With the recent release of the prequel Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, it seemed appropriate to check out the original game, Wolfenstein: The New Order, which was released a year ago.
Though its heritage may appear to be entirely from id Software’s ground breaking franchise the game’s heart is more of The Darkness or Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay which were both created by Starbreeze. Some of those developers now work at Wolfenstein developer Machine Games and it appears they have retained that same spirit for shooters which is a really good thing to see.
The game’s story centres around William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, all round kick ass soldier with a jawline that might make Bruce Campbell pause, but for only a second. The opening mission takes place during an attempted assault by B.J. and his allies during an alternate World War II when a technologically advanced Nazi Germany is on the cusp of winning. The mission itself goes south with B.J. being captured by General Deathshead and forcing him to make a tough decision that ends with him being badly injured.
And all that happens before the opening credits roll.
The real game begins as B.J. wakes from a comatose state that has left him hospitalized for fourteen years. The world is a different place for him as the Nazis have won the war and conquered the world. He escapes from a massacre in the hospital he was confined to and heads out seeking revenge.
As you’ve likely picked up already, there’s a fairly hefty amount of storyline here for a game franchise that was originally based on not much more than “shoot Nazis”. This is built up throughout the game via a combination of scripted events, cutscenes and B.J.’s own internal monologue. Not only that, the game provides two alternate paths depending on that “tough decision” made earlier on, giving players some incentive to play through again a second time which is a meat little trick.
Visually the game is great – the massive variety in the level designs almost guarantees you are never going to see the same areas reused. The art design really pushes down the alternate history path with Nazi propaganda littering the world and technology that fits within that aggressive style.
The engine which was previously used in id Software’s last game RAGE still delivers. And like that game, you never feel like you’re traveling through reused levels or geometry; everything seems very unique in the world.
Audio packs a lot of variety thanks to extensive voice work that sets a great tone as does the booming sound effects. I’m surprised in admitting that I think the voice actors outshine the other sound as it is used so effectively throughout the game and cutscenes.
Gameplay itself is tight. Movement and shooting are fluid and go a long way to making you feel like the indestructible hero you’re portraying in the game. A handful of the more modern FPS concessions have been made to animations when you’re climbing or traversing over obstacles that help add to the fluidity of movement.
Weapons are available via a radial menu accessed by the controller’s right bumper but you’re also able to switch between your last two choices via the Y button. One fun option is the ability to dual wield some of the weapons; being able to fire a pair of automatic shotguns at close range does not get old.
The game has no multiplayer modes but considering the size and scope of the campaign it’s clear that the effort to focus on a single player game was a good one. Gamers will get plenty of value out of their first play through and potentially on a second run too if they choose to play again but now by making the second of the tough choices instead. That plus a set of achievements that also unlock additional gameplay perks for completing in game tasks add further incentive for completionists too.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a big bad monster of a shooter which rewards players with a lengthy campaign and story that brings back the kind of game that existed before the Halos and Call of Dutys made multiplayer more than just a bonus feature. So if you are looking for something to keep you occupied for more than a few hours and don’t care for multiplayer this is definitely the game for you.
Reviewed on Xbox One but also available on Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC.