It’s clear that Bethesda and Machinegames at one time had a tasty recipe for Wolfenstein: The New Order but perhaps there were too many chefs in the kitchen – or not enough.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
The latest Wolfenstein feels like the gaming equivalent of a movie studio needing to squeeze out a title before they lose the license. I never like bashing a game, and The New Order certainly has some neat ideas. However, it feels like production was caught between wanting to deliver a solid narrative to tie all the shooting together that many of the levels and missions seem rushed.
The New Order wraps up the story beginning with the 2001 series reboot, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and once more, you fill the boots of agent B.J. Blazkowicz – the Allied version of every movie version of Arnold Schwarzenegger – who’s tasked with tearing down Germany’s Third Reich. Having survived the events of Wolfenstein (2009), Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse is back at it with his genetic experiments to create supersoldiers. The Nazis are gaining ground in the war and the Allies, desperate to thwart the evil genius, sends B.J. along with a squadron of marines to his science castle. However, during the raid, B.J. and his cohorts are captured. He’s badly hurt during his escape and 14 years later, wakes up in a Polish mental institution. In that time, the Nazis have effectively conquered the planet, forcing B.J. to join up with whatever resistance is left to end the Nazi war machine.
Story-wise, The New Order rambles from point to point with incoherent pacing and baffling threads. The main one is always “Nazis are bad, shoot ’em or something,” however (I kid you, not) there’s a brief digression for ancient Jewish superscience that is hand-waved away using the fastest exposition possible by one of the major characters. The worst part about it that this thread could have made an incredibly interesting turn in the story, opening up a boatload of gaming opportunities. You’re also given a choice in the first mission that does little to alter later events save for meeting different side characters, a late game boss fight, and an out of place and terrible hacking mechanic.
The New Order attempts to flesh out Mr. Blazkowicz beyond a meat-headed, murder machine using a corny, internal monologue about the life that could have been but never will alongside a romantic subplot with B.J.’s nurse-turned-freedom-fighter. It seems that love can indeed bloom on the battlefield. It’s not so bad, except the couple of brief sex scenes that really serve no purpose other than to titillate.
Missions shuffle you from Berlin to London (and, spoilers, even to the freaking moon) in order to violently blast apart Nazis. That sentence in itself should make you moist in your pants. Unfortunately, the magic ends at the drawing board because despite the thrilling notion of playing out a revenge fantasy against the greatest atrocities of the 20th century because The New Order misses the mark in its execution.
The usual prisons, sewers, secret labs, and military bases make up the game’s locales. And although you get to go to the goddamned moon to shoot space Nazis, the only time you’re bouncing around in space is to hop to another part of the SS Moon Base. It’s just a bummer to squander such a cool themed level that should have had memorable enemy engagements. You’ll also take a brief dive to ocean floor but the less said about that, the better.
The whole production just seems really half-baked. On a personal note (and this on me entirely), the trailers for The New Order seemed to hint at time travel. The choice of using classic music in conjunction with an altered 1960’s in the trailers (as the one above) lays out a version of the game that I figured would have me hopping through time, chasing down Nazis, and correcting the altered continuum. This thought process marches right in step with the paranormally focused Return and Wolfenstein (2009).
At least most of the shooting feels nice and is loud. B.J.’s arsenal features meaty rifles and shotguns that are fantastic to use against some of the fleshier foes. You can also duel wield all your weapons except one (yes, even the sniper-class marksman rifle). I played through nearly the entire game this way and found it an extremely enjoyable way to mow down baddies.
Yet, there’s not much of a selection with most weapons getting upgrades and secondary fire modes later in the game. For instance, instead of just finding a rocket launcher, you unlock a rocket attachment for your machine gun. You do get a fancy electro-laser weapon that receives a multitude of useful upgrades and very much serves are your go-to “oh shit, things got too real” weapon mostly because it can burn through the heavier armored Ubersoldats and mechs like ice-cream in July. Overall, the shooting and movement feels solid – minus an insane key bind linking the weapon selection wheel to the grenade button – and is very much a fantastic throwback to old-school shooters.
If a head-on attack ain’t your bag, then you can try sneaking. Going in quiet certainly is serviceable and is absolutely required in some parts. While you can get dirty with up-close and ranged knife kills, B.J. carries a silenced pistol that works much better. Stealth killing Nazi commanders – who can alarm nearby baddies – prevents them from summoning reinforcements.
There’s also a limited perk system which demands specific kills to unlock. Usually, these are simply more ammo for your guns, grenades, and knives; however, you’ll will stumble upon health and armor upgrades to beef up your survivability. And you’ll need these upgrades since this is squarely an old-school shooter through and through. Health and armor can be picked up from fallen enemies or found in the level. Collectibles are also abundant for you completionists out there.
Visually, I’ve seen better but the explosions and environments look pretty damn good. Bad guys burst into a chunky crimson salsa from detonated grenades and your weapons are all modeled and textured nicely. What doesn’t look so nice are the harsh, flat textures on walls and tables. The new id Tech 5 might have a great future but this game doesn’t do it any favors. Perhaps, developing for the 360 and PS3 versions limited the PC and current-gen systems but I’ll go to my grave defending the visuals in Rage. Hopefully, the next DOOM will get some more polish, but Wolfenstein isn’t exactly a Wolfen-stain in the right lighting.
It’s clear that Bethesda and Machinegames at one time had a tasty recipe for Wolfenstein: The New Order. But perhaps there were too many chefs in the kitchen (or not enough). Either way, the direction was lost in cooking with ping pong pacing, mediocre combat, and lackluster graphics. It’s a shame because I’m often a champion of games like this if only since it saves us from endless waves of limp storytelling in other shooters. While Nazis have certainly been played out, it’s always nice to play a video game-ass video game sans any bullshit that gets straight to the point. I can only recommend this game to the most diehard of Wolfenstein and FPS fans or gamers that absolutely must get into the DOOM beta.
The Good: Solid old school shooting fun
The Bad: Schizophrenic pace, mixed bag graphics