Wolfenstein games are set during World War 2 and follow the protagonist William ‘B.J.’ Blazkowicz. Gameplay wise they are normally lightly story driven first person over-the-top shooters. The last Wolfenstein came out in 2009 and received mixed reviews. I wasn’t going to review Wolfenstein: The New Order partly due to the price and partly because I didn’t think it would deliver. However, the game has received some quite glowing reviews and was recently on sale during Quakecon so I picked it up. What do we think?
The game involves going from area to area killing all the baddies. Sometimes an area will have an officer or two who will raise a reinforcement alarm if you are detected so you want to kill these guys as soon as possible. There will be a cut-scene roughly once between every other area. Shooting is for the most part fairly unsatisfying, increasingly so late game as the enemies absorb more and more damage and you end up feeling you’re shooting plastic balls. There are some moments of satisfaction to be had when you shoot a Nazi’s head clean off or explode their entire body with the laser cannon. Areas are always too small and with little to no room for any kind of exploration, this could easily be described as a on-the-rails shooter. I’m not sure why other reviewers have praised the story as it is primarily cringe-worthy (especially the love story) and tries way too hard. I couldn’t tell if the story was trying to be serious or not. The cut-scenes show what the game could have been by hinting at a massive world with extensive concrete Nazi cities only for all the missions to be set in small areas such as sewers or corridors. I kind of get the impression the developers were told to create the next Half-Life with a dose of Dishonoured but were only given a small period of time to deliver. You can see hints of what the game could have been but for me it just didn’t breached into that territory enough.
The perk system which is quite neat, it made me try new weapons and different ways of playing the game. You unlock perks by completing certain requirements like killing 80 people from behind cover with an assault rifle to upgrade the clip size or killing two people with a grenade to unlock the ability to throw a grenade back. Sadly the perks don’t really make any noticeable difference and you could quite easily play through without them. Another cool mechanic is the ability to use the laser cannon as a cutting tool to cut through metal and wire fencing. I can’t help feeling this mechanic would have been better suited to a slower paced game as the only times you really end up using the cutter is during parts with no enemies or when trying to stealth through vents. Any kind of flow is quickly ruined by having to manually collect items from the floor. This leads to running around spamming the use key after every fight; I think it would have been better if ammo was automatically collected. The AI is terrible, standard enemies just run at you while larger ones try to do the same but inevitably get stuck and end up standing around idly.
The stealth elements would have been better left out, they come across as an afterthought more than something the game was designed for. Almost like someone ran in a month before the release and told them to make it more like Dishonoured. You can stealth kill the officers but it just isn’t fun to play it that way. For the most part it doesn’t even work as enemies easily spot you from some distance away.
The game was bug free with the exception of the intro scene where I somehow managed to fall through the floor and sit at the bottom of the ocean before after to restart the game.
Graphics are quite good but for a game with an art style very similar to Half-Life 2 released several years after Half-Life 2 there were a number of times I thought Half-Life 2 looked better. The audio is dull with no depth which was at its worst during driving scenes when it sounded like the car was hovering. A lot of the guns sound boring and flat.
It took me 7 hours to complete Wolfenstein: The New Order.
In summary, Wolfenstein tries to be Half-Life 2 with a little bit of Dishonoured and fails to deliver. Other reviews have described it as a solid shooter, I would say it is solidly dull. I’ve been quite mean in this review and perhaps that is because it is quite close to being a solid first person shooter, if the game had larger areas, slightly less spongy enemies and more of them I think it would improve my experience significantly. Also, less cringy cut-scenes.