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Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Monday 2 June 2014Comments Off

Available on XBO, PS4, PC, 360 and PS3 l Published by Bethesda Softworks l Developed by Machine Games l Classified R18+ l Supports 1 player

REVIEW IN BRIEF > The Granddaddy of first person shooters makes a triumphant return after a few years in the wilderness. Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t just a good shooter but a rollicking b-grade tale filled with fun, style and more than a few surprises. It isn’t without its problems but these are easily outweighed by a game that simply wants you to have a blast. One thing is clear: B.J. Blazkowicz still has a few tricks to teach the whippersnappers of today.

REVIEW IN FULL > Once, long ago, there was a warrior that all budding adventurers aspired to imitate. This warrior lived in a time before the fabled Master Chief. This gladiator of times past conquered his enemies before a man called Duke had even bought his gum, let alone run out. His enemies were all dead before even the legendary Space Marine’s journey to hell and back. It is almost impossible to separate the man from the myth, but one thing is known for sure: B.J. Blazkowicz is back and doing what he does best, killing Nazis.

One thing that the Wolfenstein series has always done well is the core shooting mechanics and The New Order is no different.

Wolfenstein: The New Order starts with B.J. storming a Nazi stronghold during WW2. This particular base is host to all sorts of nasty scientific experiments and he simply must destroy it to give the Allies a chance. After an explosive misstep B.J. is left in a coma, being attended to at a Polish mental asylum by a caring couple and their daughter. Fast forward 14 years and the Nazis have killed the elderly doctor and his wife and attempted to kidnap their daughter. This shocking event snaps B.J. out of his coma and sets him on the path to end this tyrannical regime once and for all. What he finds when he journeys outside is a world overrun by Nazis and their experimental technology.

This may sound a little like a b-grade sci-fi flick from a dodgy Foxtel channel, but this harebrained plot is actually one of the great strengths of the Wolfenstein reboot. The saga is told in a remarkably competent manner and the characters are all well written and engaging. Many wouldn’t believe it, but Wolfenstein: The New Order lives and dies by this tale and the developers obviously had a lot of faith in the story they told. It is even worth a player’s time to explore the environment to find out more about this superbly realised alternate reality.

One thing that the Wolfenstein series has always done well is the core shooting mechanics and The New Order is no different. Tight gunplay is backed by relentless groups of enemies that will have players using long forgotten circle strafe skills. The weapon selection is strong as well. The various implements of death have a wonderfully cheesy feel to them and without exception they are fun to use. Each weapon can be dual wielded as well. While this sounds cool in theory, the reality is a little different. The accuracy trade off isn’t worth it, so most players will tend to stick with single weapons to eliminate the Third Reich.

The level design, while linear, also encourages exploration and allows for a variety of tactics. For the first time in a Wolfenstein game, stealth is a valid option for thinning out the masses. Sneaking around and taking out enemies before they can call for reinforcements is the key. Not only is this fun, it also makes completing the game much easier, as once you are spotted the waves of enemies are unyielding.

The level design, while linear, also encourages exploration and allows for a variety of tactics.

The levels have a stylish sci-fi feel and yet somehow they remain recognisable, resulting in a world that is very easy to believe in even though it is based on an absurd premise. The character art is also something a little bit special, with B.J. and co looking superb on current gen systems and PC. It’s hard not to be impressed by what the developers have achieved, and it certainly provides another reason to upgrade that old PS3 or 360.

Where Wolfenstein comes off the rails a little is its reliance on overused devices from the early years of the genre. Boss battles are a notable weak point in a game that doesn’t really need them. There is nothing exciting about these encounters. Learn the pattern. Shoot the glowing bits. Dodge the one-hit kills. It’s an exercise in frustration and players are likely to rage quit more than once, especially on the higher difficulties. Another relic from bad shooter history is the need to manually pick up ammo as opposed to merely walking over it. It may be more realistic, but in a game with cybernetic dogs and Tesla powered Nazis, it’s hard to argue the merits of realism. It is such a shame that the Wolfenstein brand has been expertly brought into the present day but is still held back by archaic design choices.

All of these negatives can be easily forgiven as Wolfenstein: The New Order succeeds admirably when it comes to the most important factor in any game: fun. It is clear the developers took their time to create a game that will not only appeal to the Wolfenstein veterans out there, but also to a new breed of gamer as well. With clever nods to the past but a firm eye on the future, Wolfenstein: The New Order is back with a vengeance. Forget the lacklustre previous attempt to modernise the concept, because The New Order puts it to shame. People looking for multiplayer fun need not apply, but solo gamers everywhere are in for a blood-covered, Nazi-killing, robot-stomping treat.

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