Silly Nazis, mystical powers of the occult are for kids!
Wolfenstein has a history. If you grew up playing any PC shooters, no doubt you've played 'ol Wolf3D; it's a true classic from id Software that everyone knows about. Hell, it was the beginning of the first-person shooter's popularity, before even Doom! So sequels and re-releases are bound to happen, and this is the latest attempt to bring the franchise back to what it once was... doesn't have the same impact as the original did, but it doesn't need it. After all, it's already had that impact once, eh?
[image1]The game throws you into the spy-boots of good ol' William "B.J." Blazkowicz (the same main character from the original Wolf3D) on the bow of a Nazi ship. After discovering that Hitler's regime was researching the occult for new magicks and technologies to finish their taking over the world, B.J. is sent immediately back into action in the heart of Germany to stop the Führer. With a load of missions he has to face and an open world to explore, every player who takes this on will be swimming in full on Nazi-shooting goodness!
Visually, the package is definitely pretty. Each face feels like it was meticulously stretched over the skulls of each character (still a little plastic-ish, but not quite as bad as the first Terminator movie), and while mouths move oddly (who knows when some development house is going to fix that...), they look like you would hope video game humans would look like. And every open environment is beautiful in the classic WWII fashion: gritty, in ruin, on fire, littered with the debris, buildings collapsed, and people scurrying like rats.
Except for the buildings made for the SS. Say what you want, those fellas have some style.
As a single-player experience, this is top-notch for the FPS genre. The whole world is open, which is nice for this type of game, and the environments you get to explore are intricately detailed and even destructible. You can destroy so much stuff, it's a blast to run-and-gun, just to see how much of it flies up and breaks. And with a nice assortment of different enemies, who also have their own fun ways of blowing up (and believe me, they do), it becomes a beautiful orgy of action and violence.
[image2]But some of the small touches or lack thereof leave the game feeling empty: the lack of any evidence of a firefight having ever occurred - bodies tend to disappear after only ten seconds in multi-player and nearly as quickly in the campaign (a.k.a. no teabagging friends online in that obscene, loving way); a basic group of weapons (machine gun, pistol, rocket launcher, and electricity gun... same set-up as classic Quake III), and the occult idea, despite being a strong force in the storyline, is not that interesting. Thankfully, the action sequences are intense and engaging, sometimes enough to make you jump out of your chair.
However, there is one big disappointment: the broken multiplayer. Seriously. Broken. Within about twenty minutes, it was obvious how to regain health and main-weapon ammo without any repercussion. It's nice that there are three classes - Engineer, Medic, and Soldier - each with a different weapon set, even if it's just variations of the same weapon. But the method of changing classes mid-battle messes the matches up because doing so doesn't count as a self-kill. Well, that, and it brings back health and ammunition. It can easily keep matches one-sided, especially since there doesn't seem to be any way to balance teams (my first online match included multiple level 1 players, one level 3, one level 17, and one level 27). It's an even bigger shame if you're an Achievement/Trophy whore, because a lot of the Gamerscore comes from playing online.
And it's significantly uglier online - magazines running straight through a character model's hands, old guys with visible man-bewbs, no destructible cover at all - it feels very little like the single-player experience. With the exception of how pretty (and shiny!) the buildings are, the multiplayer looks like a completely unrelated, generic, graphically-stunted mess. I can understand a bit of a downgrade to keep things sharp, but this is ridiculous.
Along the way, a lot of the little touches keep this from being the complete package, a lack of blood going everywhere (like it should), and that whole bit of online play being unbalanced. But taking into account the top-notch single-player experience, this is a title good enough to hold the attention for the hours necessary to finish it.