With relatively little put out as far as advertisement, Wolfenstein: the New Order quietly dropped onto consoles last week. After several disappointing forays into the series in the past, does New Order finally deliver on the Nazi sci-fi adventure we’ve been waiting all these years for?
Story: What would you do if the Nazis won WWII?
Wolfenstein: the New Order dives into this question headfirst with the series’ original hero William “B.J.” Blazkowicz. B.J. is an American Army captain in the final stand against the Third Reich and unfortunately suffers a tremendous brain injury in the losing battle. B.J. comes to 14 years later to find that the Nazis have conquered the world with terror and aggression, amassing power and stomping out any who resist. The good captain then takes it upon himself to find and free members of the resistance in order to overthrow the regime run by the uber-evil General Deathshead.
The story is well-paced as this alternate timeline is explored. It balances B.J. finding new friends in the resistance with him encountering the new and terrifying faces of this successful Third Reich. The game sports a good supporting cast and takes pains to further explain their places before the war. Indeed what makes Wolfenstein great is the level of seriousness it treats this alternate universe, and not just leaving players to take it at face value. That being said, there is an option to unlock alternate timelines for one of BJ’s closest support characters that feels a little slighted. Choosing one path over another results in one different ally character and doesn’t do much to change the ending. If this was fleshed out a bit more to involve other characters or affected the way missions are carried out, it would have definitely made things more interesting.
Gameplay: +20 health with only five bullets left…
New Order prides itself as a smooth-running first-person-shooter with a few extra elements added in. The developers allowed for a health-pack system with a little bit of regenerative flexibility; meaning your character can only regenerate only so much health after falling below a certain mark out of the base 100. This works well since players are not limited by a set health number and can even “overcharge” their health before running into big battles. The controls are fluid until the cover system kicks in. Players can stick to walls and peek around, but it has a tricky habit of forcing your aiming reticle to a different spot than intended. However, the run and slide maneuver is much more useful for avoiding enemies in a firefight, of which there are plenty.
True to form, New Order boasts an option of stealth and it works really well. The game never appears to “cheat” options for stealth by forcing players into a gun battle (at least until the very end). There is a nice variety of guns, but it’s disappointing how only one of them really feels like it takes from the sci-fi elements in the game. Also, the use of a weapon wheel for selection is cumbersome in a firefight.
Graphics: A nice blend of trench warfare and space battles.
New Order definitely looks nice and doesn’t limit itself as far as environments go. One moment players can find themselves swimming through sewer tunnels to avoid patrols, only to go romping across the moon a few hours later. New Order definitely goes above and beyond the limits of imagination and each place B.J. goes gets more and more grandiose. The graphics themselves run smooth for the most part, barring a few animation freezes in the beginning of the game. The creators serve up a nice quantity of rendered cut scenes, but it never feels like they’re being substituted for actual game play. Characters look great, however there can be some texture pops and some side areas of the game are simply too dark to see through, much less navigate for items. Thankfully these are few and far between.
It’s truly surprising how few waves Bethesda made for this game prior to its début, and that could be the greatest thing for it. With little knowledge and no set expectations, New Order delivers a fun ride that tells a well-rounded story and doesn’t get too silly along the way. For anyone who wants something relatively new and different to play, Wolfenstein: New Order is a great choice for summer gaming.