Warning: This review of Wolfenstein: The New Order may contain minor spoilers of the game. This game was played on the PS4.
I always try to be honest really and to tell you the truth I wasn't actually going to buy or play Wolfenstein: The New Order. I hadn't planned on it anyway. My brother suggested to make the purchase after he saw the game on CatchoftheDay.com.au for a very generously discounted price ($60 AUD, so about $56.41 USD), so I thought alright, why not, if it's bad it's not that expensive. Full retail of this game is about $99 AUD ($92.72 USD) so yeah, we kinda get ripped off.
Turns out it's not bad, not bad at all! I was pleasantly surprised.
I haven't played Wolfenstein since the original. I remember playing the original Wolfenstein 3D on a PC a long time ago when I was a kid, at my dad's friend's place who funnily enough lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Then I remember playing the Super Nintendo adaptation of Wolfenstein 3D where they tried to give it a little bit of a plot, which was just narrated with walls of text in front of a still picture of “B.J” talking to some guy in an office. I won't lie, that sounds wrong.
Wolfenstein: The New Order pits players into the first person shoes of Captain William “B.J” Blazkowicz (I think that's how you spell his name), a former Sergeant of the U.S Rangers who now serves as an agent of the U.S. Special Forces. The game immediately throws you into an epic battle, storming a base of Nazi General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. Shortly after storming the base, you're captured by Deathshead himself, you're forced to choose one of your comrades to die gruesomely right in front of you, then you manage to make your escape before B.J suffers a head injury that puts him in a vegetative state. This is all in the first level by the way, you know, the tutorial of the game.
Fast forward fourteen years later, B.J is in a Polish mental hospital where he is being treated. The hospital is stormed by Nazi soldiers and somehow, B.J is able to break free from his vegetative state and begins to do what he does best. Killing Nazis. Upon his escape from the hospital, B.J learns that the year is 1960 and at the end of World War II, the Nazi's won.
The plot is well told and there is actually a fair amount of decent writing and voice acting, particularly for B.J, however, what I will complain about is this, how is it after fourteen years of being in a vegetative and immobile state is B.J still a hulking Nazi killing machine? Were they feeding him steroids and making his body do weights, or something? I don't know but I'll try not to let that get in the way.
Wolfenstein: The New Order reminds me of three games I've played in the past mixed into one and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It reminds me of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and 007: Nightfire. It's a first person shooter, with tight controls, unlimited sprinting, the ability to jump, climb over obstacles, crouch, slide across the ground and so forth. You can fire your guns from the hip, fire from the iron sights like Call of Duty and you can dual wield weapons. I didn't really experience any problems with the controls at all. You can also melee with a knife or if you're quiet enough, take out bad guys from behind with brutal and somehow quiet take downs.
One feature I liked was the ability to lean, which was common in first person shooters of the past but not so much now. Leaning allows you to take cover behind objects, whether it's a wall or a corner, and you can lean out either left, right, up or even down and fire at the enemy. Leaning is also useful in stealth segments, as you can approach a corner and lean to the side to survey the area for any enemies. It's a nice welcome back feature that I used often.
What adds further challenge to the game is health and armour and how it works. Unlike most modern shooters of today that utilize some form of health regeneration, Wolfenstein: The New Order returns to its roots and once again, players now have to be wary of their health and armour. To restore health, players must find health packs to heal them, while armour can be found scattered throughout levels and collected off some fallen enemies. Armour does as it's called, it protects your health from being harmed and it is a very handy thing to have. It's possible to upgrade your health by finding certain collectables and if you collect enough health packs, you can enter a “supercharge” mode that basically means for a short duration of time, you can have more health than your maximum allows. This can be handy for vicious fire fights.
I will make a note though, dual wielding weapons is only fun for about five minutes then it loses the appeal very quickly. Dual wielding weapons makes you slower and you lose the invaluable option to aim down the iron sights. You're better off sticking to just one gun.
To my surprise there is a fair emphasis on stealth, however that being said, once you're spotted stealth will pretty much immediately be thrown out the window with no chances of hiding and relocating. As long as you can take out the officers who are capable of calling in reinforcements, you'll be fine. You can tell when you've entered an environment where it's intended for stealth. Guards are fairly isolated from one another, allowing you careful opportunity to take them out quietly one at a time with your knife, or throwing knives if you have any. You can also acquire a silencer for your pistol at some stage, which makes stealth very easy, as the pistol seems to have limitless range if careful accuracy is used. It's fun stealth and there's nothing really wrong with it, it's just not as in depth as say Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell.
