Fighting the Good Fight
Wolfenstein hasn’t exactly has the best run in recent days. Back when polygonal graphics were new, the franchise revolutionized the first person shooter, but these days it seems more concerned with cults and zombies and demons and generally creating mediocre attempts to revive the franchise. All things considered, I didn’t have high hopes for Wolfenstein: The New Order , the latest in the Wolfenstein franchise, but these sane and skeptical expectations did me well. The New Order certainly isn’t a AAA shooter blockbuster. Heck, I wouldn’t even call it a shooter that will be fondly remembers. However, I did manage to have fun with it, flaws and all, and that should be the thing that counts right?
Let’s start by talking about the centerpiece of Wolfenstein 3d: the Nazis. Oh it wouldn’t be a Wolfenstein game without Nazis. However, this time around, the game doesn’t take place in World War II, but an alternate timeline where the Nazi’s won World War II, hence the name The New Order . You play as BJ Blazkowicz–yes THE BJ Blazkowicz from all the Wolfenstein s past–fresh out of a coma from a piece of errant shrapnel embedded in his dome. It’s up to him to stop the Nazis and their horrible new world regime.
On one hand, it actually feels good to be killing Nazis again. There are no loaded political views here, which is kind of a breath of fresh air. We all basically agree that what the Nazis did was wrong and getting to be the hero that cuts a swath through their forces is hard to feel bad about.
On the other hand, the game is stuck in a sort of uncomfortable ultra-patriotic jingoistic space with Michael Bay levels of action and inconsistent levels of realism. The Nazis are cartoon-ified, turned into Saturday morning cartoon villains, as is the tradition of Wolfenstein , and if they stayed that way it would be all well and good. However, there are these scenes that the game goes into that get awfully close to the real atrocities that the Nazi’s committed. There’s a scene with prisoners tied under flaming furnaces, for example. These scenes are, of course, meant to set up the great American hero saving the day–and to that extent they do their job–but they also kind of feel like they are making light of the horrible war crimes the Nazi’s committed in World War II. I’m not saying it’s going to rub everyone the wrong way but for me, it made me feel a bit unsettled.
Luckily, the game never focuses on these scenes too long. It is eager to give you every chance you can to be the action hero. You’ll run away from explosions and utilize chainsaws and spout out quips about what an awesome Nazi killer you are. It almost feels like parody at times, and that’s a good feeling. It’s hard for a game about killing superhuman Nazis and their robot dogs to take itself seriously.
The gameplay is probably the best aspect of The New Order . It merges new style FPS conventions with old FPS mechanics of the past. Your health regenerates, to a point, but you have to supplement that regeneration with health and armor packs, and that’s actually kind of fun. Stocking up on health and armor makes you feel kind of like an unstoppable juggernaut, and you can salvage these items, as well as ammo, from downed corpses, in modern shooter style.
Unfortunately you have to press a button to pick up every item in the game, something held over from modern shooters that honestly the game could have done without. It would have been better if you just ran over items to collect them in old-school arcade shooter style, since there is rarely any point in which you don’t want to collect them.
Speaking of old-school shooter style, you can hold all of your guns at once! Pistol, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Assault Rifle, they all take up residence in your weird Wolfenstine extra dimensional gun space. I have to say, this is the most awesome part of the game. The ability to pull out the exact gun you need in the exact situation you need it in makes you feel like a true to life action hero. There is none of this, “hold two guns and scavenge another one when you run out of ammo” BS. If you get ambushed, shotgun all your assailants in the face and then quickly change to a sniper rifle to take out their backup. Why not?!
You can aim down the sights of every gun in the game, but it’s actually just a lie. You take no accuracy penalty from firing from the hip. So blast away! You can also choose to dual wield guns, even guns that are way too big for traditional dual wielding. You are a one man lead dispenser!
But even so, The New Order manages to throw in some stealth elements as well, without shoving them down our throats. At points, you will be able to sneak up on enemy commanders and take them out with a knife. Doing so avoids a rush of reinforcements. It also usually gives you some sort of secret unlockable bonus as well. If you get spotted, a wave of enemies comes your way but they aren’t insurmountable. So you can go in guns blazing if you like. It’s all about player choice.
I also want to give props to The New Order ’s level up style. This too is taken from modern shooters, as there is no XP or character advancement points. Rather, you get new abilities by doing certain things in game, a lot like earning perks used to be in Call of Duty . Use your knife a lot and you will get more knife abilities. Use grenades a lot and you’ll be able to carry more. On one hand this does force you to try a whole lot of different play styles, but on the other hand, it naturally rewards you for the way you enjoy playing the game, which is neat.
The one complaint I would have about the gameplay is that the shooting itself tends to get a little boring. The gun design is rather uninspired. True to old-school shooters, you really just have one pistol, one shotgun, one machine gun, so on so forth. Gun choice really doesn’t extend past range, power, and noise production (for stealth sections). Using different guns doesn’t feel different. In fact every gun in the game feels a little “spray and pray.” You’ll find yourself wanting to take repeated breaks simply because the gunplay starts to feel so dry.
Overall, Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t exactly the best FPS on the market. Its mechanics are shallow, its gunplay is simple, and its story is something out of World War II obsessive’s wet dream. However, the things it gets right it does really well. The stealth is handled perfectly, the inventory and character progression are really well done, and the combination of regenerating health and pickups is actually something I wouldn’t mind seeing in future shooters. Overall, Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t a must own title, but if you need an FPS to hold you over until Call of Duty: House of Cards Starring Kevin Spacey Edition, you could do a lot worse.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The environments are kind of just generic grey brown shooter environments, but the Nazi tech is incredibly detailed. 3.8 Control
The shooter controls are dry but the character progression is actually quite interesting. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting is well done, but the script is little more than “HECK YEAH WE KILLED SOME NAZI’S!” 3.8 Play Value
It was an OK time, and while I probably won’t come back to it, it certainly kept me playing. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best