The Wolfenstein series is one of the pioneers of the FPS genre. It started over two decades ago, in 1992 with Wolfenstein 3D. The protagonist of the game was B.J. Blazkowicz an American soldier born from a polish family. The main goal was to take down the Nazi regime and even included Hitler as a boss.
The series continued in autumn of 1992 with Spear of Destiny which was a prequel to the original game followed in 2001 by Return to Castle Wolfenstein (probably the best in the series) and in 2009 with Wolfenstein (probably the worst). Blazkowicz remained the protagonist throughout the series and he was bound to return into a new game as despite his tremendous efforts to destroy the Nazis, the regime still poses a huge threat for the entire world.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is the latest entry in the series developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks and released on May 20 2014. The game is powered by id Tech 5 engine, the same engine responsible for Rage and The Evil Within.
The game starts with Allies air forces attacking a Nazi castle in Europe in the year 1946. The copilot in one of the attacking airplanes is Captain William B.J. Blazkowicz, the legendary Nazi nemesis and protagonist of the series (who still needs a basics tutorial after all he has been through!). As things don’t go exactly as planned, the hero together with some other infantry forces find themselves emergency landing (crashing) on a heavily fortified beach. The situation looks dire and the chances of escape alive and continue the mission are very slim, but as the player takes full control of the hero, things turn around quickly.
As the attempt of killing the crazy scientist and the main villain of the game, Deathshead, is missed, the prologue mission ends with everything going straight to hell. The player is forced into making a choice that will modify the game’s timeline (not by much) and at the end Blazkowicz is hit in the head by shrapnel losing his memory and most of the primary body functions.
For fifteen years the hero has been locked into an asylum with his own body being a cage. He slowly observed the family running the asylum taking care of the patients and Nazis coming from time to time to take some of the patients away for experiments. He waited for his body to recover until the moment came when he had to stand up and fight.
After fifteen years the Nazis rendered the asylum useless for their experiments and ordered its closure, starting to execute every patient. As the family running the place opposed this atrocity everything turned into a bloodbath because of some overzealous soldiers. Now was the perfect time for the hero to rise up (deshi basara!) and fight to protect those that took care of him and many others like him for all this time.
Killing Nazis has always been Blazkowicz specialty and even after fifteen years of standing still he hasn’t lost his skill, especially because his muscles were not affected at all by his long slumber.
Being unable to save anyone except a nurse, the (sexy) daughter of the doctor in charge of the asylum and the one that took care of him all this time (such a lovely coincidence), Blazkowicz lets her lead him into a safe place as he grows to realize that the world he used to know is no more and the new world is ruled by the Nazis’ overpowering machines.
From this point Wolfenstein: The New Order gets back on track and is about finding the resistance and kicking some serious Nazi butt.
The story is interesting at first and after completing one third of the game it gave me the feeling that it has the potential for something great for an FPS. Somewhere around the half of the game things started to go south and over exaggeration took over any rational and interesting elements.
The world of Wolfenstein: The New Order is interestingly built and because of the nature of this game it gets by with a lot of things that would not work in a different title. The game paints a grim world with an accentuated antithesis between the good and the evil in it.
On one side there’s the Nazi regime, ruling over the entire world after reaching the atomic bomb first and taking advantage of their advanced robotics technology. This regime is run by sadistic extremists, one crazier than the other, set on creating the world that their twisted minds envisioned. Democracy died and all that is left is totalitarianism supported by the numbers, powerful guns and technology. People have to comply with the situation or suffer the consequences and fear is the primary emotion that takes over the population.
It is a plausible idea of what could happen if what’s worst in humanity is allowed to take full control.
On the other side there’s the resistance, a small organization of people that are not afraid to fight the system, those that don’t want to give up on the world. Outnumbered and outgunned, the resistance waits for a miracle to come and help them bring back the world so many died in vain to protect and that miracle is the player.
Every member of the resistance has a story that brought them where they are, pictures of loved ones and lost friends, toys, books and treasured items that remind them about their cause and what they fight for. A hideout wrapped up in bright colors to resemble the feeling of a warm home and mask the fact that they live in a sewer. Their ideals and optimistic vision of what the world should be is spread all over the headquarters. The attention given to this relatively safe place emphasizes how good these people are compared to the evil out there, is both touching and a little amusing at the same time and makes for the strong attachment and belief that what the hero does is the right thing.
