Anyone who has been following the site for a while would know that I have been very excited for Wolfenstein: The New Order. I have always been a big fan Wolfenstein in general, and upon hearing that many of the folks that make up developer MachineGames formerly worked at Starbreeze, it sounded like a match made in heaven.
Thankfully, Wolfenstein: The New Order is every bit as good as I hoped it would be. In fact, in some areas I think it is even better than expected. Wolfenstein: The New Order isn't a true old school first-person shooter, but instead it is an excellent modern FPS that cleverly combines elements from old school shooters to make for a rip-roaring time.
With regards to Wolfenstein: The New Order's story, it completely subverted my expectations. I have played and finished all of the Wolfenstein games up to this point (apart from Spear of Destiny) and none of those stories were particularly compelling. Most of the story in those older games was just, "Kill the Nazis!" and not much else.
Both Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Raven's Wolfenstein game from 2009 delved into interesting territory as they both focused on the Nazis' obsession with ancient artifacts. While these interesting themes made for entertaining games, the cut scenes were still boring as sin.
Wolfenstein: The New Order starts of typically enough with our hero William J. Blazkowicz (or B.J., as his mates like to call him) being a badass as per usual, literally running at enemy machine gun nests and kicking Nazi hole. But before too long, B.J. is left for dead after a memorable encounter with the game's main antagonist, General Deathshead, and he spends the next 14 years in a coma, being nursed back to health in a mental asylum.
The game starts off in the year 1946, which implies that things aren't going to plan considering World War II ended in 1945 in reality, and when B.J. awakens in 1960, there's an excellent scene where he can't fathom the possibility that the Nazis have won. Between this scene and an earlier moment where you are forced to make a harrowing decision, I was engaged to The New Order's story in a way that I would have never imagined, considering this is a Wolfenstein game!
While I think the majority of the story presented here is memorable and entertaining, it does have some problems. One of the problems is B.J. Blazkowicz himself. I like him, don't get me wrong but he doesn't fit in with the rest of the game.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a dark, dark game, easily one of the most disturbing games I have played in recent memory. The story is surprisingly humane and serious from start to finish, but the character of B.J. Blazkowicz is still very much the buff, no nonsense superhero type that he has always been. The writers try to humanize him a bit; he often grumbles about the amount of pain that the Nazi's have brought him and he is even given a love interest. B.J. is still a fun character, I just thought he didn't fit into the weird dark story they are trying to tell.
I also think the game tonally, despite being serious most of the time, does have some goofy moments which feel very strange. But despite these problems, Wolfenstein: The New Order has one of the best stories told in a first-person shooter in a long time, which was a pleasant surprise!
Wolfenstein: The New Order's gameplay will be immediately familiar to most of you. You shoot Nazis of course, and it is an awful lot of fun! All of the weapons feel very powerful and the amount of blood that spurts out of fallen foes makes things even more satisfying. Aiming and shooting is smooth and generally, the core action here is excellent. It's hard to fault.
The New Order is a first-person shooter that definitely feels modern with abilities like being able to aim down the sights and being able to slide and shoot at the same time. There is also a lean function that handles excellently. Call of Duty and Battlefield both need to take notes of how it is done here.
However, there are also other elements that make The New Order slightly more old school. For example, you can carry all of the weapons in the game around with you, because that's fun! You also don't have full regenerating health. Instead, you health regenerates up to the next twenty hit points. So if you have 25 health, you health will recharge up to 40. It's a good system that rightfully punishes players for getting shot but at the same time, makes the game fairly managable to get through.
I was also impressed with the artificial intelligence for your Nazi enemies. They are competent at sliding into cover points and in some cases, they even successfully flanked me. You might occasionally spot a guard acting a bit strange but for the most part, the AI in The New Order is great.
To keep combat fresh, you won't just be fighting just standard Nazi soldiers. You also will be dealing with armoured dogs and Nazi mechs, which put up a really good fight and you have to use all of your firepower in order to bring them down.
