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Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus thrives on the Nintendo Switch

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The compromises worked out for the best

MachineGames/Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda continues to go hard on the Nintendo Switch, and the publisher is providing the sort of violent but oddly joyful games it does well, but are rare on Nintendo systems. The ideal Nintendo Switch game often feels like something that is fun for all age groups, and that’s certainly not something you can say about Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.

You can read our original review if you’re curious about whether the game itself is good — and it is — but for now I want to focus on what it’s like to play the Switch version of the game, having spent around five hours with it before launch.

And this $59.99 port of the 2017 game does exactly what you’d want it to. Panic Button, which was also behind the Switch version of Doom, wasn’t scared to dial texture fidelity way down in the more demanding section of the game to keep the framerate as high as possible. Fitting this kind of game onto the Nintendo Switch’s relatively underpowered hardware is always going to be a matter of deciding where to make compromises; the loss of sharpness and detail in service of keeping the game responsive was the right call.

Panic Button’s ability to squish existing games onto Nintendo’s hardware this generation is impressive. The developer’s port of Rocket League offers the player a choice between focusing on framerate or visuals, but there’s no similar option in Wolfenstein 2. It makes sense, as each area of the game seems to find its own balance between looking as good as possible and running as smoothly as possible.

Tighter areas allow for more detail, where the larger scale gunfights devolve into simple textures to avoid game-killing slowdown. You can look for the shifts if you’d like, but I found myself enjoying the game too much to pull away and focus on the technical aspects of how it was all working. It also helps that the 720p screen of the Switch in portable mode hides a lot of sins. The visual downgrade is much more noticeable, and distracting, when played on a standard display.

But if you’re going to play on a television and care that much about graphical settings, why not just get it on another system or the PC? It would be much less expensive, with more DLC. The draw of the Switch version, for most, is going to be the ability to play on the go. And it was thrilling to sit in bed late at night, the thudding gunfire ringing in my headphones. This isn’t just a version of the game that works, it’s a version of the game that’s enjoyable to play on its own merits.

It’s hard to pin down why this port feels so much better than the port of Doom, despite doing so many things similarly. A big part of it comes down to the game’s visual aesthetic; Doom also takes place in environments that are often painted in shades of red, and that can make it hard to parse what’s going on when played in portable mode.

The New Colossus also suffers from mushy textures and a lack of sharpness on the Switch, but the more “realistic” world of Wolfenstein makes that less of a problem. The New Colossus isn’t a slow game by any stretch; but the gun fights are often more measured than the constant motion of Doom, and that’s a big help as well. It’s also possible that Panic Button has gotten better at porting this sort of game to the Switch after Doom, and was able to apply those lessons here.

Or maybe it’s a combination of all these things, which seems like the most likely answer. Players will decide whether they want or need a $59.99 portable version of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, but the good news is that there’s a well-executed port waiting for them if they want it.