They put a Nazi on the Moon?
Wolfenstein: The New Order throws the history books right out the window with its spin on the events of World War II. The war is still raging, but the Nazis have invented all sorts of new technology that’s giving them an advantage over the opposition. Our hero B.J. Blazkowicz and his entourage are hellbent on taking the Nazis down, but General Deathshead has more than a few surprises up his sleeve for the Allied forces. Can Wolfenstein: The New Order give new life to an old franchise, or does this old-school FPS need to be put out to pasture?
Wolfenstein: TNO throws you right into the heat of battle as soon as you hit the start button. You’re on a plane over the Baltic Sea that’s taking heavy fire. You’ll need to hang onto your wits and perform a few tasks to keep your plane in the air. After B.J. and a few of his crewmates survive a crash onto a beach, we begin to see just what they’re up against as the Nazis have a variety of mechanical monstrosities amongst their ranks. After a long gun battle which sees you and your forces battling to the top of a castle by the sea, an explosion causes a head injury and sees him fall into the water. B.J. wakes up some 14 years into the future when not only has he been in a coma, but the Nazis have won the war.
Wolfenstein: TNO is all about the shooting and the destruction of the Nazi opposition. Enemies virtually disintegrate in over-the-top carnage. Heads explode, limbs vanish, bodies aren’t much more than charred remains, and the blood flows by the gallon. It’s no joke that B.J.’s goal is to wipe the Nazi presence from wherever he goes.
B.J.’s weapon selection is nothing short of what you’d expect to find in this reimagined game. He’s got knives, pistols, and assault rifles up the wazoo! You’ll have access to his full arsenal before you know it, like upgrades that include scopes and rocket attachments. The game also throws new weapons at you regularly to keep things from getting stale. You also have the ability to dual-wield just about everything from knives to shotguns and laser rifles. The only disadvantage is that when you dual-wield you’ll blow through your ammo reserves twice as fast.
When things start to get nuts, you’ll need to find cover ASAP. There’s no button press or odd mechanic to learn; you need cover, you just get behind your nearest wall, pile of crate, or burned-out vehicle. Holding the L1 button and moving the left stick in any direction allow you to peek out and see what you’re up against. You won’t be able to sit in one place for long though as the enemies will chip away at your hiding spot. Good cover positions and movement in between them will help to keep you alive during some of the more brutal firefights.
The variety of levels by the design team at Machine Games will add to the fun you have in trying to figure out where the enemies are and how to flank them. You’ll traverse Nazi encampments, Nazi compounds, and even your makeshift resistance bunker, which has multiple levels with multiple exits that allow you to keep the enemy guessing. The outdoor levels are wide open and allow a ton of freedom to navigate and locate branching paths to make your way through. Indoor spaces vary from tight corridors to stairwells and ventilation systems that can be used to get the drop on an unknowing Nazi making his patrolling rounds.
No matter how well you might plan your attack, all hell will eventually break loose. Standard enemies will blast away at your health while the tougher ones will take chunks out of it. The battles can quickly become very intense when you have so many enemies firing at you that you don’t know whether to run and evade so your health won’t take a huge hit or do your best to stand and fight. There were several occasions I’d run into some heavily armed troopers wielding a combination of mini-guns and rocket launchers and I’d be toast in no time. Those tougher guys take a ton of ammo and well-placed shots to take down.
Later in the game if and when you run out of bullets, you’ll need to switch to a weapon that requires an electrical charge. You’ll do well to stay near a wall charger or learn where they are placed around the level in case you run out or your cover gets destroyed. If you run out of both types of ammo, I hope you still have some grenades or your knife. Sneaking up behind an enemy and taking him down with your knife will help in the long run when it comes to conserving ammo, but be wary that your knife is ineffective against heavily armored enemies.
In between some of the battle-intense set pieces, you’ll partake in a few more mundane fetch quests. Searching through sewer tunnels to find a missing blowtorch or looking for a key to unlock a door to a records room gives you a break from the intense action. While these were a bit on the boring side, I didn’t mind the break both my senses and fingers got for a few minutes. There’s still plenty of action from a flying drone or an auto-sentry turret as well as other more interesting and intense set pieces where you’re an undercover stowaway on a train full of Nazis and you're forced to play a card game at gunpoint to prove how much of a pureblood you are.
Many of us older gamers don’t remember B.J. as so much of a leading man but more of a pixelated guy who didn’t do anything other than determine the state of your in-game health by the damage on his face. This new and improved B.J. has feelings and makes you care about him, the members of his team, and their struggle. He speaks in monologues from time to time, sharing his thoughts on everything from his current situation, to the woman he loves, to his distaste of all things Nazi. The voiceover work is excellent and makes the character of B.J. more believable. You get a lot of in-game chatter from B.J.’s allies and they also come across as part of the team trying their best to assist.
Another great addition to Wolfenstein: TNO is the ability to play in a style you like. You have four different tiers of perks based on how you play. ou can sneak around or go in all-guns blazing. As you play, new upgrades and abilities can be unlocked for B.J. based on how you’re playing. Some of the perks will give you a damage boost, faster movement when you’re dual-wielding, and a faster reload.
Stealth is actually a great way to play the game at times when it’s possible. You can take out enemies easily from behind. On the off-chance you try and take someone out from head-on, expect it to be a struggle. If you’re in the crouched position, you’ll also be able to move quietly and take down those four-legged walking alarm guard dogs. If your footsteps are too loud, they’ll always hear you before a guard does and they’ll come barking and running, so it’s much easier to get them while they’re lying on the floor.
There’s a wealth of things that can be both collected and examined in the game. There are necessary maps, golden Nazi trinkets, and codes that will help unlock new game modes once you decipher them. When the spyglass prompt appears when passing through a level, you’ll be able to read more in-depth about what’s happening in the Nazi-dominant alternate universe. Completionists and Trophy/Achievement hunters will be able to double the amount of time they put into the game with a second playthrough for a different storyline. There’s plenty to keep you busy aside from all the action.
The only negative things I have to say about Wolfenstein: TNO are probably more nitpicky than being true negatives. There are odd transitions from gameplay to cutscenes, which are gorgeous but at times when you need to interact with another member of your team, it seems like it would have made more sense to have them talk in-engine. B.J.’s animations experience occasional hiccups as well. While I don’t feel it needs it at all, there is no multiplayer mode either.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a shining example of how to revitalize an old-school franchise. Its alternate history of World War II with the Nazis coming out on top is both far-fetched and over-the-top, but it keeps it grounded by being an extremely fun shooter, having a compelling story with well-developed characters, and a main protagonist who you’ll truly care about to the end. For some gamers, the $60 asking price for a shooter with no multiplayer might stop them at the door, but in the end they’ll be the ones missing out on one helluva ride!