Suit up Blazkowicz, it’s time to go round us up some Nazis.
Since last years initial announcement, Bethesda has hit the Nintendo Switch hard. Within the last 15 months, the studio has kept up a pretty blistering pace by bringing some of its most popular franchises to the Switch but when the studio announced it planned to bring last years Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus to the hybrid console most were left wondering how on earth they would get it running and if it would be a downgraded, frame-dropping mess. I’ve spent the last couple of days playing through the game and let’s just say its fantastic.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus received its fair share of praises for great gameplay and the quality of its story when it first came out last Fall. The story centers around B.J. Blazkowicz and a rag-tag group of revolutionaries who attempt to free the world from the Nazi stranglehold after they defeat the Allied Forces in the Second World War. The game uses things like newspapers and journal entries scattered through levels to really flesh out the game’s alternative version of history. The story is intriguing and the world it’s created is honestly despicable, horrifying and gruesome but in a way that will have you motivated to continue through the storyline as you rack up a kill count that would make Aldo Raine pleased.
There are a number of modes and controls for the game. You have a traditional controller option as well as full motion controls in docked, handheld & tabletop modes. Most will probably tell you that the game plays best on a huge T.V. with the Switch Pro Controller. They’re not wrong, but I would be lying if I said that handheld mode wasn’t strangely satisfying for its own reasons. The motion controls offer an assisted aiming setup similar to Splatoon and the Switch’s version of Doom (also ported by Panic Button) which works really well on the Pro Controller as well as the individual Joy-Cons. 2016’s Doom was a fun but sadly sometimes flawed game and Panic Button worked tirelessly to make sure that many of the issues that plagued Doom’s port wouldn’t creep up here in The New Colossus. Because of this, the game’s action is slowed a little and the number of enemies has been bottlenecked slightly through slight changes in level design. This still isn’t a slow game, it’s just much better at pacing players as they tear down the Third Reich one level at a time. This is Panic Button’s third game (second working with Bethesda) to be released for the system since it’s launch last Spring and it shows. They’ve slowly become a more ambitious and capable team with every release and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
“Panic Button did an absolutely fantastic job of integrating HD Rumble”
From a technical side, the developers set a bar for wanting to hit 30 frames-per-second for the game while in handheld mode but it does sometimes drop to about 20 fps when things get really hectic. Most of these are down to a minimum when docked, but even in handheld mode, the game does a great job making the most of every ounce the Switch has to offer. I’ve only noticed drops maybe once or twice in my gameplay so far and the Switch has handled most of what was thrown at it incredibly well. The frame-rate isn’t the only thing that has been downgraded; textures have also seen their fair share of cuts in quality. It’s noticeable, especially if you put it side to side with one of the versions for one of the bigger home consoles. It also features a dynamic resolution that scales between 720p and 540p depending on certain situations and required processing power from the console. I personally found the handheld version to be my option of choice and the 720p screen actually hides some of these blemishes in texture, frame rate & resolution a little better than playing on a huge 4k television.
The sound and haptic design have to be one of the things in the game that really shines in the port. The game sounded just as great as it did on its competition. Voice acting was nuanced and really fleshed out the personalities of Blazkowicz and company while Nina Franoszek portrayal of Frau Engel was menacing and memorable as any modern game villain I can recollect. Panic Button also did an absolutely fantastic job of integrating HD Rumble into the game by giving different vibration patterns for different weapons. They even went far enough to split them between Joy-Con when duel-wielding different weapons. It’s an extra level of detail that I really enjoyed.
With all of these changes taken into account, Panic Button was somehow able to take the original 55GB game and condense it down to a little under 22GB for the Switch version. It’s obvious that changes have been made but let’s not take this for granted. The details that have been altered to make all of this possible are relatively small but what you get in return is a fantastic game, unlike one we’ve seen for a portable system before. It’s not a perfect like-for-like port but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t impressive.
If you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One the graphics and extra DLC make a compelling argument to pick up the game for one of those systems but the Switch port is steady, reliable and the added portability make it an easy recommendation for anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch. It’s not to say that portability is the only reason to pick it up for the hybrid console, but I would be remiss to not bring it up.