When you aren't gibbing Nazis with laser guns, you are probably sneaking around, trying to take enemies out silently. Stealth has always been around in Wolfenstein, in one fashion or another. But here in The New Order, it feels reasonably fleshed out. Don't get me wrong, don't expect to play the game entirely as a stealth game, as that is impossible. Instead though, you will probably enter scenarios stealthily and perhaps take out a few guards and if you get spotted, well it's not the end of the world because you can probably shoot your way out of the situation.
The stealth offered here is surprisingly entertaining, despite it not being very deep. You can't hide in shadows or even move dead bodies, but instead you will be using your lean ability to scope out the environments and carefully taking out guards with either a nice shot to the back of the head or a nice blade to the back of the head!
The level design throughout Wolfenstein: The New Order is built in such a way that feels surprisingly open. You do have the freedom to use stealth and use secret passageways to get around. In some cases, objectives can be done in very different ways. While The New Order isn't exactly Deus Ex or Dishonored, this open ended approach to some areas is welcome and helps adds life to what is mostly a linear experience.
As you can tell, I really did love playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. It's actually a smart FPS that manages to combine breakneck action and quieter moments with ease. However, this is a review and I do have a few minor complaints.
First of all, there are a few sections in the game where you are walking around the resistance base, which is effective for character development but from a gameplay perspective, these parts of the game were easily the worst. During these missions, you have to complete a few fetch quests and they're just boring.
I also wasn't a fan of how you have to press a button to pick up every last bit of ammo lying on the ground. I get why you would want to have players press a button to pick up health and armour, because it often advantageous to save these items for the right time. But ammo? Come on, I want all of the ammo! These are just little nuisances though, and you do eventually get used to picking up every... single... last... bullet... after a while!
Wolfenstein: The New Order took me about 12 hours to play through on my first go, which makes this one of the longest FPS games I have played in the last five years. I did play on the Hard setting, which I found to be a good place to start off if you are a veteran of the series. After you are done, you might want to jump back in to find the many different collectables that are lurking around.
You also might want to replay the game again and making the other choice during that tense moment towards the beginning, which I referred to earlier. I have played some of the game again like this, and I have noticed that there are different collectibles and passages available in this version of the story, so that's a pretty neat way of getting players to play through the game again.
I will also mention here that Wolfenstein: The New Order is a single-player only game, there is no multiplayer whatsoever. You know what? Good. There are so many first-person shooters and other action games out there like Spec Ops: The Line that are forced to have crappy multiplayer components that no one could give a rat's ass about. I am glad that Bethesda gave MachineGames the opportunity to make the best single-player game that they could make, and it clearly paid off! If you want a great multiplayer experience, look somewhere else.
Graphically, Wolfenstein: The New Order looks great throughout. The thing that stands out to me the most is the framerate, which is at a glorious 60 frames per second and it never drops... unlike Titanfall! The character models look great too and animate wonderfully and generally, it's a really sharp looking game. The only drawback to the graphics are the textures, which are admittedly quite blurry if you are inspecting them like a prick.
The sound design throughout The New Order is also similarly excellent. Brilliant gun sounds are the order of the day here and you will want to turn the volume up for this one, if you can! Everything in this game sounds huge which is always a good thing. The voice acting is excellent too and the soundtrack fits in nicely, composed by the same bloke who did the similarly great Killer Instinct soundtrack. My only problem with the sound is that it can be hard to hear the dialogue over the carnage, and there is no seperate dialogue volume slider, so subtitles are a must!
In conclusion, I loved my time with Wolfenstein: The New Order and I am going to continue playing it after this review is finished. It is so fun, so well made and even the storyline is surprisingly powerful and memorable at times. Even as a single-player only game, I think it is lengthy enough and replayable enough to warrant a full price purchase. For me, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the best first-person shooter I had the pleasure to play in years. Get it in!
FIVE OUT OF FIVE
(An exceptional game whose flaws are barely noticeable.)