Finally, the series that essentially birthed the genre of first-person shooters has returned from a five year coma and has presented Wolfenstein: The New Order as the next gen version of the grandfather of first-person shooters.
The new developers for the series are some of the same people that brought us excellent narrative driven FPSes like ‘Chronicles of Riddick’ and ‘The Darkness’. This brings to question whether Machine Games is able to bring a similar level of quality and polish to the Wolfenstein series?
For the most part, the answer is yes.
Set in the 1960s, The New Order puts the players in the shoes of the series protagonist; William “BJ” Blazkowicz, as he goes across Europe to on a mission to bring down the Nazi regime that has used mysterious advanced technology to win World War II in the 40s and now rules the world with an iron fist.
The game presents a wonderfully realized alternate timeline with much of the lore communicated to the player through alternate locales and environments as well as newspaper articles, letters and audio logs.
The New Order features deeper characterization of “BJ” Blazkowicz than what has been presented in previous Wolfenstein games.
And while the narrative focuses heavily on how the Nazi Regime has affected Blazkowicz and other NPCs, however the characters come off as one-note with most conversations starting and ending with quips and one liners, leaving the overall characterization not as deep as story driven shooters like; Bioshock or Deus Ex.
As a threequel to the 2001 modern reboot ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstien’, The New Order features a blend of enemies and World War 2 tropes from the previous games and adds in new dynamics as well as new and recurring characters to freshen up the franchise.
This is not only evident in the New Order’s narrative but also its gameplay mechanics.
While it features modern gameplay mechanics of sprinting to cover, crouching for safety, leaning to peak behind corners to pick shots, New Order also does away with some of the current FPS tropes and brings back classic shooter mechanics.
The game allows players to carry all the weapons simultaneously and dual wield most of them.
The New Order features a health system that allows limited regeneration but forces players to scrounge for med packs, armor and food to stay alive.
This brings an old-school feel to the shooter mechanics and dodges the modern rinse and repeat FPS trope of throwing away health by absorbing bullets and siting behind cover for few seconds to recover health.
Wolfenstein The New Order changes up the gameplay buy providing the player with options of completing most missions through all out action or stealth gameplay.
The game also adequately equips the player for each option. New Order features sci-fi versions of historic weapons like Machine guns, rifles, shotguns and bombs for all out action.
On the other hand, stealthy approach can be achieved by utilizing knives, sniper rifles and silenced pistols.
While the choice between stealth and action is nothing new for modern games, what is completely fascinating about this variety in gameplay is the fact that both options represent the heritage of the Wolfenstein series.
During its infancy as a 2D action game in the 80s, Wolfenstein was a game about avoiding detection and managing limited resources to survive the Nazi hangout called Castle Wolfenstein.
When the series moved to the 3rd dimension, it also skipped on stealth options and moved to a straight-up run and gun action that was then popularized in the 1st person shooter genre.
Therefore, no matter whether the player chooses to play the game like Snake or Rambo, both choices feel true to the essence of Wolfenstein gameplay.
However, the diversity in gameplay does not mean that New Order allows players to play like Dishonored, Thief or Deus Ex.
No matter which gameplay path player chooses, The New Order retains the flashy, violent and explosive feel of the Wolfenstein games of the past.
Unfortunately, these choices can be a bit limited as the player cannot go through the whole game with complete stealth or run-and-gun approach.
Certain of the game’s sections are structured in such a way that the player is forced to complete the task in a specific manner.
Overall, Wolfenstein The New Order campaign consistently provides venues for bombastic action at a break-neck speed from beginning to the end.
Wolfenstein The New Order also borrows from the Wolfenstein RPG by throwing several RPG elements in the mix.
These RPG mechanics include stat building options as well as the perk system ability for the protagonist to naturally evolve over the course of the game to support the player’s play style.
The New Order also presents players with plenty of enemy variety ranging from normal Nazi grunts to soldiers in power armor, cyborg guards, robot dogs and huge mechs.
While the game can be fairly campy in its depiction of Nazis it also ramps up the horror part by unapologetically presenting players with all too real atrocities that happen due to the war machinery.
The game features great character models and animations as well as visually appealing lighting and dust effects.
