Wolfenstein 3D is a name that any patron of the first person shooter(FPS) genre should be familiar with. Most people point to the Dooms and Quakes for laying the foundation for the FPS, but Wolfenstein is in fact the true innovator, and those titles( as great as they were) merely built upon the already solid foundations of Wolfenstein 3D’s maze like environment, fast paced combat, etc. Its sequel Return to Castle Wolfenstein further expanded upon the genre by adding realistic textures, bigger levels, and a stronger emphasis on stealth. In many ways, Return To Castle Wolfenstein was one of the first scripted event shooters and its inspiration can still be seen in current AAA franchise shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Machine Games, a new Swedish developer created by the remnants of the defunct Starbreeze are taking the reins of the Wolfenstein franchise from the original developers, id Software, who are supposedly putting the finishing touches on Doom 4. Will Wolfenstein: The New Order be the vanguard that the FPS genre desperately needs, or will it be just another “me too” shooter discarding any trace of originality in favor of embracing current trends?
Wolfenstein: The New Order seeks to the answer the question: What would the geopolitical landscape look like if the Third Reich defeated the allied powers during World War II? This in itself is a very interesting premise, and is very much the antithesis of today’s more “progressive” world which values (at least openly) fairness and political correctness. The Nazi’s in The New Order are not the goose stepping caricatures that are viewed strictly through the lens as enemy combatants during WW2. The New Order’s Nazi antagonists are not just a military force, but are fanatical in their obsession with superiority and chilling in their brutal effectiveness.
Players again take on the role as series mainstay Bj Blazkowicz. Long known for setting the template for the protagonist in FPS as being the strong and silent type. In New Order, Blazkowicz is still the gun-ho hero he was in the prior games; but this time the developers have given him more of a human element. Throughout the course of the game, we learn what drives Blazkowic to fight beyond his obvious hate for the Nazis. He is likable and has a certain naiveté (think Captain America) that will no doubt cause the user to root for him. The supporting cast are well written and very likable. The plot is typical of the genre. Each level sends the player in search of a MacGuffin. However, the characters do a great job of selling the story to the player and thereby make a fairly predictable premise engaging. The world building is interesting in that it merges the fantastical elements that one would expect from a game called Wolfenstein with more logical inferences.
Wolfenstein: The New Order’s gunplay has a nice feel to it. Each pull of the trigger has a powerful cause and effect relationship that is reflected in both enemies and the environment. This cause and effect relationship extends into the dual wielding mechanics, which are appropriately weighty, yet brutally satisfying. The guns are the usual suspects one would expect from a shooter: shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, etc. However, the laser cutter, which reminds me of Half-Life 2’s gravity gun, really stands out. Like the gravity gun, its primary purpose is to manipulate the environment rather than smite foes. Keeping with the brutal theme of Wolfenstein, the laser cutter is still very much a powerful weapon and allows you to eviscerate enemies.
If going in guns blazing isn’t your thing, the game allows you to go in using stealth. The stealth system is simplistic, but effective, with an emphasis on taking down enemies using silenced pistols and knives rather than avoiding conflict. New Order also has a upgrade menu that accommodates multiple playstyles. The upgrades are mostly passive perks tied towards actions that you perform regularly in the game. For example, if you dual wield alot you will eventually unlock the ability to carry more ammo. The enemy A.I ranges from competent during gun battles to nonexistent during stealth sections. The robotic and armored enemy types offers a nice bit of challenge and variety to combat situations. The level design is mostly open ended, and offer multiple routes to objectives. There are some set pieces for variety sake, but New Order isn’t overly reliant upon them, and instead insist that the user create their own fun.
Wolfenstein: The New Order’s graphics are impressively detailed. That being said, the graphics aren’t groundbreaking. On next generation consoles, the graphics look more like a current gen game on high to mid pc settings. The oppressive art deco design is what I feel truly makes New Order stand out visually. The voice acting is well done. However it is sometimes difficult to hear what is being said due to the relative low volume of the voice track. The music is an eclectic mixture of acoustic and electric guitar, and modern electronica that perfectly encapsulates the themes of the game.
Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t quite the innovator its predecessors were, but it is nonetheless a quality shooter that is worth playing. In fact, I would say that New Order is the best first person shooter that I’ve played since the original Bioshock. It’s level design, satisfying gameplay, and engaging story easily puts to shame just about every Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Killzone campaign. For fans of the FPS genre and action games in general I highly recommend Wolfenstein: The New Order.