Wolfenstein: The New Order Review
The old wolf rips apart the competition
He’s back! One of the grand-daddies of the FPS genre has made a return to take on the stranglehold the modern military shooter has on it with a good bit of old fashioned stabbin’, shootin’ and strangling’ Nazis. We’ve missed you Blazkowicz.
After a prologue stage during WWII, the plot sees our hero injured during a daring escape and left in a waking coma in a European psychiatric hospital for a staggering 14 years. During this time, the Nazis win the war and take over the world. Snapping out of the coma just in time to avoid execution, he’s thrust straight back into the fight for the resistance to do what he does best. Kill Nazis.
The alternative-history setting is fantastically atmospheric with lots of unflinching and unsettling ‘what if they won’ scenarios to propel Blazkowicz forwards in his enthusiasm for making up for lost time and setting things right. His journey with the resistance sees him infiltrate prisons, factories and fortresses all around the world.
Different gameplay styles are encouraged throughout, but ultimately it’s up to you. Perks are unlocked by ticking off a list of murdery assignments. These boosts are split into four categories (stealth, assault, tactical and demolition) awarding you with faster sneaking, more ammo and other familiar (but useful) attributes. You’re free to try all styles and can possibly unlock everything in a single playthrough, which encourages you to have fun with them all.
Wolfenstein now has a neat leaning mechanic where you can peak around corners or over low walls by holding L1 and pushing the left stick, allowing you to lean out for a deadly burst to cut down any Nazi you catch running between cover. Not that being in cover is always safe for you or the enemy as many surfaces are destructible keeping everyone on their toes in glorious fashion.
Most weapons can be dual-wielded too, adding further mayhem to the mix. Dual AKs is mad, but true insanity is dual-wielding massive auto-shotguns with bouncing ammo secondary fire and is some of the best fun you’re likely to have in any game this year.
Stealth plays an interesting role as it provides alternative routes, is entirely optional and yet irresistible if you enter an area unseen. Use melee, oh-so-satisfying throwing knives or silenced pistols to take out guards and you can sneak through most areas without a struggle. Snuff out any local Commanders and you may be given a map marked with nearby collectibles. It’s fun seeing how much you get away with before being caught and thanks to the awesome weaponry at your disposal, it’s always a pleasure going loud. Good thing too as some of the mechanical enemies need considerably more than a shiv in the back.
After the prologue, you make an in-game choice that affects which character you’ll see more of and in-turn you’ll also spend the rest of the game being able to hotwire security locks and pick up permanent health extenders or on the other hand, you can pick locks and gather additional permanent armour.
I found myself wanting to play the game straight away after finishing it so I could find all the hidden items. You can use the chapter select screen to start another playthrough with the alternative ‘choice’ and your collectibles and earned perks carry across too.
However you play Wolfenstein, its terrific fun when it lets you loose with those screen-filling boomsticks or lets you sneak around putting long-smiles on the throats of Blazkowicz’s enemies. A few unnecessary stages deflate the action a little though. Performing a few fetch quests around the resistance’s base -more than once too- and an underwater stage all felt like poor choices. I’m all for changes of pace in games to keep things fresh, but when you’re having ALL THE FUN, you don’t want to slow things down. The awesome to dull ratio is heavily in the former’s favour though thankfully. For every yawn, there are a dozen last-gasp slide escapes from giant robot dogs, last bullet of the clip shootout victories, long-distance knife throws to the face or fantastic new Nazi-neutralising toys to play with.
It’s great to report that the game runs at a slick 1080p and 60 frames-per-second throughout and you’d hope so given that on the PS4 version I reviewed there’s a bloated 53GB install. This includes a ridiculously large 5GB day one patch to fix ‘various bugs.’ There were none to find, but the optional voice-command weapon swapping performed poorly compared to a similar function in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, but it’s not an essential part of the game.
The graphical standard is high throughout albeit not as exceptionally shiny as the likes of Killzone: Shadow Fall. The detail on enemy character models is exceptional though. During an undercover stage, I was able to wander up to an enemy soldier for a full uniform inspection and I was able to see that each piece of clothing and armour consists of a physical layer, instead of the flat all-in-one textures we became accustomed to on older hardware. It’s little areas like this that Wolfenstein stands out as a next-gen title. There’s a particularly nasty scene with a mangled Nazi face that wouldn’t have been able to turn my stomach on PS3 quite like it did on PS4. You’ll know it when you see it.
It’s not just graphical sheen and fun gameplay that makes Wolfenstein: The New Order a great entry though, the story is an engaging affair thanks to an excellent cast for the resistance and the suitably despicable group of Nazis that have forgone the camp theatrics of other games/films. This is also helped by much of the dialogue being in German. It can be distracting trying to keep an eye on the subtitles during shootouts though.
MachineGames have done a great job of respecting the brand’s heritage whilst thrusting it into the fray with modern shooters. Like the best of modern FPS titles, there’s some great writing and huge set pieces to enjoy. For the old-school crowd, the health bar only slightly regenerates and the weapons are huge and ridiculous like our favourite shooters of old. Fans of the old and the new though should know that shooting Nazis has never been this much fun.