People were well past the point of thinking Wolfenstein games could be great again when MachineGames bowled everyone over with Wolfenstein: The New Order in 2014. It was a surprise that blindsided the industry.
Not only was it a great shooter that captured an old-school feel, but it felt fresh and modern both in how it felt to play and in its approach to story. Who'd have thought B.J. Blazkowicz would be in one of gaming's best-realised romances?
MachineGames created a game full of well-realised characters that displayed the humanity the Nazis lack. It made killing them in droves all the more satisfying, and in a way no Wolfenstein had to achieved before.
A sequel was inevitable, with publisher Bethesda duly announcing The New Colossus for an October release at its annual E3 press conference in June.
At the Los Angeles trade show Bethesda offered attendees a chance to sample an opening mission that bound players, as heavily-wounded Blazkowicz, to a wheelchair aboard a stolen U-Boat being overrun by fascist scum.
It's a hell of an opening, offering plenty of Nazi slaughter while setting up a story that will be in part about the damage Blazkowicz has accumulated over the years. This is made apparent to players through the amount of health they have, which levels out at 20 but can be supplemented with boosts and armour.
In a later level, Blazkowicz has more health but still not 100 points of it. He's up and moving thanks to a super-suit of sorts, which grants the player up-to 200 points of armour to redress the balance.
Wolfenstein 2's opening salvo also offers players a unique perspective for a first-person shooter, even if it's through the prism of an over-the-top, pulpy story.
We played the level again at a recent hands-on event in London, as well as a more sizeable level from later in the game offering a closer look at Wolfenstein 2's vision of a Nazi-occupied America.
Blazkowicz is in Roswell, New Mexico, and his mission is to infiltrate a huge Nazi base at Area 52 to deploy and detonate a nuclear bomb he's lugging around inside a fire extinguisher. So far, so Wolfenstein.
A cutscene sets this all up and offers an introduction to some of the resistance fighters Blazkowicz is working with. Anya returns from the first game, now married to Blazkowicz and expecting twins, as well as either Wyatt or Fergus, depending on who the player saved in The New Order's prologue.
Among the new characters is Grace, the leader of this particular group, and Super Spesh, who Blazkowicz meets in the Roswell diner he owns.
Spesh is a conspiracy theorist, and has some ideas about the work the Nazis are undertaking at Area 52. Exactly what unfolds I won't say, but the setup does show how MachineGames is toying with American history and iconic images of Americana with the country taken over by the Nazi party.
The mission opens with Blazkowicz walking through Rosewell, which on the surface looks like a typical US town. There's a parade, a cinema, classic American muscle cars and a diner. Each element is familiar, but the Nazi presence pervades everything. Members of the Klu Klux Klan walk the streets, engaging with Nazi officers when most civilians try to avoid them.
The parade has bunting and ticker-tape, but its Nazi stormtroopers marching through the streets. In the diner we soon enter, a Nazi officer comments on the menu, saying the American classics should be replaced with German cuisine.
It's a great scene-setter that gives way to a more typical Wolfenstein mission that first sees players activate and board a train that will take them to the Area 52 facility. As in New Order, there's the option to approach things quietly or loudly, the former almost always descending into the latter.
The ability to customise weapons means you can add a silencer to your pistol, but stealth is tough to sustain. This is as it should be, but often the game feels as though it'd rather you went in guns blazing.
The sense of movement, evident in boths missions we played, is fluid and dynamic. Explosions knock Blazkowicz off his feet, but he won't immediately get up. On the floor he can can still fire and all this is possible because players can now see B.J's body when they look down, creating a new sense of physicality.
This matches the brutal gunplay, which is different to the surging power-fantasy of last year's Doom, but captures the same gleeful thrill. Who'd have thought shredding hell-spawn and Nazis to bloody pieces would be so entertaining?
Wolfenstein 2 is as familiar as you'd expect a sequel to be, improving on its predecessor in, so far, small but meaningful ways. The New Colossus can't get here soon enough.