Imagine, if you will, a world in which the Nazis won World War II. The world would be a completely different place than the one we know now. Oppression, punishment, strict order, death, torture, intolerance — these are the things that would befall society. Wolfenstein: The New Order follows this exact scenario by giving the Nazis a mysterious technology that assisted with their winning the war and the subsequent conquering of the entire planet. As B.J. Blazkowicz, it is now up to you to lead a rag-tag band of rebels in a near hopeless assault to bring down the regime.
As a group of people, the Nazis are perhaps one of the most collectively hated, which is why a game in which Nazis are the primary target is so much fun. First-person shooters always have some terrorist organization, alien force, or just plain bad ‘thing’ at the end of your sights, but I still think that Nazis make for the best target practice, and it feels like far too long since we’ve had a chance to take them on proper. This is one of the key factors that helps Wolfenstein shine a little brighter than the other FPS games in the room. Simply giving someone the right enemy, the right motivation, can easily make or break a game, and wiping the Nazis off the face of the planet is a damn good motivation for me.
The gameplay feels heavy. While not as heavy as something like Killzone 2, it feels much heavier than your standard Call of Duty fare twitch shooters. There’s plenty gore and violence here with headshots resulting in a mess of skull fragments and gray matter, while dismemberment can regularly occur when using heavy weapons. The blood spatter looks dynamic as well, leaving proper marks behind and underneath where an enemy was killed. Speaking of dynamic, the environment features some destructable cover, so you won’t be able to stay in one place for long before it becomes a pile of rubble.
Players can play in one of four play styles from stealth to assault, but don’t think you’r locked into just one. Unlike other games that force you to tread one path or the other, Wolfenstein allows you to choose what approach you want to take in each situation. Perks for each style can be unlocked by completing certain objectives such as stealth killing enemies or killing enemies with a mounted gun, but these perks remain permanently unlocked and there is no forced choice, so you can continue to take different approaches to every level in the game without fear that you got yourself too far down one path or the other.
Wolfenstein’s cast is surprisingly well developed and deep for a shooter. Blazkowicz becomes a genuinely likable guy and the supporting players that surround him are interesting, varied, and well acted. This lends itself spectacularly to the story that Wolfenstein has to tell, which, while not the deepest and most intricate tale ever told, managed to hold my interest all the way through. The cutscenes are shown from a third-person which helps to connect with your character more rather than just having him be a faceless protagonist. The emotion is deep seated and believable, and as I mentioned before, putting those Nazis in your cross-hairs through it all is the clincher that ties it all down and puts the driving force behind every moment in the game.
Sound design was mostly well done but had a couple of pitfalls. Voices during combat were drowned out by the sounds of battle which made listening to what characters were trying to tell me very difficult. Wolfenstein doesn’t hold your hand — the objective markers are quite small and unobtrusive which is a relief in the days of being told exactly where to go and what to do, but the imbalanced audio can cause issues. On top of that there is only a master volume slider, without the ability to equalize the voices, music, and sound effects. Aside from this little flaw, I was very impressed with the audio work, from the spectacular music during the cutscenes, to the visceral sounds of combat.
Enemy AI was mostly intelligent, save for the occasional gun appearing to glitch through a wall or suddenly appearing to zoom twenty feet from where he was originally standing. Now I know that the story calls for the Nazis to come into some interesting technology that enables them to win the war, but I’m really not sure that technology was weapons that could poke through solid matter or personal teleportation devices. Aside from that enemies seemed to respond well to any actions that I take, including ganging up on me when the controller dying failed to trigger the game to pause, which is a massive oversight in an era with wireless controllers…
Limited graphical and audio faults aside, altogether, Wolfenstein; The New Order is a very good game — a true gem among shooters in a sickening sea of shooters. A story that captures interest and characters that hold it until the end, gameplay that falls somewhere between Killzone, Call of Duty, and Duke Nukem, and a complete focus on the single player experience create a roughly 10 hour campaign full of Nazi slaying goodness. And let’s be honest, that’s what we all really want to do in first-person shooters, right?
Review copy provided by publisher. Also available on PS3. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.