Wolfenstein: The New Order makes me thankful that the Nazi’s never won the war. With all the weird weapons and merciless Nazi robot dogs that would have sprung up, I am glad I don’t have to live on Hitler Crescent and work at Goebbels Inc. Those nightmares are fully realised in The New Order which see’s the return of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz who, after a failed assassination attempt on his old nemesis General ‘Deathshead’ Strasse, wakes up in 1960 to a world dominated by Nazi’s and their robot dogs who think his limbs are Pedigree Denta-stix. Blazkowicz then sets about mounting a resistance against the Nazi empire with a small band of resistance members including Caroline Becker, last seen in ID Software’s reboot, Wolfenstein, in 2009.
MachineGames have done away with dimension jumping where you were attacked by angry blow fish and everyone’s eyed glowed. They have done away with weird crystals that not even Jesse or Walter would consider cooking up because of the absurd powers they gave you. Granted, Nazi robot dogs and a Nazi empire that covers the world is also a stretch but, what makes this Wolfenstein so enjoyable is the focus on telling a good solid adventure story, throwing in great gameplay mechanics and puzzles with a challenging AI system, something that lacked in the previous title.
MachineGames have also given BJ a substantial amount of dialogue which has been lacking considerably, meaning you are no longer in control of a cardboard cut out of human. His dialogue in both cut scenes and in game feel passionate and striking (it may also explain why, during cut scenes, BJ always looks close to tears). In game, a loss of an ally or seeing the Nazi’s commit atrocities against unarmed POW’s will trigger some sort of response from BJ, expressing anger, disgust or bitterness or questioning his own ability to save the World from Nazi rule through his thoughts and occasional murmurings. For a game full of laser touting, Aryan obsessed Nazi stomp machines, you can’t help but share the emotions of Blazkowicz in his moments of anger or self-doubt.
Just like the story is pumped full of emotion, the gameplay itself is pumped full of action. The layout of the game is strictly ‘on-the-rails’ but each level has multiple ways to approach problems. For a franchise known for its all out action, the ability to stealthily bump off enemies by slithering out of a floor level vent and throwing a knife in their back is a welcome addition. Secret passage ways are numerous and varied and finding collectibles such as letters, maps, enigma codes and gold gives you an additional reason to explore the alternate routes. In each area you will also find commanders who, if you are detected, will call in reinforcements until you can eliminate them, meaning you don’t have to always run around dual wielding shotguns trying to blast Fritz into bitz.
The Commander ‘pen-pushers’ who got promoted for their connections’ (according to the in-game journal) will flee and let the grunts do all the work to try and take you down. In this sense, the game almost encourages you to become Ninja-wicz. Almost. The enemy AI for the grunts and cowardly commanders is extremely smart, something you’ll quickly realise when being out-flanked for the fourth time. Their use of fire suppression and grenades is to be commended, meaning engagements are fierce and can turn desperate if you are down to your last mag. One significant criticism of the AI however, is that it can feel too good, sensing you through boxes and round corners, leaving you annoyed at wasting your time trying to sneak around the level. Perhaps the Nazis also have psychic powers? A nice addition is you don’t simply rearm by walking over ammo; you have to physically pick it up. If pinned down behind cover, coming under fire from all sides; desperately trying to reach across to pick up a box of ammo or med-kit will feel like a whole new game in itself.
For a game that came on four discs (no, really) the graphics are good. No that is a lie, the graphics are incredible. All the set-pieces have been lovingly crafted for your destruction and they never feel half done or over-crowded. If you are a stickler for frame rates and high definition explosions, then this is also your kind of game.
On PC, the game is polished to perfection. I sometimes have to keep an eye on the temperature of my processor and graphics card but when playing such a huge (40GB!) game, I thought the demand on my processor and GPU would be too much. Amazingly I was utterly wrong and the game is so well optimised that temperatures for both components stay well within safe limits. Only the occasional graphical glitch spoils the atmosphere of playing fetch the grenade with a robotic pooch but I’m sure future updates will fix that.
Some will be surprised to hear that Wolfenstein: The New Order has not shipped with any multi-player whatsoever. I worry that this may discourage potential players but it is worth the money for a brilliantly dark and brooding storyline and gripping gameplay.
Overall, I have not had the pleasure of playing such a brilliant, story driven shooter in a long long time. The graphics, gameplay and the sense of adventure will have you hooked for whole weekends at a time. A few tweaks to the AI and a fix for the occasional graphical glitch would be appreciated however. The lack of multi-player is also disappointing but I’m glad that MachineGames didn’t overreach – I’m looking at you Battlefield – and fall flat on their faces. The single-player is entertaining enough to have a great deal of replay and you will enjoy the twitchy nervousness of getting hunted by Robo-Rover for months to come.