Wolfenstein: The New Order Review
Written Tuesday, May 20, 2014 By Richard Walker
Once upon a time, BJ Blazkowicz was little more than a disembodied head with overly active eyebrows, but in Wolfenstein: The New Order, he's a proper character with thoughts, feelings, wants and needs. Like the want for a warm gun and the need to blast Nazis into chunks of quivering flesh. Yes, Blazkowicz is so much more than a floating head these days, but he still loves a nice bit of viscera, as MachineGames' fresh take on the wayward series proves beyond doubt.
Set amid a chilling alternate reality in which the Nazi war machine has trampled over allied efforts to topple Hitler, Wolfenstein's The New Order is laced with memorable and disturbing events, whether its Deathshead's ultimatum and his twisted experiments or Frau Engel's impromptu test on a train to Berlin. We could list dozens more, but we don't want to spoil anything. Just know that there's never a dull moment in The New Order and plenty of surprises.
The perfect cure for a migraine.
Ostensibly a run-and-gun shooter, Wolfenstein actually demands a more varied approach than you might expect, with a variety of tasks unlocking perks that augment Blazkowicz's combat proficiency. It's not just the game's perks that promote mixing up your play style, but the level design is also conducive to using cover and adopting stealth gameplay in some instances, while there's still ample opportunity to storm into a room while dual-wielding hulking great shotguns and a shitload of ammo. There's a lean system and stealth mechanics in there too, making sneaky gameplay just as viable an option as balls-out blasting, and it's all incredibly well executed.
Blazkowicz might be an almost unstoppable one-man army bristling with more guns than he could realistically carry, able to survive more punishment than any human conceivably ever could, but he's also capable of some subtlety. Able to silently fling knives into foes with a satisfying thud or quietly slice their jugular, BJ can tiptoe and slash trachea with the best of 'em. Certain junctures see commanders patrolling an area, at which point a signal indicator pops up on your HUD, revealing their proximity. Silently slitting their throats negates their ability to raise alarms and call in reinforcements, leaving you free to mop up the entrenched Nazi forces with impunity, so stealth has its rewards.
Nonetheless, there's a nice selection of weapons at your disposal for satisfying a wanton bloodlust, from your standard handgun to the more exotic Laserkraftwerk, an energy weapon capable of cutting through metal panels and eviscerating foes. Ammunition is bountiful, even on the game's demanding – but not all that insurmountable – 'Über' difficulty, meaning you'll seldom come unstuck during The New Order's generously proportioned campaign. Each weapon has a pleasing heft to it too, the impact of your projectiles taking lumps out of any Nazi scum foolhardy enough to wander into your line of sight.
Lunchtime in the canteen is always a frenzy.
Wolfenstein's Nazis aren't all that smart, however, prone to running headlong towards you or failing to stay behind cover properly, usually leaving a limb conveniently exposed. Suffice it to say, the enemy AI isn't particularly great, making Wolfenstein's campaign more of a shooting gallery and less the kind of game that requires careful tactical thought. Troops would seemingly rather stand out in the open than retreat, in most cases. The game's hardest challenges come when you're under the duress of overwhelming numbers and hails of bullets rather than intelligent enemies, with later levels piling on heavily armoured super soldiers, elite rocket troops and marauding mechanical monstrosities like the fearsome panzerhund.
The narrative moves along at a fair pace, taking in a range of memorable set-pieces, from storming General Deathshead's compound to escaping a prison camp with little more than a knife and something known as Herr Faust. One minute you're exploring subterranean tunnels, the next you're stealing helicopters or picking your way through a London museum that's been reduced to flaming rubble. The New Order constantly keeps you on your toes, ensuring there's seldom a lull in the action.
Visits to the resistance's underground HQ offer a welcome respite and a brilliant easter egg that takes Blazkowicz right back to his roots. You'll find optional side missions and a veritable banquet of collectibles to sniff out too, including Nazi gold, enigma documents and lost letters. Enigma codes are actually worth seeking out, unlocking additional gameplay options upon deciphering them. Still, keeping an eye out for collectible bobbins can detract from the overall experience, making a straight-up first playthrough in which you ignore collecting stuff, a more advisable option.
Good morning, darling.
A second playthrough is also warranted if you want to explore both of the game's timelines, with a pivotal decision early on in the game leading to a tonal shift that affects the rest of the narrative. Its impact isn't huge, but curiosity will likely make you want to discover the subtleties and differences across the two divergent timelines. That and any missed collectibles, most of which are marked on the game's map, alleviating any frustrating back and forth looking for an elusive enigma folder or lump of gold. It's unlikely you'll have gained every perk too, and with each acquired through fulfilling various goals, you'll want to go back and attempt to complete everything the game has to offer.
There's a good 12-15 hours of gameplay on a conventional first time through Wolfenstein, but simply playing the game is rewarding enough to make a second playthrough a pleasure rather than a chore. Naturally, this all ties in to the achievements, the majority of which you can snap up during one run through of the story. At face value, all of the perk-related tasks on the list seem like lazy filler, but as each pertains to performing a specific task in-game, it actually makes for a varied and balanced list that encourages plenty of experimentation.
Impervious to boulders to the face, shrapnel, knives, explosions and bullets, Blazkowicz is a force of nature. “You were born to kill Nazis,” one character remarks late into the game, and during the course of the story, you'll have killed thousands with a big stupid smile on your face. One of the most flexible FPS titles we've played in some time, Wolfenstein: The New Order is blemished only by some laughably stupid enemy AI in places and a slightly finicky weapon select menu. Otherwise, this is one of the most deliriously enjoyable and engaging first-person shooters you'll play this year.
Stellar voice work rubs shoulders with a superb score and suitably loud guns that sound every bit as lethal as they should. Wolfenstein is a beautiful blitzkrieg on the ears.
Brilliantly cinematic and stylish, The New Order encapsulates its twisted time period perfectly, mixing the familiar with the eerily alien.
A joy from start to finish, MachineGames' past Starbreeze pedigree shines through in its tight and robust gunplay. There are kinks, like dodgy enemy AI and a slightly fiddly radial weapon menu, but everything else is nigh-on perfect.
As a solely single-player proposition, Wolfenstein offers plenty of value with a lengthy campaign that's largely well-paced and tightly scripted. Collectibles, two timelines and a new game+ encourage a second playthrough, and we'd heartily recommend playing it twice.
Casually take a cursory look through Wolfenstein's list and you'd be forgiven for thinking it's rubbish. But as each perk is linked to a challenge in-game, it's a better list than its appearance would have you believe. Granted, there's are possibly a few too many collectibles, yet this is still a decent enough list.
Achtung! Wolfenstein: The New Order ist ein sehr gutes spiel. That is to say, it's a really good game. MachineGames has done the series the due service it deserves, delivering a thrilling and immensely entertaining Nazi smashing shooter that demands to be played and savoured.
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