Wolfenstein doesn't start well but the powers you receive and the weapons you acquire along with the supernatural elements make the game fairly enjoyable but not without flaws.
Wolfenstein marks the return of hero B.J. Blazkowicz, once again fighting the Germans in WW2. This time however the situation takes on a more sci-fi feel with lots of supernatural elements compared to RTCW. Wolfenstein takes place in the town of Isenstadt and many missions branch off from the various locations of the town which is implemented in a similar way to Thief: Deadly Shadows. The game centres around an artifact that allows you to enter a veil world to slow time, shield yourself from attacks and cause additional damage at your choosing. The combat at times can be very frantic and enjoyable which doesn’t occur during the first hour or so of the game. There is some backtracking early on but the game tries to minimize the repetition by altering the enemy types or the weapons at your disposal and moving you to a different town hub. Graphically it’s not going to astound everybody with some bland graphics but at least it runs very well. Wolfenstein features upgradable real-life and sci-fi weapons bought using gold items you find throughout the missions.
To be brutally honest Wolfenstein isn’t going to do much for most when the action happens out of the veil. The enemies are quite dumb, running in front of cover, not getting behind cover, ignoring the fact that I just smashed open a door, making the gameplay during the first hour poor. Even the speech from them is rather grating with passable German accents and often repeated quips that wear out quickly. Sometimes the AI does some smart things, like moving forward or storming a house they saw you enter. However most of the time they either die far too quickly or turn their backs in front of you. One underground level features high walkways and too often after death Nazis would conveniently find the nearest rail and do a dive over it, two Nazis doing this in synchronisation takes away its novelty. The game initially revolves around central town locations, similar to the implementation of Thief: Deadly Shadows. Nazis repopulate these locations, sometimes in the exact same position. The world also resets – a car destroyed previously reappears shiny and new again when heading back through the level. In this way there is a bit of nuisance backtracking but the enemies get a bit harder as you go through the game to ensure you get a little challenge when heading through towns. This repeatable nature even occurs in the missions, once you reach the end of the mission – collecting the shard or a weapon you will often be told to escape. Many times you will hear the Nazi’s spawn in behind you the very second you take that end item and will have to wade through a few of them again. This part is usually more enjoyable because the weapon or shard you acquired now gives you much more power during your escape. The gameplay becomes quite enjoyable with better weapons and the ability to use the veil and its associated powers. The later levels behave more like a standard progressive FPS compared to the first open level nature.
Once you get the access to the Thule artifact early on you will be able to slip in and out of the “veil” anytime as long as you have enough energy. If the energy runs out your screen will be black and white for a short time which is a nice little deterrent but not crippling. The energy is gained from fairly obvious energy pool placements throughout the world. The veil will allow you to step through sealed doors, find hidden ladders and spot weaknesses in enemies – highlighted in bright red. The first power you receive is none other than slow motion and it quickly becomes a preferred method to get in close and dispose of the Nazi groups. Upgrades will cause shockwaves from your location when you enable this slow motion. Shield is the next acquired power obtained in a Nazi underground base although it’s not as cool as slow motion and drains the energy quickly it can be useful when breaking from cover. The fourth power is basically a quad damage type role giving your bullets and grenades much more damage and allowing you to penetrate supernatural shields. This power became my most used due to the energy drain being low and being able to dispose of enemies quickly, it also has the bonus of being useful in short fire bursts. The veil is rarely used as a puzzle solving device in normal gameplay, occasional used to help you find treasures. It did feel a bit like Prey’s spirit mode early on but the tutorial “puzzles” for slow motion made up the majority of puzzles in the entire game. Most of the powers do work well, with the shield being my least used apart from a few of the later sections where energy supply was abundant. None of the powers would really be of much use without the weaponry to match.
The weapons are generally fairly good, with a good variety and application for different enemy types. Special weapons include the flamethrower which makes standard soldiers a breeze and particle cannon. All weapons are upgradable and there are a multitude of upgrades for each weapon, purchased at a town black-market. I’m not quite sure how many resistance solders were charging $500 for a silencer in the war but I can overlook that when you only need to find a few treasure items to buy it. It is nice to choose some enhancements for your weapons and if you really want to go back through levels and find all the shiny treasures in order to get more you can. The standard upgrades are things like increasing damage, increasing clip size and reducing recoil. Some of the key upgrades aren’t too expensive and because the game is fairly easy you won’t need a lot of money over the gold you come across during your regular travels. I spent a lot of the game early on using an upgraded mp40 which dealt with most of the enemies easily even at range. The break-away missions will alternate what weapons the enemies are carrying, so while one mission will supply you with ample mp40 ammo in the next you will be relying on another weapon to get the job done, it’s a wise decision to head back to the black-market to restock ammo before attempting a mission since it’s relatively inexpensive to do so.
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