Wolfenstein: The New Order PS4
It’s been nearly five years since we saw an entry in the historic Wolfenstein franchise, a series that has had a frustrating and curious road trip in its life, since it seems different developers are given a shot at creating a worthy entry for this legendary name, but the finished products are often of varied quality. The last one was developed by Raven, and while it was an enjoyable shooter, it was a journey that was rather forgettable as time went on. The next team given the chance to make a mark on the franchise is the newly founded studio called MachineGames, a team based in Sweden that is made up of ex-developers from Starbreeze Studios, specifically ones that worked on the brilliant The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (one of my favourite licensed games). With that statement brought to my attention, I had hopes for William “B.J.” Blazkowicz’s latest adventure and his Nazi defeating abilities, and thankfully, those were mostly met, as Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great shooter that mixes the old with the new.
Wolfenstein: The New Order follows up three years after the events of Wolfenstein 2009. The year is 1946, a year after World War II was supposed to end, but in this timeline, the Nazis have developed crazy technologies, with the likes of giant robots and robotic dogs in their arsenal, meaning the Nazis are stronger than ever. “B.J.” Blazkowicz is tasked with a squad to raid a Nazi fortress and kill General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, except it all goes wrong, with Blazkowicz and his team getting caught and being subjected to torture.
Luckily for Blazkowicz, he manages to escape, but not before the player is forced to pick between the death of one of their team mates, altering the timeline, which the game uses as a mechanic to offer some replayability. 14 years later, Blazkowicz has recovered in a Polish hospital, but unknown to him, the world has changed. It’s no longer the world threatened by Nazi rulership, but a world where the United States surrendered and the Nazis became the dominate race on the planet, and so Blazkowicz and the resistance are tasked to try cause a dint in this dictatorship wall and bring back a hope of freedom.
Surprisingly, the story is a competent tale that’s backed up with a believable setting. It has some of those cheap clichéd B-movie moments and dialogue, but that’s actually something that works in its favour and makes the romp through the 11 hour campaign a lot of fun. There is also the demonstration of how nasty the Nazis could be, with the depiction of horrid experiments and other awful monstrosities that happened during World War 2 on full display here. It’s a graphic tale, but one that doesn’t come off as tacky as you might think it would.
Blazkowicz is a character that has in the past remained one dimensional, a Nazi killing machine with a 80s action hero flair, but in Wolfenstein: The New Order, Mr Blazkowicz is given a more human personality as he recovers and adapts to the new world around him. He still knows what he was taught through the past games, running fast and blasting Nazis in the face, but now that’s backed up with a soul. It’s not just Blazkowicz that gets the attention, as there’s a small list of characters that are given screen time that make them appealing to the player, but it’s a shame they don’t get to keep the spotlight for long, because they could have become the new Vaas Montenegro.
In an era where first-person shooters are often forced to attach multiplayer to their game, it’s nice to see that the developers didn’t feel the need to include it in Wolfenstein: The New Order. I’ve already mentioned that it’s a good length for an entry in the genre, but it also shows MachineGames commitment and confidence that their game is solid enough in the single player department to not even need to have that shovelled in multiplayer.
This starts with the gunplay, which has a very satisfying and visceral feeling behind every shot, but also manages to offer that arcade-like lightness that keeps this game in line with some of the old 90s first-person shooters. Nearly every weapon can blow a guy’s head clean off or turn their body into a pool of bloody mess, and each one can be dual-wielded, offering destructive power for Blazkowicz that would make even the Terminator jealous, if he could feel emotion that is. Guns also offer alternative fire, done through finding them in the chapters as you progress through the game. The pistol can gain a silencer attachment, the shotgun can change its ammo, allowing it to rebound bullets off the walls and the sniper rifle can be switched to a laser rifle. There is also no limit to how many weapons you can carry, a design that will please fans that are a bit fed up of only being able to carry two to three weapons at a time in shooters. If there is one issue I have with the gun selection, it’s that there isn’t enough wacky weaponry. A lot of them are modified takes on existing guns, and that’s a bit of a bummer, especially in a world that’s technologically advanced. I was hoping that I would be experiencing some over the top weaponry, but that isn’t the case, sadly.
Wolfenstein: The New Order actually has quite a heavy focus on stealth, which is rather surprising when you look at all the action packed screens, but it is here and it works well, and the greatest thing about it is that it is all optional. If you don’t want to sneak behind Nazis and stab them in the neck or throw knives at them from a distance for a silent kill, you don’t have to. You can just go guns blazing into the room and have the same amount of fun without missing out on anything. MachineGames has made the level design work with both styles of play, and that playstyle is backed up by a perk system lying under the hood that unlocks additional abilities for Blazkowicz, exposing themselves when you meet a certain criteria. Take a lot of hits and you’ll get more health, keep stealth killing and you’ll earn throwing knives, etc. The perk system is something that most people will passively unlock, but to get some of the focused bonuses will require you to alter how you play, as the four criteria that these perks are based upon is Assault, Demolition, Stealth and tactics.
AI is unintelligent, meaning there’s no smart F.E.A.R-esque battle situations going on in Wolfenstein: The New Order, but that doesn’t stop it for being exciting to fight off the Nazis, as the variety in enemies and the arenas that encompass these gun fights make you forget about how simple the AI is. Levels aren’t all linear pathways, some do open up and offer different paths, but this isn’t something that’s fully endorsed. Instead, the game offers two mechanics with the alternate timelines concept. One offers a lockpick, while the other is the ability to hotwire. The levels don’t change much, but with different cutscenes, dialogue, plenty of hidden collectables and small alterations on the route through a level, fans will enjoy replaying the game, especially at some of the more insane difficulty levels.
The game puts up a decent challenge on normal, with enemies taking good chunks of health from you with each hit. Wolfenstein: The New Order has regenerative health, adapting a modern gameplay concept of the genre, but this only heals to the nearest 20, stopping it from being reliable, especially when only a few shots are needed before you are on death’s door. To fully heal, players will have to find one of many health packs scattered around the levels. Blazkowicz can even overcharge his health when picking up health packs at full health, but his HP will drain back to 100 over time.
Taking the PS4 version for a spin for this review, it was clear that Wolfenstein: The New Order is a lovely looking game on a system that runs the title at the optimal 60fps on id Tech 5. It’s also a sharp looking game, running at 1080p for a clear image. There are issues with texture pop-up that often rear its ugly head after a cutscene has finished and the assets are loading in, but it’s hard to criticise the rest of the game when it runs as nice as this.
Wolfenstein: The New Order has a chance to be one of the best first-person shooters of the year. It’s a title that is almost like its hero Blazkowicz – coming from an era of old and slowly adapting into the current times, but keeping enough of the old to distinguish itself from the wave of all the similar looking military shooters that the genre is plagued with, while focusing on bringing an exciting and lengthy campaign. If you’re looking for great gunplay, an amazing visualised alternative Nazi ruled 1960s with a surprisingly good and appealing plot, and of course, want to shoot Nazis in the way of the old school, then Wolfenstein: The New Order is just what the doctor ordered.