DLC time again, this time for last year’s slightly shaky but nevertheless great Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. Split into three tales making up the titular “Freedom Chronicles”, they tell the story of Gunslinger Joe- an American Football player turned revolutionary, Agent Silent Death- a one-eyed, alcoholic assassin out for revenge and Captain Wilkins- an old soldier still taking the fight to the Nazis. They’re all short, snacky and play pretty much the same, and so I will be making generalised points about them. That’ll come at the end though, firstly I will be discussing them individually.
The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe
First up; Gunslinger Joe, a man made into a slave and potential forced organ donor because he refused to play football the way the Nazis like, as in don’t score any goals, fall over a lot and let the other, all-German team kick the shit out of you. Each of the three protagonists have one of BJ’s three skills from the latter part of the main game, and Joe’s is the ramshackle wall busting move, which makes sense. He can also throw canned goods in place of knives or hatchets, but they cause more problems than they solve. They knock an enemy down but don’t kill them, and following up with an actual stealth kill alerts other enemies, so they’re basically useless. Said stealth kills are cool though; Joe likes to take Nazis down barehanded, whether it be breaking their necks or two-handed fist punching them in the goddamn heart. Joe’s DLC was the first released and the first I played, and unfortunately sets a precedent for the entire Freedom Chronicles; decent ideas that aren’t taken nearly far enough. All three protagonists are set up fine but lack the required development in any department outside of some funny lines and a few short cutscenes between missions. Joe’s story of a football player turned Nazi-slaughtering revolutionary, chasing an American Nazi officer all the way to Venus fits in with the universe established in these new Wolfensteins, but sadly just doesn’t commit to it enough to see it through to a satisfying conclusion. It all ends with a deeply frustrating fight against a giant robot and a squad of soldiers in an enclosed space, which is bad enough, but made infinitely worse by the presence of two reinforcement-spawning commanders. The whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth, which went even further to squander the good will it had built up with its potential
The Diaries of Agent Silent Death
This was actually the third one I played, because I saved the best for last, but it was released second. Silent Death is easily the most interesting of the three DLCs; an English assassin with one eye, a cool voice and a drinking problem called back into the life to kill the three men responsible for the betrayal, torture and murder of her OSS agent husband. Said targets being located in a Gestapo office, a Hollywood studio and a base on the Moon. A focus on stealth for a change, and a return to The New Order’s penchant for knives; it has everything going for it. For the most part it pays off. Silent Death, real name Jessica Valiant repeatedly talking about her drinking in a not particularly entertaining way leads to a line in which she tells herself to shut up about it, which is a nice touch. She’s cool, but a tad one-note, though her design and Claudia Black’s delivery carry her. Her skill is that whole corset-enabled squeezing into tight spaces deal, though without the corset and subsequent damage with extended use. It’s all a part of her emphasis on stealth, which is where it runs into a problem, because the stealth is as patchy as it was in the main game. Sometimes it works fine, and she has a unique skill where time slows down when an enemy sees you, but being spotted still raises an alarm and brings down half the SS, and the game’s checkpoints don’t take alerts into account. Still, it has short levels, quite rapid checkpoints and despite having a limited armour meter Silent Death can take care of herself, and when the stealth works it’s fine.
The Deeds of Captain Wilkins
This one’s all over the place. Captain Wilkins fought in World War 2, and now, in the 60s he’s still giving the Nazis what for. That’s all I can say without spoiling anything, in particular two reveals that, along with some jokes that come out of nowhere and the characterisation of an old man who loves nothing more than killing Nazis, try to lean into the more gung-ho, funny and over the top tone the games have at times. Unfortunately much like Gunslinger Joe it doesn’t go nearly far enough, though less similarly it feels quite messy. Some of the jokes seem out of place, and Wilkins doesn’t have anything going on other than a love of killing Nazis that borders on manic and all-encompassing, though is not at all reflected in gameplay. Wilkins’ ability is the pair of stilt boots, which are here seemingly only because they had three skills and three characters. Unlike the other two the boots aren’t linked into the story at all save for one throw-away line; Wilkins just finds them, and all they really serve to do is make the exit or critical path slightly harder to find sometimes, because you forget that you’re supposed to be looking for higher ground. Of the three, Captain Wilkins probably tries the hardest but fumbles it, ending up messy and less focused than the other two.
So overall, they’re fine. Silent Death is the best, they all play pretty much the same and the protagonists are all fine, but none of them hold a candle to BJ. It’s clear playing these DLCs just how essential he is to the entire enterprise, to the detriment of everyone else whose stories they tell in this universe. A largely harmless set of extra content with flashes of goodness and frustration in equal measure, I have no strong feelings towards it either way, and Wolfenstein deserves better.
By James Lambert