Kill Nazis wherever you go... at a slightly lower resolution of course.
Developer Panic Button has already made a substantial mark on the Switch library with their ports of Rocket League and Doom. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus makes a strong case for being their most ambitious port to date, as it regularly suffered hitches in performance even on much more powerful hardware. Of course beyond all of that is the core game itself. As Wolfenstein II was announced for Switch prior to its release on other consoles, I made the conscious choice not to buy it for another system. I wanted to see if my experience could simply represent Wolfenstein II rather than Wolfenstein II on Switch.
Our hero, William “B. J” Blazkowicz, starts things off by awakening from a coma. He spends the next couple hours monologuing to himself about his inevitable death due to, reasons. The endlessly grumbling voiceover describing his planned death prior to the birth of his children and his utter defeat in the thought of leaving his wife alone caused me to quickly lose interest in the character. He made some progress back into my heart as his story developed, but he was easily the weakest character in an otherwise fantastic cast. In fact, I was surprised by just how much story Wolfenstein II had. Pre-rendered cutscenes bookend each level and at times go on for quite a while. They’re excellently executed and hide almost all of the loading screens (excluding death) from the player. That being said, the pre-rendered nature of these scenes made them feel very segregated from the rest of the experience, and I generally found myself setting down the controller and getting comfy every time one started up. I love a good story in a first-person shooter, but being pulled out of that first-person perspective always feels jarring to me.
Wolfenstein II is a highly dynamic first person shooter that offers a variety of playstyles. Virtually every mission can be approached stealthily by systematically hunting down enemy commanders and avoiding detection. Alternatively, a guns blazing approach is equally valid. While stealth requires you to take each level slowly, and may add to your play time, aggression will generally lead to additional troops being called in. The option to dual wield with multiple weapon types makes for even more variability within the aggressive route. Early in the game I favored a loud and proud approach to combat, but as I progressed and upgraded a few of my weapons with suppressors, I started to favor being a bit more sneaky. You’re regularly treated to new abilities and upgrades that help to keep combat fresh regardless of your method of dispatching Nazis.
Adding some uniqueness to the Switch version are motion controls. They’re not turned on by default but I strongly recommend them. I found them especially helpful when playing with joy-cons as they help make up for some of the precision lost by those tiny analogue sticks. However, even when playing with a pro-controller, I still found I was better off with the motion controls turned on.
On a technical level, Wolfenstein II is, for the most part, extremely impressive. The frame rate is capped at 30 frames per second, and in general holds close enough to that goal to not be distracting. There were a few isolated areas where a complex environment caused a noticeable drop, but these areas aren't common. Resolution is handled similarly to last years Doom port, with a variable pixel count based on what's happening on screen. During portable play the resolution can drop very low at times and there were definitely moments where I did feel that this impacted gameplay. It is to be expected given that you’re playing a full featured, current generation shooter on a handheld, but it is still unfortunate. Docked play holds up better and the resolution changes, while still noticeable, weren’t as significant an issue.
Wolfenstein II is a deep and varied shooter. Its story, with few exceptions, is excellently written and performed. A reliance on long, pre-rendered cutscenes may bog down the pacing now and then, but even in those moments the story was compelling enough to keep me going. The Switch is clearly pushed to the breaking point by some of the more intense moments, but it manages to pull through with only a few, albeit substantial issues. Wolfenstein II is another strong addition to Bethesda’s growing Switch library and another praiseworthy effort from Panic Button.