I have to admit – I bought Wolfenstein: The New Order spontaneously. It was an impulse buy. I’d seen a few screeenshots on Facebook, a few brief and un-detailed reviews on YouTube etc. I had decided that, for the most part it was right up my alley.
Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Avg Game Length: Campaign 12hrs, DLC 6hrs
I thought it was going to be something like Shadow Warrior but with Nazi’s instead of demons. I was expecting a game that wouldn’t take itself too seriously and would deliver some next-gen Serious Sam-esque nonsense to get into. It turns out, Wolfenstein: The New Order was none of these things. I had realised it was none of these things about thirty minutes in.
A scene that forces you to make a dreadful decision that would later shape the rest of the campaign. ‘Take a deep breathe, count to five, exhale…repeat’, we hear BJ Blaskowicz saying to himself. At this point, I can already see how different Wolfenstein: The New Order was compared to its predecessors. It was no longer light hearted, nonsensical, violent fun for grown ups. This franchise had suddenly decided to start taking itself very seriously indeed. And with the full intention of being marketed to an exclusively adult audience. This approach to the latest title in the Wolfenstein series was risky as. Dealing with all this macabre seriousness could have been a step in the wrong direction for the franchise.
Wolfenstein: The New Order’s New Direction
It just so turns out that Machine Games managed to handle the storytelling aspect of their game very well indeed. When exploring themes of abandonment, lost hope, desperation and rage (all of these are feelings that BJ will go through), any developer would run the risk of their game becoming too depressing to play. Most importantly and evident throughout, is how BJ has finally been humanised.
He still has the grizzled face of an experienced Marine, but it drips with emotion every time we see it. No longer is he a mindless hack that kills for our amusement. Now, he’s a man, constantly tortured by the horrific things he’s seen and the game gently reminds us of this with his moody and skeptical internal narration. Its all a very emotional affair.
Nazi Occupied Everywhere
Mixed into all this seriousness is a world that is filled with Nazi related things to find that will make it come alive. That is, if you take the time to look for them. I remember one particular scene which, when taken with a stealthy approach, allows you to pick up a phone and listen to a Nazi who is angrily ranting to who he thinks is his comrade. Of course, all of this is in German and with subtitles, adding extra authenticity. Had you gone in guns blazing, this little nugget is not something you would have found as, going loud in these corridors and rooms simply deactivates the trigger for the phone to ring at all. Little events like this give the game a more organic feeling and provides a brilliantly immersive experience for the player even if it is quite brief.
It’s not the brevity of moments like this that make them special. No, its the consistency. They are littered throughout the linear campaign, waiting to be found, giving the player incentive to slow down and soak in the world that Machine Games have created. It doesn’t stop there either. You can find gold pieces as collectibles, sure, and collectibles are standard in most games – but you’ve also got documents and tape recordings of experiences from allied (resistance by the 60’s in this world) and Nazi people. We can dig up music records of famous 60’s songs that have ended up being sung in German or a letter hidden under a pillow with details of Nazi occultism. If you take the time to go through Wolfenstein: The New Order with a fine tooth comb, you will extract a lot of extra content from it.
This new approach to storytelling in Wolfenstein: The New Order gives this latest installment an extra edge of intelligence over its older counterparts. It is consistently bold and confident in proving to you that it can and will engross you in what it has to say. And, boy, are some of the scenes captivating. From Nazi torture in a basement to worrying whether or not your true identity will be uncovered at the drop of a hat. It is as if some these scenes were directed by Tarantino as you’ll be on the edge of your seat in some moments.
Ninja or Rambo? You Choose
When we pick this game up off the shelf, we know roughly what to expect in terms of gameplay. Lots of shooting – lots of dead Nazis. I mean, the two are usually a winning formula, right? So how does Wolfenstein: The New Order deliver it to us exactly? What’s its take one the FPS genre? Well, the beauty of it is that it lets you decide on almost every encounter with the enemy.
Depending on how smart you’re feeling, you can go stealthy for a maximum of about 70% of the game, which will give you an extra sense of satisfaction once an area is totally cleared. Of course, if you’re a little tired of playing cat-and-mouse, you can choose to dual wield any weapon you like, provided you’ve found two of them, and get stuck in, Rambo style. Of course, you’re burning more health, armour and bullets but the choice is entirely up to you most of the time. Players who have been through the Deus Ex franchise will feel right at home with a lot of these scenarios.
Machine Games have thrown in a lean function that is very user friendly and will ultimately become essential for use when going loud and when peeping round corners in stealth. The basic foundation for combat has been lain down and the fact that it is so pliable to either approach you may choose, is really rather smart game design. The result is combat and stealth gameplay that you can rely on. And it will never punish you for using your initiative. If you come up with some whacky plan for a room you’ve been dying in a lot, give a go. It just might work and when it does, after you’re loaded in at 20% health each time and you’ve finally nailed it – phwoar that’s a rewarding feeling. You’ll feel like Blackadder after he’s cheated his way out of another dicey situation.
Wolfenstein: The New Order’s Periferals
What I hadn’t realised until near the start of my second playthrough was that these mechanics failed to usher me into a leveling up screen! I was never told to press the touch button to bring up the map and THEN press R1 to get over to the levelling up stuff. The funny thing was that, despite how I’d been totally oblivious to it the first time through, it was applying new skills for me ANYWAY. So um… why is it there at all? The only purpose it serves is to display what I need to do to get the next ‘thing’ which will probably be done regardless of whether I’d read about it in the first place.
The only other negativity I could pick out was the fact that you had to press square everytime you wanted to pick something up. When frantically running a circuit around a large group of Nazi’s, desperately swinging the camera around and looking for armour and health, this became a bit of a problem.
Sadly, The Campaign Is All You’re Going To Get
Lastly, for the kind of game this is, I had expected a little wave survival or multiplayer on the side. It could’ve been pretty fun as the combat is so damn solid and there’s plenty of punishment to dish out, provided you go about things the right way. This could have also opened up good living room co-op fun, as well as multiplayer and it saddens me that Machine Games didn’t bother to do this, considering the staple aspect of their gameplay was so blatantly set up for it.
Something leaning towards what I wanted can be found in the DLC – The Old Blood. Last I saw it on PSN, it was about £15. It even got a shelf release which allows you to dig it up pre-owned for an even lower price. That’s a pretty good deal! You’ll get a bunch of survival areas with addictive scoring systems and a further 8 hours of gameplay in a prequel story set in the 40’s.
I was very surprised to see that the average game time for this is around twelve hours on normal difficulty. A length that towers over the likes of other shooters of late that seem to end up way shorter. So, when Wolfenstein: The New Order turned out not the way I had initially expected after about the first thirty minutes, did I sit and tear it to bits from scene to scene? No actually. Most of the time I forgot to because it was just so goddamn fun.