DLC Review: Wolfenstein II The New Colossus – The Freedom Chronicles

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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

Dragon Ball FighterZ Review

For the majority of you I’m sure Dragon Ball needs no introduction. Dragon Ball Z is arguably the most famous manga and anime of all time, its beloved by many and you’ve almost certainly seen at least some of it. If you’ve somehow never heard of it, it’s about a group of martial artists defending earth from increasingly powerful villains in huge fights filled with spectacle, massive energy blasts and lots of shouting. Mixed in with the fights is a strong comedic vein, and it’s all rather fun and exciting. Anyway this is the latest in a long, long line of DBZ games, one that’s garnered a lot of positive attention since its announcement. It’s a 2D fighting game from Arc System Works of Guilty Gear, Blazblue and Persona 4 Arena fame with exquisite, show-accurate visuals and fits very neatly into the “easy to learn, difficult to master” pick up and play niche that fighting games do well.

Its closest counterparts, for me at least, are Skullgirls and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle. Like Skullgirls special attacks, supers and ultras are pulled off with half circle inputs, while combos can be easily strung together with repeated presses of face buttons. Like JoJo ASB the game facilitates doing cool things with little effort; repeatedly tapping light attack will land a three hit combo, launch your opponent into the air, follow them, combo them again and then smack them back down to earth. Repeatedly tapping medium attack will launch a combo that ends with a super move, and every character can manually build super meter, much like the Hamon users in JoJo. Having said that it is its own unique beast, one with a refreshing, interesting focus on offence and manoeuvrability. You can dash, fly, double jump and air dash in either direction. There are multiple different recoveries in the air and upon hitting the ground. There’s a block and a parry, but anyone who does block is susceptible to the button dedicated to breaking their guard with a flurry of punches, which they can then counter and turn it into a knuckle on knuckle clash. The game gives you an extraordinary amount of options during a fight. Battles take place over one round with two teams of three, with teammates being available as assists, or to be tagged in. Interestingly there are no throws, just three strengths of attack and a button dedicated to Ki; it’s all hand to hand combat and energy blasts, just like the show. The lauded graphics are indeed impressive; the character models are great, the animation is superb, and combined with the iconic sound effects it recreates the feeling of the show beautifully. The roster leans heavily towards Z; Goku and Vegeta, Freiza, Cell, two Buus and Future Trunks are the obvious inclusions, but it has its share of more interesting choices. Ginyu makes an appearance with the entire Ginyu force as assists, Android 18, Nappa, Tien and Gotenks are here. Fortunately, more to my taste, FighterZ gives some love to DB Super: Beerus, Hit, SSGSS Goku and Vegeta are on hand, as is the exquisite Goku Black, backed up by Zamasu. It’s a good selection of fighters, each with similar playstyles but their own quirks and moves. The only issue is a lack of women, with only two so far in the form of 18 and new character Android 21 (more on her shortly), though a recent leak suggested at least two seasons of DLC characters, which will hopefully work on that issue.

The game’s story mode is, unfortunately, where the cracks start to show. The actual meat is rather good, it’s the brittle bones holding it all together. The framing device of a human soul that can inhabit the main cast, causing them to regain their simultaneously lost strength is purely there to facilitate the thrust of this whole shebang: villain-hero team up. The entire cast is de-powered, so have to work together. They don’t want to work together, and have to do so in small groups of your choosing. Hilarity ensues. It is quite effective actually; the writing is sharp, the characters are all as enjoyable as they are in the show, and the new character Android 21 adds some good drama to proceedings. She has a link to the established canon I won’t spoil, but her Majin design, insatiable hunger for power increasing people eating and traumatic inner conflict make her a solid addition. Where it falls flat is how the story plays out: battle after battle after battle against clones of the main cast. Move around a map, fight some clones, a cutscene plays, repeat. The actual story beats are good, the character work is good, but getting to it is just so bland. Not bad, but I would have preferred something more akin to the Mortal Kombat method. The story is split into three to offer different perspectives and more content, but it does mean you have to go through three times as much clone battering.

I’m a big fan of fighting games, but I’m no expert by any means. I’m not one of these people who spends hours in training mode learning all the systems, practising each and every character’s moveset¬†extensively until they can do it in their sleep. I’ve got nothing against those people, good for them, but for me fighting games represent visually interesting characters, good sound design and fun, pick up and play gameplay; I play them for fun. DB FighterZ caters to that mindset wonderfully, as a game about the most famous anime ever made should, but clearly has a whole other layer of depth beneath the surface. In short, it’s an excellent fighting game, a great Dragon Ball game, and I fully recommend it.

By James Lambert


A Word About the Immediate Future

Just a quick update, as we move into a very busy season for anticipated games:
Outside of this blog I’m currently working towards a Master’s degree, and it’s entering something of a busy period. For now I will be shifting focus to that, and as a result will be avoiding all of the big, story-focused releases either already out or being released soon, things like Monster Hunter World, Far Cry 5 and Dad of War. Once my work is done I’ll get through the big ones, but for now I will be reviewing a few things that take much less time and attention in order to adequately cover, detailed below. Thank you for your patience.

Games I’ll be reviewing now (no change to schedule): UPDATED

Dragon Ball FighterZ
AC Origins’ Curse of the Pharaohs DLC
Metal Gear Survive
Batman the Enemy Within
Life is Strange Before the Storm
Wolfenstein 2’s Freedom Chronicles DLC

Games I’ll be reviewing soonish (a gap of two months) :

Yakuza 6

Games I’ll be reviewing after my work is done (later in the year, a gap of at least five months):

We Happy Few
Far Cry 5
God of War
Monster Hunter World
I MIGHT do Detroit: Become Human, depending on whether I can bring myself to give David Cage more money. It’s not something I’d buy to play for fun, but it might be worth reviewing.


Reviews are essentially continuing as normal for now

By James Lambert