wasn’t about contemporary politics, as Wolfenstein II’s launch day neared, publisher Bethesda’s advertising campaign addressed real world issues head-on. An early October ad drew on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Another ad later in the month resembled a popular meme about a protester punching white nationalist Richard Spencer in the face during the inauguration. Pete Hines, Bethesda’s VP of PR and marketing, told that “Bethesda doesn’t develop games to make specific statements or incite political discussions” but “We don’t feel it’s a reach for us to say Nazis are bad and un-American.”
  • Wolfenstein II launched on October 27, 2017, on the same day as Super Mario Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Origins. It was met with more or less favorable reviews. Its violent opening moments shocked many people, as did its bloody mid-game plot twist. Players enjoyed the game’s characters (a strong point of its predecessor as well), though some found the level design a bit uninspired and the stealth clunkier than in The New Order.
  • Richard Spencer, or at least an article about him, was once again mocked in a lore easter egg.
  • Many PC players faced technical problems, including performance issues and lack of Steam overlay support. Bethesda hurried to patch them, but PC players continue to have issues.
  • Speedrunners tackled the game immediately, taking its roughly 15 hour runtime down to 80 minutes within a day.
  • German players, in accordance with laws disallowing Nazi imagery, faced off against a mustache-less Hitler.
  • Players also found a way to beat the game’s seemingly-impossible training course record.
  • In November 2017, Wolfenstein II’s first episode of DLC launched, an introduction to the three new characters who would each get their own episode of “The Freedom Chronicles.” The characters’ levels were uneven gameplay-wise, with some being more fun than others. This unevenness would characterize the rest of the DLC.
  • Wolfenstein II got a Steam demo in late November, as well as a half-price sale. This seemed like a significant price drop so soon after release. RockPaperShotgun reflected “This seems to be a recurring theme with Bethesda, as last year’s Dishonored 2 also ended up being discounted to similar kinds of prices just weeks after it came out. At the time the discount was attributed to Dishonored 2 failing to meet sales expectations, and the same has been reported of this year’s Bethesda games too.”
  • More DLC episodes followed in December, January, and March. Like the preview episode, they were uneven and ultimately not as fun as playing as BJ or other characters from the game. A steadily-dropping player count, while not unusual for a single-player game, suggested the DLC didn’t give the game renewed interest.
  • A June 29 release date for the Switch version was announced just this week.

And that’s where things are at. Real-world politics transformed Wolfenstein II from an eagerly-anticipated sequel into something many people hoped would be cathartic on a broader scale. Once players had it in hand, many found it didn’t entirely live up to the hype its ads and context promised. While not quite as beloved as The New Order, The New Colossus still an excellent, memorable game.