Following Doom in 2017, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the next Bethesda shooter to make its way to Nintendo Switch. It’s a bit strange to see The New Colossus on a new platform before its predecessor, The New Order, but jumping in for a second playthrough is a nice excuse to try it out on different hardware. Unfortunately, The New Colossus suffers from significant performance issues in Switch’s handheld mode; in docked mode, however, it runs smoothly, albeit with rougher textures than other versions of the game. But as long as you play docked, preferably with a Pro Controller, some lower-quality textures hardly detract from what makes The New Colossus such a memorable game.
The base game is here in its entirety, with no edits or changes to its themes or story. For those who haven’t played The New Order, the optional recap at the beginning of The New Colossus will get you up to speed on most important characters and plot points. The opening level is as hard-hitting as ever; gravely injured, protagonist BJ Blazkowicz has flashbacks of his abusive, racist father before waking to a Nazi attack and fighting back from his wheelchair. It sets the tone for a game that’s both serious and completely over-the-top, with frequent shifts between the two that generally enhance the story’s impact.
The New Colossus’ campaign is hard; Wolfenstein newcomers will probably find a challenge on the second of the game’s six difficulty levels, while returning players can safely bump up the difficulty. You can approach a fight from a number of angles–from very stealthy to extremely loud and bombastic–and weapon upgrades and unlockable perks can help you more effectively pursue your strategy of choice. Things go awry often, and there’s a fantastic tension in knowing you’ll have to adapt to (and overcome) anything the game throws at you. All of this is maintained on Switch, though not without caveats depending on how you play.
With a Pro Controller, combat works as well as it does on other platforms. Using the Switch’s Joy-Cons instead, however, presents unwelcome challenges. Stubbier analog sticks and clickier triggers noticeably alter the feel of combat, making aiming in particular more choppy. The added motion aiming smooths it out somewhat, but it’s hard to use while running or strafing, since you have to manually re-center your view if it goes off-kilter. The regular aim assist, which locks on to enemies when you first aim down sights rather than tracking them continuously, can also help with the inevitable frustration. But neither option is a great substitute for using the Pro Controller.
The New Colossus runs impressively well in docked mode, especially considering the Switch’s capabilities compared to other platforms. The game’s beautifully directed, pre-rendered cutscenes maintain their quality here, and the frame rate is generally consistent even when combat is at its most frenetic. There are some muddier textures to contend with, but the resistance fighters get the worst of it; weapons, armored enemies, and levels themselves still look good, though not as good as they do elsewhere. According to The New Colossus’ director–and based on the Doom port’s performance–the game maxes at 720p. As long as you can overlook some lower-quality visuals, the story and gameplay make The New Colossus well worth it.
Unfortunately, handheld mode doesn’t hold up nearly as well. There’s an ever-present blur, and combined with the small screen, it can be hard to see enemies and items. Frame rate drops in combat (and even some cutscenes) made me motion sick at worst, rendering the game unplayable. Even if you aren’t susceptible to motion sickness, the inconsistent frame rate is noticeable enough to be annoying. Combined with the drawbacks of using Joy-Cons, it’s hard to recommend playing The New Colossus handheld at all.
As long as you’re able to play the entire game in docked mode, The New Colossus is the same fantastic game it is on other platforms. It runs well and, despite some minor visual compromises, it still looks pretty good. Handheld mode is unfortunately far less optimized, and the Joy-Cons simply don’t feel as good to use as the Pro Controller. If Switch is your only way to play it, The New Colossus is absolutely worth your time–just not on the go.