Back in 1992, Wolfenstein 3D started the first-person shooter genre as we know it.
It was also thanks to Wolfenstein that Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield and many other series were born because Wolfenstein was the first one to do Nazis in a FPS. The era when WW2 shooters were in high demand has come and gone and Wolfenstein only appeared a couple of times in the last 22 years. Now publisher Bethesda has decided to give the series another chance with Machine Games developing the latest installment. Could the people who made Chronicles of Riddick and
Yours truly believes the answer is yes.
The first right decision Machine made was to abandon the 1940s altogether. Except for a brief prologue taking place in 1946, The New Order takes place entirely in 1960. The world is ruled by the Nazis, who, having somehow acquired advanced technology and weapons, crushed the Allies, nuked New York City, then proceeded to advance technology further — landing on the moon in 1951.
Series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz, having failed to stop general Deathshead, the man responsible for the Nazis’ advantages, ends up in a mental hospital in a vegetative state. In 1960 he comes to and gets right back to what he’s been born to do –- killing Nazi scum.
The premise is both traditional for the series and influenced by Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Blazkowicz has layers of characterization added to him in The New Order, but that doesn’t make him any less bad-ass — he doesn’t stop to wonder where the Nazis got their war machines or how exactly he is going to defeat an enemy that is now literally everywhere: he has a colorful supporting cast for that, both old and new faces alike. B.J. charges forward, pausing only for short bits of dreaming about home and family, keeping the pace right until the bittersweet ending that leaves you wondering if the fight was worth it and whether the Nazi oppression would ever stop in this universe.
Another thing Machine Games deserves praise for gameplay-wise was giving the player a nice amount of freedom. Throughout the 10-hour campaign you can choose how to handle each situation: whether it’s backstabbing everyone in the room, killing officers first so they can’t call for backup, sniping everyone from afar, or getting up close and personal while dual-wielding shotguns — you can do it. If you rely on stealth though, you might find the game too easy on the lower difficulty settings. Other than that, whatever approach you choose, the challenge and ultimate satisfaction is there.
The tools to reap them are all there too. Knives, pistols, rifles, shotguns, all come with alternate firing modes and dual-wielding. The inventory is sharp and easy to handle both with gamepad and mouse, much like the rest of the controls. One standout from the usual arsenal is the Laserkraftwerk. Being TNO’s version of the Gravity Gun, it acts both as a tool for accessing locked areas and a powerful weapon for when you run out of ammo. It also gets quite a few upgrades that make it a versatile crutch to lean on, rather than a gimmick.
You’ll be glad you have it when you’re facing down cyborg dogs, Nazi soldiers on all sides and big walking robots that can disable energy weapons. The 1960’s Nazis are definitely near-sighted — it shouldn’t be that easy to sneak past them. But when it hits the fan, they’ll try to flank you, smoke you out with grenades and run you down with dogs or robots. Staying alive is a challenge unless you pick the easiest setting. The game’s cover system with auto-leaning becomes a must otherwise.
There’s no multiplayer, but TNO has a lot of replay value both due to its varied gameplay and its myriad (almost 10 types) collectibles, not to mention two slightly different versions of the story available. Which one you get depends on a choice you make early on. This choice also locks out some of the upgrades so if you are the completionist type, you might want to do another run. Or more, if you crack the collectible Enigma codes and unlock insanely hard bonus modes that make Uber difficulty seem like a walk in the park by removing health and armor pickups, or beefing up the enemies considerably (on top of making them harder to kill and more intelligent).
If not for masochistic difficulty modes, doing a second run is a good idea thanks to the game’s great presentation. id Tech 5 engine doesn’t look like much technologically, with textures lacking consistency and loading late if you turn around too fast. However, artistically speaking, TNO is one of the best games in years. You’ll see a coastal castle, metropolis versions of Berlin and London, the Nazi-controlled moon, the ocean floor, a labor camp and Gibraltar bridge, and more. The grand, menacing look of the Nazi civilization is so good it almost made yours truly feel guilty for enjoying it. (Even though I got to pick it apart brick by brick later on.) The system requirements are nothing out of the ordinary, so unless you have a low-end PC from 2010, you should have no problem running this game at max settings in 1080p.
The audio element of TNO is on par with the visuals –- the colorful cast of characters is easy to remember and recognize from their voices alone, from important intel to the occasional comic relief. They are compelling, deep and interesting to chat with. The best performance is, unsurprisingly, by Brian Bloom as B.J. and if you enjoyed the music from trailers, you’ll like what you’ll hear in the game, be it a German-language take on the Beatles, or a polka version of The House of The Rising Sun.
To sum things up: you might find Wolfenstein: The New Order a bit disappointing due to its lack of graphics consistency and multiplayer. However, the artistic side of the visuals, the diverse gameplay, the awesome cast and surprisingly good story, make TNO a game absolutely worth at least a few playthroughs. So get out there and save the world once more. And, as one of the characters puts it: “Any Nazis get in your way –- Bang-Bang Soda Pop”.
Reviewed on: AMD FX 6300 3.5 GHz, 8 GB Kingston HyperX Blue DDR3, Palit GeForce GTX 660 2GB, Acer S235HLbii 1080p Monitor, Windows 8.1, Xbox 360 Controller