New Order also impresses by its depiction of massive robots, destructible and moving environments as well as the variety of cities and locales visited by the player throughout its campaign.
The game’s atmosphere offers a unique blend of nostalgia and futuristic imagery, something similar to Killzone series but with 60’s retro sensibilities.
However, unlike the latest Killzone, The New Order is visually appealing but offers nothing breathtaking in its visual presentation.
There is lack of polish in environments when looked up close. Water surface looks like murky jelly, walls have bland textures, which is extremely unfortunate for an FPS that requires cover based combat.
Furthermore, since the Nazi’s in New Order do not share the glowing red eyes of the Helghans, they tend to blend in with the dark environments and can get hard to distinguish.
There are also issues of occasionally clipping dead bodies and lack of actual damage on bodies of fallen enemies that have not been decapitated.
However, despite its shortcomings, The New Order offers visuals that look very pretty in action and is consciously retro in not just the weaponry and environments but also in its simple menus and the way it changes presentation from gameplay to cutscenes.
Wolfenstein The New Order features similar performance in the audio department.
The game is fantastic when it comes to its music.
Not only does the music change from energetic fast paced rock to ambient sounds dynamically with the situation presented to the player, but there are also numerous samples of 1960s music/songs reimagined as Nazi songs.
New Order also features reverberating shooting and explosion sound effects as well as fairly competent vocal talents for the dialogues of Blazkowicz and his supporting cast.
However, The New Order has questionable sound mixing, which muffles NPC communications over gunshots and environmental sounds and really detracts from an otherwise commendable sound design.
Unlike 2009’s Wolfenstein, The New Order does not feature any Multiplayer section in its gameplay offerings.
Whereas this means that no other modes diverted precious resources and allowed the developers to focus on and perfect the singleplayer gameplay it does raise an issue of replayability.
While some might find its 12-15 hour long campaign mundane due to lack of unique boss encounters, those that enjoy the whole affair will have plenty incentive to dive back into the fray.
Wolfenstein The New Order offers its players different paths, routes, strategies and actions to accomplish tasks presented in the story campaign.
Moreover, there are plenty of collectibles, unlockables, secret routes, difficulties, items, upgrades and Easter eggs to keep the player busy hours after the main campaign has been conquered.
When all is said and done, The New Order provides a good mixture of camp and horror atmosphere, the strong first-person action combat mechanics with basic RPG integration, level variety and secret passages, and the typical World War 2 trope of Nazis as comic book sadists.
That is the crux of what Wolfenstein series stands for, so if that does not sound like your cup of tea, then The New Order is not for you.
However, if a romp through Campy Horror, Science fiction and occultist Nazis sound like something up your alley, then you might thoroughly enjoy the action-packed adventures of “BJ” Blazkowicz.
Polished First Person Shooter gameplay that mixes old school mechanics with some light RPG elements and choice between taking stealth route or all out action.
However the game could have benefited from offering more unique boss fights.
Featuring great character designs, re-imagined retro environments and animations, Wolfenstein: The New Order looks great from afar.
Unfortunately the situation changes when things are viewed up close. Players are consistently presented with bland wall textures, especially due the importance placed on taking cover behind environment.
Clearly the game cannot visually compete with the visuals of next-gen FPS like Killzone Shadow Fall.
Wolfenstein The New Order features spectacular sound effects, engaging background music and lovely reimagined tracks from the 60s.
While the voice acting is completely competent however questionable sound mixing ruins the experience as the music and sound effects have a habit of drowning out NPC communications.
The game presents a competent narrative with a noticeable and refreshing focus on modernizing retro elements which are not only visible through its gameplay, art and audio but also how it presents menu screens and cuts to and from its cut scenes.
Though it lacks any multiplayer mode, The New Order has a fairly lengthy story mode that offers some genuine replay-ability owing to alternate routes, ability to complete mission with stealth or run-and-gun gameplay as well as numerous perks and fun collectibles.
Devoid of any revolutionary presentation or gameplay mechanics, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a suitable evolution of the franchise which offers a fun experience for any single player FPS enthusiast who likes campy-horror mixed with sci fi and a romp through alternate history.