Wolfenstein: The New Order returns to the Nazi-killing, gun-toting ways many are familiar with from their youth. Once again the role of B.J. Blazkowicz, players pick up the pieces of the tyrannical future where Nazis won World War II and slowly but surely conquered the entire world. The new Nazi World Order is one of industrialism, Gestapo police, and massive concrete cities filling the world.
Change does not fully begin to encompass everything within the game. It picks up initially in the 1946 at the high time of World War II. Players immediately jump into the combat boots of B.J. en route to a massive, last-ditch assault on Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse’s castle compound, in an attempt to end his life and vast control over the Nazi war machine. The plan fails, leaving B.J. in a comatose state for fourteen years. Those fourteen years see the rise of the Nazi Empire and the spread of their tyrannical control over the world. Freedom is non-existent, cameras and eyes are always watching, and the German police forces will casually haul someone away if they so much as sneeze improperly.
What a trip.
The game isn’t a simple run and gun first-person shooter. There’s actually a deep level of substance within from B.J.’s idle musings to his interactions (and intercourses) with other characters within the game. Players truly step in the mind of Blazkowicz, following his ordeals through the course of time. It’s fascinating to hear his thoughts throughout the game. Certain events will trigger memories from his shattered mind, suddenly sending him down memory lane. There was, I recall, one that was triggered at the beginning of an underwater level. He commented on his situation out of the blue, recalling the memory of being a child disobeying his father’s orders to not go swimming during the Red Tide. Its instances like this that drew me into the game. There were also times when I could stop and have a quick conversation with someone, doing something simple as reassuring them our plan would work. These things do not change the overall course of the game; instead they serve to add to an already deep experience.
Storytelling in the game is perhaps its strongest point. I found watching the cutscenes and different conversations throughout to be the best part. There are times as well when players are on the rollercoaster within B.J.’s head, soaking up the surroundings while everything happens around him. These are some of the best times as in the background there are a number of things happening – prisoners being moved, guards talking about current events, and even Nazi generals torturing you in retaliation. Wolfenstein holds so much within the game, it actually felt like I was getting that fantastic story and substance along with great gameplay.
The game builds upon the FPS genre though, giving players a small variety of weapons and abilities. Players can run, slide, and stealthily move around in the shadows. Some weapons can be dual-wielded, while some objects, like knives and laser weapons, provide additional capabilities in the game. The laser cutter is particularly important as it serves as both a tool to cut through objects, but also a rechargeable weapon to use against Nazi robots. There’s not a ton of options with weapons, but they are all fun and interesting to use even if they are the generic pistol-submachine gun-shotgun combo.
The game is broken into distinct levels, all comprised of their own unique look and feel. A trip through the Berlin sewers will not remotely feel like heading upwards through a research facility. Between the levels are trips back to the Kreisau Circle hideout, giving players the ability to catch up with people and explore more of the history within the game. There’s even a special treat letting players revisit B.J.’s own history in the form of a nice Easter Egg. Aside from variety of levels, which are all fun and diverse, there is also a divergent storyline. Early in the game, players are given a choice that does subtly change the rest of the game. I picked Wyatt’s storyline that gave me access to lock-picking, in turn giving me access to areas and paths that would otherwise be inaccessible. There is also the Fergus storyline, which offers a different approach to the future in the form of hot wiring.
Aside from the divergent storylines, Wolfenstein is never a game to miss out on collectibles and has a variety including vinyls, letters, gold pieces, and more. These add to your completion rating of the game and provide additional immersion into the game world in many cases. The new unlockable skills are a twist though. Throughout the game, players are able to complete challenges that provide additional benefits and new abilities, like carrying additional knives, faster crouch walking, and even additional ammo capacity. These skills unlock through players playing their own distinct way; I unlocked the majority of the stealth skills within the first few levels. They do help, so it is worth the effort.
MachineGames approached the Wolfenstein franchise and created a title full of care on their part. There are many small touches within the game that make it that much more enjoyable. Yes, there are still issues – melee combat is difficult at times, enemies can be ridiculously overpowered, and it’s very easy to die on the harder difficulties. Initially I set out to review the PC version of Wolfenstein, but unforeseen bugs and optimization issues made this impossible. The game did run on my older PC, but with a terrible, choppy framerate and jagged graphics. Ultimately I ended up using the XB1 version of the game for review purposes. For those planning on paying homage to the series and staying within the PC realm, I would recommend double checking specs against the game’s necessary requirements.
Overall though, the game is solid. It has fun gameplay, an excellent story that maintains the Wolfenstein mystique, and at least some additional replay value. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy the game and I feel certain that newcomers will enjoy the change of pace from games like Call of Duty. While there is no multiplayer for the game, the single-player is more than enough to hold players’ attention and keep them entertained.Note: Wolfenstein: The New Order was reviewed on Xbox One. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.