Wolfenstein gets away with a lot (not in Poland, Austria, Germany, Japan or Israel), because it puts together cruel and horrible elements with selfless heroes creating a contrast so big between the two factions of the game that there is no place for grey in this story. The action of the game can even be described as a battle between demons and angels (angels that can hold a grudge!). It is not the standard war with losers and victors, it is a war for the integrity of mankind.
The gameplay in Wolfenstein: The New Order is pretty straight forward, a lot of satisfying shooting combined with stealth and some relaxation moments to catch a breath.
There is a decent variety of weapons in the game to be used based on situation or preferences. A new addition to the shooting system is the ability to dual wield almost any type of weapon in the game, no matter how big, for a maximized firepower and spectacular effects.
A set of unlockable perks has been introduced to improve the already ridiculously overpowered hero (seriously he goes head to head with the entire Nazi army!). The perks are unlocked through various actions, but while there’s nothing wrong with such a system, the game goes out of its way to force the player to do ridiculous things in order to unlock a perk. Many times the requirements are in contradiction with the bonuses gained. A system like this should help newcomers accommodate with the game and learn some of the more complicated mechanics, while helping the veterans to gain various bonuses to maximize their combat experience. But instead of going hand in hand with different playstyles and the bonuses given, the tasks to unlock a perk just ask for something opposite to them.
Wolfenstein uses the classic system of life without regeneration (the way to go before CoD) and armor. Life is replenished by finding med packs and can exceed the maximum of 100 up to 200 hp but the exceeded amount degenerate by the second. This old school mechanic is designed to allow players to overpower fighting situation through bullet soaking and heavy shooting. Strangely enough in The New Order things are a little different. While life can be increased to a higher amount for a short period of time and there are plenty bullets to go crazy, many situations and the good enemies AI force the player into cover and continuous running, wasting the extra hp on waiting for a good moment to shoot without being destroyed.
To make matters worse, the game has an incredibly annoying hand holding system to keep the player on the right track. There is no searching required to reach the main goal, it is always there as a dot on the screen to make sure nobody gets lost, something uncommon for the Wolfenstein series (but a feature that’s becoming increasingly popular in recent). The possibility of exploration is also hindered by mostly linear level design and a terrible jumping system (careful, the protagonist can easily get stuck behind a 20cm ledge).
The game is gory, fun and short. It offers enough action to keep the entertainment level high and it combines it with dramatic and emotional cinematic moments to always remind the player the necessity of his actions, but also to highlight the superhuman strength of the main character that always gets up even after taking hits that should kill an elephant.
The New Order seems to be trapped between old and new concepts and is not sure which ones to pick and because of this the gameplay suffers at times.
Lately there is a serious problem with the graphical fidelity of FPS games and Wolfenstein: The New Order is not an exception to this rule. The graphics are average with decent character and weapon models, but that’s how far this goes. Everything else in the game looks washed up and lacks graphical details.
The body physics is decent with nothing too spectacular and that’s about it. There are many objects that can’t be moved or destroyed in any way and most of the cover is indestructible.
It is a shame to see a game being ruined by elements that should be top notch for an AAA title, which had a steep price tag at launch.
This issue starts to worry me (a lot!), more and more video games, including many AAA titles, leave technology on a secondary place for various reasons (consoles?!). This has a negative effect on the quality of these games and considering the age we are in, such problems should not exist, especially when we talk about high quality FPS games. No shooter in 2014 should look like a 2010 game!
The sound quality is quite good compared to the graphics. The voice acting is high quality, the music in fitting and encouraging and the weapons’ sound effects are good enough and represent each weapon well. It’s nothing impressive on the sound department, but I didn’t notice anything that would annoy me either.
Overall, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a big improvement over 2009’s Wolfenstein game. The story has better moments, the action is more satisfying and everything is much smoother. The game lacks quite a lot on the technical part and being short and scripted at times doesn’t help it either, but being indecisive in what kind of game it wants to be is probably the most annoying problem. The New Order wants to please both old and new gamers, but it is not entirely certain of how to do this without affecting the gameplay in a negative way.
But I did enjoy my time spent with this game, it was fun and it managed to take my mind of other things. It’s hardly any competition when talking about FPS games this year and it is good to see that this title, despite all its problems, is worth playing to the end and not because it takes 8 hours to complete it.
+ Satisfying shooting
+ Great enemies AI
+ Good sound effects
+ Good sound effects
+ Terrifying world
+ Great villains
+ Dual wielding firearms!
- Mediocre graphics and physics for 2014
- Too cinematic at times
- Many scripted scenes
- Hand holding
- Story goes way off at some point
- Horrible jumping