There's a fair amount of variety for the most part in regards to enemies and environment. You'll be breaking into Nazi strongholds and prisons, swimming and exploring sewers and so forth. It's a pretty interesting game. There's a fair amount of enemies too from Nazi soldiers, to riot guards, to officers, dogs and giant robots. Fun stuff. Yup. The Nazi's have robots and lots of them. I was a little disappointed by the weapon variety though, there really isn't much and it really depends on what level you're in that determines what weapons you acquire. Most of the time I used the knife, silenced pistol or assault rifle, they worked out most of the time and only rarely did I have to find and use something else to take down a particular enemy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I fear that players may feel a bit “meh” at the lack of weapon variety. Some weapons you can only get on particular levels for particular situations.
Wolfenstein: The New Order introduces a Perks system, which kind of reminds me of an RPG in a way mixed in with achievements. There are categories, or trees of Perks. You've got Stealth, Tactical, Assault and Demolition. Each category has its own number of Perks, which act as upgrades as long as you can unlock them. Unlocking them works in a similar way as to achieve trophy/achievements, for example, to unlock the 'Assassin' Perk, you must silently take down up to fifty enemies and ten dogs (I think, or it might be five, I might have the numbers wrong). Once you've done this, you've permanently unlocked the Assassin Perk, meaning you're quieter when you run and when you sneak (crouch walk) you move faster. Very handy.
I mentioned a spoiler before that involves the player being forced to choose between saving one character and letting the other one die. Well, the reason I mentioned this is because depending on who you save actually allows a new skill. Should you save one character, you'll receive the ability to hot wire devices to unlock new things. Should you save the other? You'll receive the ability to pick lock certain doors and access new paths. In regards to the storyline, saving either or character doesn't really change anything.
The overall presentation of Wolfenstein: The New Order is quite impressive. Environments are quite large and detailed and the world of Post Nazi victory is not only imaginative, but down right disturbing. This is one of the most intense shooters I have played, with some very, literally in your face moments of violence, fear and gore. This is game is certainly not for the faint of heart. Guns feel heavy, guns are loud and explosions are loud. The soundtrack is pretty damn impressive too, particularly at the title screen. Most of the voice acting and dialogue is quite good too. This is a good looking game and it sounds good.
Sadly, there isn't much to collect in terms of collectables. You can find statues that increase your maximum health and you can unlock character trophies (3D models) that include brief biographies and and you can get concept art to check out too. There's also Enigma codes scattered throughout the game, which apparently if you collect them all you can unlock in-game content. What this content is though, I have no idea, so I can't tell you if it's worth it or not at this stage.
Despite my surprise and praise of this game, there's a few things that fall a little.
Apart from B.J, most of the characters feel quite undeveloped and they really aren't that interesting. Some of them are sure, but most of them aren't. Which is a shame, considering this is probably the best written Wolfenstein game and they wanted to expand on narrative, this is a missed opportunity.
Enemy A.I can at times be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes the enemies are ruthless and will really put the pressure on the player. Sometimes though, they'll just stand there and wait for you to shoot them in the head. It's unpredictable, but not in the best way.
Personally, while this game is fun and action packed, I felt at times it can be a bit repetitive. I found I could only play the game for an hour or so, then I would have to take a break and probably play the next night or so. I'm sure some players will disagree to this and could binge through it and finish it in a night (considering the game play probably lasts about ten to fifteen hours), but I'm not one of those people.
There's only a few vehicle sections, but truthfully I hated these segments and to me it was probably the worst thing about the game. The vehicle segments are painfully forced and the controls don't feel so tight or sharp anymore. I would love to avoid these but unfortunately you've just gotta push through them. There's a couple of quick time events on foot too but thankfully, not much at all.
Finally, since it's a single player only game, there's not much to come back to upon the completion of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Sure, you could revisit levels to search for stuff you may have missed, such as Enigma codes or maximum health trophies, but there's not much to go back for. If you're a big fan of this game and a masochist, you could revisit the already challenging game and try it again at a harder difficulty.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a pleasant surprise. What I find funny and kind of ironic is despite being a shooter made in 2014, it feels very new and fresh all because it revisits old school gaming, reintroducing health and armour, the ability to learn and so forth, while it mixes in new elements of today, such as the Perks system. I'm actually glad I picked this game up.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is available now on PC, X-Box 360, X-Box One, PS3 and PS4 consoles.