Sunday night's premiere trailer of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was a delight to watch. Bethesda displayed an alternate world that continued to spiral out of control, still under Nazi control following the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order. In the end, there was B.J. Blazkowicz, ready to save the world from the Nazi menace with his new power suit.
But the E3 hands-on demo for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus did not center around this Blazkowicz. It centered around a far more vulnerable, yet equally badass, Blazkowicz. It centered around a hardened war hero in a wheelchair. And to be honest, I walked away preferring this version of the character.
The opening minutes of The New Colossus see Frau Engel's forces close in Blazkowicz's location aboard Set Roth's U-boat. Blazkowicz has just woken up from a five-month coma and has lost the use of his legs. The objective becomes to escape the incoming Nazi forces and rendezvous with Anya.
Just because Blazkowicz can't walk doesn't mean he can't fight. He picks up his trusty automatic rifle and looks to make his escape. This is where MachineGames' design proves exceptionally clever. Because of Blazkowicz's condition, his health is capped at 40 percent. He can still collect armor and overheal for a brief period, but Blazkowicz is working with a clear handicap.
This level involves moving Blazkowicz in his wheelchair and having to find different ways of getting to his objective. He can't use stairs, so instead he needs to use the U-boat's gears to go from floor to floor. He can't maneuver through rubble or crawl through vents, but he can put his chair on conveyor belts to move quickly.
There's a particularly inspired sequence where the enemies catch on to Blazkowicz's handicap and set the conveyor belt in reverse. This causes him fall out of his chair, where it would appear that he's at the mercy of his pursuers.
But paralysis does nothing to diminish Blazkowicz's killing power. He could still gun down Nazis with no trouble. He could also Roth's microwave fields, which causes any living thing to burst to pieces as soon as they cross. These fields are littered across the level and activated at the flip of a switch, allowing for more than one way to approach this stage.
After escaping the U-boat and concluding the demo with Blazkowicz surrendering to Frau Engel, I asked Bethesda reps if there would be more stages like this in The New Colossus. They answered that Blazkowicz would find his power suit and the remainder of the game would see him regain full mobility. While there's certainly a lot of fun to be had with MachineGames' combat, there was something cool about the idea of plowing through leagues of enemies with a hardened war hero in a wheelchair.
Wolfenstein capturing the perfect essence of the disabled hero is a positive sign that such an idea could carry a full game. Imagine a first-person shooter where an amputee overcomes his disability and continues to function as a fully capable fighter. There are few (if any) games where a disabled or handicapped person serves as a main protagonist. Why shouldn't it be possible? If MachineGames can design a full-blown level about fighting Nazis from a wheelchair, what's stopping other developers from running with this idea?
For now, The New Colossus' first 20 minutes serve as a unique treat and a strong opening for this sequel. MachineGames proved with The New Order that the Wolfenstein franchise is still ripe for unique ideas and mechanics and Bethesda's trailer on Sunday night showed that its sequel is open to going even further.
Follow Blazkowicz's continuing war against invading Nazi forces when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus arrives on October 27 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.