Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order
Developer: MachineGames
Price: $60
Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
A Playstation 4 copy of Wolfenstein: The New Order was supplied to us

Since there aren’t many WW2 shooters coming out lately I’m going to have to get my Nazi killing fix with Wolfenstein: The New Order and I honestly haven’t had this much fun with a shooter since last year’s FarCry 3: Blood Dragon. Both of these games hit that sweet spot of modern shooter mechanics with the fast paced gameplay of older shooters. Wolfenstein is just balls to the wall fun and it’s a damn shame it’s not getting talked about enough.

Wolfenstein: The New Order kicks things off with an all out assault on general Deathshead’s castle during WW2 and soon after series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz gets a nasty hit to the head and is put in a vegetative state for the next 14 years with the Nazis winning the war. Thankfully Polish doctors have some sick medicine since he loses absolutely no muscle mass in that time. To speed things up, he wakes up, deals with the time-skip surprisingly well, and then proceeds to kick some Nazi ass. The story Wolfenstein has to tell isn’t exactly fresh but the dialogue is well written at times and the voice acting is pretty damn solid. The main issue with the plot is that it feels like the game has a bigger story it wants to tell but quickly pushes you back into shooting up Nazis when it thinks it’s spent too long in a cutscene. There’s a cast of really interesting characters that aren’t given enough time to develop and certain relationships aren’t even touched upon like Frau Engel & Bubi. There’s a solid story here worth telling, I just wish the game actually bothered to tell it. On the bright side MachineGames really went all out to make this Nazi ruled world believable with dozens of newspaper scraps you can read that give you tidbits on what happened in those 14 years. Reading about how the Nazis were the first to land on the moon or bombed the United States with the atom bomb was a little surreal.

There’s only one way to describe the combat in this game and I think “deliciously violent” is perfect. B.J. walks around with a solid arsenal of guns that not only sound good but feel great when used to turn Nazis into clouds of gore. There’s nothing more satisfying than walking into a room with a bunch of dirty Nazis, pulling out the dual shotguns, and watching them all explode. The shooting feels tight and polished with the game being a complete blast to play. I’m sure people will be happy to hear that there’s no weapon limit with a wheel in place and while there aren’t many weapons available, they’re all still pretty fun to use. Besides the laser cannon they can all be dual wielded as well and they all also have alternate modes like the shotgun being able to fire off shrapnel rounds that tear through anything in their way. By far the best mechanic though is the lean button. Now if you’re next to cover like a wall or a box you’ll take cover automatically and can peek with the aim button or you can choose to use the lean button instead. You can lean in pretty much any direction and shooting a Nazi in their legs by peeking underneath an object is still funny. This is something I wish more shooters would implement. Fans of older shooters will likely feel at home with Wolfenstein’s health system that relies on picking up health packs and armor since there’s no true health regeneration. You can regenerate a tiny bit of health, but that bit won’t save you if you’re at the edge of death.

The one thing about the gameplay that really irks me though is having to press a button to pick up everything. I’m fine with having to press it to open doors or pick up health so that you can leave health packs for when you need them, but they seriously couldn’t let you automatically pick up ammo and armor? Gunfights leave piles of corpses that make picking up ammo and armor a pain at times since sometimes you can see them under a body but can’t quite get in the right spot to pick it up. This is probably my biggest issue with the game since it can get super annoying at times for something that is so easily fixed. I rarely mention this when reviewing games but damn is the level design good. You get these nice open areas that lets you stay on the move and keeps the pacing nice and fast. Sliding around corners with dual weapons and unloading them on whoever’s around the corner never gets old. The AI is also surprisingly aggressive during engagements with them sliding into cover and peeking to shoot at you, tossing grenades to flush you out of your cover if you stay there too long, and making good use of the open levels to flank you when you’re busy with other goons.

Now the game has some stealth parts and it definitely works if you can ignore the slightly dumbed down AI during these moments. These stealth segments have been getting some flak but I don’t see why since it’s actually pretty solid (besides one single moment I’ll mention later). Sure this isn’t some Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell level stealth but it’s a huge step up from the usual tacked on stealth in most shooters. The game is very lenient during these segments though with the AI being fairly blind. You can peek around a corner, be seen by an enemy, duck back into cover, and only get a “huh?” response from them as they continue with their patrol. Now while you can get pretty close to them and not get caught, being in full view will definitely get their attention. The stealth works though, especially with the peeking button, and it can be fun to clear an entire area with throwing knives. They’re fun enough to not feel like a chore and act as a nice breather after hectic fights.

Wolfenstein has these commander enemies that don’t do anything special other than having the ability to summon reinforcements and are basically the game’s way of saying “Hey, here’s a stealth area you can do if you want”. The game helpfully lets you know when you’re entering one of these commander operated zones and shows your distance to them which gives you some options in how to tackle these parts of the game. You’re free to go guns blazing and blow everyone away but know that you’ll likely have to deal with some extra goons. On the other hand, you can sneak your way through the area and kill the commander and with him gone you can now either sneak through the rest of the area or shoot your way through without having to worry about reinforcements. Killing commanders through stealth also reveals collectibles on your map so there’s an extra bit of incentive to at least sneak through a bit of the map.

There is one part where the AI seemed straight up broken though. There’s a very small part of a mission where you have to deal with enemies that have melee weapons. Now if you happen to alert everyone they’ll simply walk around you in circles and occasionally take a swing at you. It’s a really weird moment and looks super goofy considering how apathetic the enemies seem to be at your appearance. This is only an incredibly brief part of a single mission though and I barely remembered it until I was reminded of it by a friend.

It seems that in a way to sort of spice of the genre, FPS games of late have had XP systems added that allow players to unlock a variety of things. I’ve never been a big fan of XP in a shooting game since leveling up by killing terrorists so I can unlock a skill seems silly to me. Thankfully Wolfenstein finds that sweet spot with their perk system. There are four categories that focus on stealth, explosives, support, and going nuts with guns with a slew of perks in each tree that you can unlock. It’s totally optional and won’t gimp you if you choose to not do them but it’s great that they’re there. Instead of leveling up and unlocking these perks you’ll instead do things that make actual sense. You want more knives to carry? Kill XX amount of Nazis with your throwing knife. Want faster health regeneration? Overcharge your health to 200 points. You get actual useful skills for simply playing the game naturally and it doesn’t feel tacked on or get in the way of me shooting Nazi scum.

The Final Word
Wolfenstein: The New Order is easily some of the most fun I’ve had with a shooter in recent memory and shows that you can easily mix old and modern shooter mechanics together into something that’s a total blast to play.

– MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good

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