As we played through the Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus demo at PAX East this weekend, two showgoers stopped to catch a glimpse of what we were playing. “Let’s head over to the Nintendo booth next,” says one. “This is the Nintendo booth,” says the other. What followed were comments and genuine shock that such a brutal game was running on a Nintendo system. And it’s all true. It’s been a long time since Nintendo could boast about this kind third-party support. Wolfenstein II is a very welcome addition to Switch's library and the PAX demo gives a lot of promise for those that are waiting for its release.
Bethesda’s welcomed support continues to show. After releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and DOOM late last year, Wolfenstein II is the next in what seems like a healthy and long-lasting relationship between Nintendo and Bethesda. Both the Skyrim and DOOM ports were received well, especially for their compatibility in portable mode. Playing Wolfenstein II on the go is certainly its biggest feature. Knowing that Panic Button, the developer that handled the port of DOOM, is heading this project helps put any worries to rest.
Graphically, the Switch version is the weakest of the bunch. That’s not to say it looks bad, but the reduction in texture quality was enough to notice. This version looked a bit muddier than the rest, but it's still an awesome showcase of what Bethesda can bring to the console. While the frame rate is nothing spectacular, it was smooth throughout and rarely was there a dip. I prefer consistency over random spikes.
That said, the biggest draw of Wolfenstein II on Switch is still its portability. Sadly, this demo was docked and a demo on the Switch’s own screen was not available. It's clear that this is the biggest draw for this game and not being able to test it out was disappointing. Although, looking at the love both the Skyrim and DOOM ports received for their compatibility in portable mode, there shouldn't be much to worry about.
In fact, the demo wasn't some kind of build that was made specifically for this event or for demo purposes. It was simply the full game where representatives would simply load an old save after each player got their fill. The port of Wolfenstein II still does not have a solid release date so it’s possible the portable mode was not ready to be shown.
Each demo had a Pro Controller set up as the main way to the play. Anyone who is accustomed to playing on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One should feel at home with the use or the Pro Controller. Each button is utilised properly and aiming and controlling feel exactly as you would expect. It’s safe to assume using the Joy-Con Grip with two small Joy-Cons will play similarly.
Some have been waiting since last October for the Switch port to play Wolfenstein II, so it's worth going into what the demo shows off. Set in a future where the Nazis won World War II and essentially conquered the world, you play as BJ Blazkowicz, the same protagonist from the first game, and you're tasked with escaping from imprisonment by your new Nazi masters. Something serious has just gone down but the demo is already past that point. Thanks to the help of the lieutenant's own daughter, an escape is possible and you're quickly set to murder and kill your way to the exit.
As you would expect from Wolfenstein, this first-person shooter’s combat is frantic and exciting, leaving little worry that this port is anything less than what the other versions have to offer. Everything is mapped to the controller in a way that makes sense and you don't often have to worry about frame rate dips that could affect gameplay. The demo was a little low on a variety of weapons but this level is one of the first missions you’ll encounter.
The demo gives an overall taste of what to expect. Every other room you’ll encounter a round of enemies. They won’t see you at first so you’re given two options: go in guns blazing or take the stealthier approach. If you’re looking for a fight, there are multiple approaches you can take. Walls and corners can be used to peek out from and the ventilation system lets you move throughout a room without running through enemy lines. If you’re feeling confident, there’s no shame in standing and spraying enemies with bullets. The demo must have been set to one of the lower difficulty settings as we didn’t have any worry about losing health and armour when standing out in the open.
Each room is designed in a way to allow for various stealth routes. Sneaking up and taking out enemies is always available, but so are the vents. In almost every situation you find yourself is some kind of hole or hidden route that you can crouch and move through to get to a better position. Messed up? Change your plan and go a different way. Killed at the hands of an evil Nazi soldier? Find a new route where you can bypass the enemies completely. Options like this make a second playthrough worth considering.
Enemy AI is responsive and fair, for the most part. There was a moment where an enemy that really should not have spotted me hiding behind a wall alerted the others. Thankfully, this only happened once and everything else was programmed just the way it should have been.
Stepping out of the demo and getting a look at Dark Souls: Remastered a few stations down really brought back the comments of the two showgoers from earlier. Nintendo Switch has had an incredible first year and third-party support is looking stronger with each day. Wolfenstein II is a testament to that. Other than a general 2018 release, we still don't know when we'll be able to get our hands on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. If the demo is anything to go by, those who have waited should not be disappointed.
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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus lands on Nintendo Switch later this year. Do you plan to pick it up? Let us know in the comments below...