B.J. Blazkowicz returns in a game that redefines a classic FPS and provides one of the very best gaming experiences of 2014.
I can’t say enough positive things about Wolfenstein: The New Order. Really, and I didn’t think that’d be the case at all. After a lackluster outing with Wolfenstein (the sequel to 2001’s terrific reboot) last time around for the franchise, I kind of thought the well had run dry for just what could be done with the game and its Nazi-fighting hero B.J. Blazkowicz.
Enter The New Order by MachineGames and I can’t tell you how wrong I was. Not only does this newest game in the franchise reboot the series once again, but it does so in a phenomenal way that really has to be played to be appreciated. Set in the 1960’s, The New Order picks up 14 years after a pretty long intro sequence where B.J. and his squad infiltrate and attempt to take down a German general called Deathshead at the climax of the second world war. They’re far from ready for what the German military has developed though and the mission is botched.
Things go bad for the team, very bad, and familiar series hero B.J. is basically knocked into a coma. Recuperating in a rest home, he sees the years pass by him. Unable to speak, but able to think well enough, B.J. finally emerges (at a very opportune time) to find a world that’s changed as much as anyone could have dreamt.
Now controlled by Nazi forces, the entire world is under the iron heel of the Reich. If you think that’s bad, then you haven’t played this game yet, because it’s way worse than bad. Totalitarian, dictatorial rule is the norm across the globe (all of which is told through some great in-game reading) as freedom is a thing of the past and citizens are encouraged to turn on any neighbor who might be different so they can be exterminated.
It’s a cold, brutal alternate reality and MachineGames has done a masterful job putting it all together. This is no feel-good, ‘hero wins all the time’ game; it’s so much more than that. But I don’t want to ruin the story too much, because it’s one of the game’s biggest strengths. I’ll just leave you with this; Wolfenstein: The New Order is one of the best narratives of the year with mature dialog, characters, and situations (even the more ‘out there’ sections) – and some of the downright coolest stuff I’ve ever played through.
Much like the story, the gameplay is very well done. MachineGames hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, but has fine-tuned the typical first-person shooter experience into a smooth playing and fun romp. B.J. controls extremely well and selecting different weapons for different jobs is fairly easy. I did have some issues with the selector on the weapon-wheel skipping to the next gun (when I had wanted the previous) on occasion. I should add that I’m pretty sure this was just due to my overall impatience of not making sure I had selected what I wanted before closing the wheel though.
Also very cool and a nod to the shooters of yesteryear, is that your health doesn’t fully regenerate. Something of a throwback mixed with the norm in these types of games today, the health system is cut into wedges that will regenerate unless that section of the bar is completely worn away, then it’s gone till you grab a health pack. And I can’t express how maddening (in a good way) it can be to be in the middle of a firefight with a minescule amount of health left and no media-kits anywhere.
This adds in a much needed rush of urgency and tension that a lot of other shooters don’t have in this day and age. That’s not to say that I don’t like the regenerating health mechanic that most games use, as it does make for an easier play time, but the somewhat stunted health in Wolfenstein just makes more sense with in the game’s context while presenting a greater challenge overall.
MachineGames has also done a terrific job on the graphics and audio presentation here. Using the iD Tech 5 engine, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a stunner- especially in areas where you have a wide view or cityscape providing the backdrop. This is mostly some seriously great looking stuff. Maybe the only gripe I have with it is that it does look somewhat last-gen in some interior parts. There’s nothing standout or anything that I could site in particular, but occasionally, you’re presented with a setting that, while not looking bad, just doesn’t look like it should be at home on the Xbox One or PS4. Though I guess that’s the price for the cross-generation publication scheme that so many games are using right now.
Wolfenstein’s audio has no such issues though and is fantastic throughout. Not only are the music and sound effects top notch, but the acting is superb across the board. Brian Bloom plays William B.J. Blazkowicz perfectly and the rest of the cast, which includes Alicja Bachleda as love interest Anya, Gideon Emery and A.J. Trauth as two of B.J.’s old war buddies, and A-Team and Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Dwight Schultz as the villainous military scientist General Deathshead.
Far and away one of the best games of 2014 and maybe the best FPS that I’ve played since BioShock Infinite (really), Wolfenstein: The New Order should not be missed by shooter fans.
No, there’s no tacked-on multiplayer mode here. Not only would that have been out of place here, but it sure isn’t missed either as the campaign is lengthy, the amount of locations to visit and things to do is massive, and the action is unrelenting except in very carefully placed sections. Oh, and before you’re done you’ll get to pilot a submersible, explore underwater and in space, and control a giant death-dealing robot. How’s that for variety?
If you’re a fan of the series from way back, don’t miss this game. If you’re a fan of the recent crop of more story-based FPS’ don’t miss this game. Heck, even if you’re just a fan of good games in general but not so much into FPS, at least try this one out- I doubt you’ll be sorry. Come back soon Wolfenstein, there’s plenty of life left in you yet.
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