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Jun 03, 2014

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $59.99
  • Developer: MachineGames
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Genre: Action, Shooter
  • Released: May 20, 2014
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox 360
  • Reviewed: Windows

The first-person shooter that started it all, Wolfenstein, returns. But this old dog has learned new tricks. Unique twists and turns with a decidedly old-school mentality with new-school technology proves to be intriguing and challenging task that pays off in spades. In a “What if” scenario, Nazi Germany has won World War II in 1946. What exactly would that change? Bethesda Softworks and MachineGames answers that question with a resounding: everything.

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Playing as the quintessential American hero for the series, William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz. He and his team are working to stop General Deathshead, who has curiously obtained technology that is far advanced than anyone has ever seen. Not before long, B.J. and his crew are defeated, captured, and tortured, a major decision befalls B.J. Blazkowicz that upon making a binary decision, will change the course of the game entirely. This splits the game’s timeline in two, granting a necessary replay to see what happens if you had made the other decision.

Able to escape, B.J. suffers an injury and is only able to watch the world he knows, slip away over the course of fourteen years, while being locked away in a mental institution. The year is now 1960, and after finally breaking free of his mental prison, he picks up exactly where he left off on his crusade to rid the world of the regime. He is determined more than ever to stop the Nazi’s. But he can’t do it alone. Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s menagerie of characters lend themselves to be deprived, somewhat humorous, and touching human beings worth caring for, having endured immense struggles.

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When you first are dual-wielding shotguns through a tight-corridor full of enemies, you begin to realize that while the game has a ton of heart, it also likes to see that heart bleed profusely. The New Order is not shy about blood or gore. You’ll be blasting away enemies while firing both barrels. Or, you can hold only one rifle and take cover to pop the heads of your enemy combatants like zits on a teenager’s face. The game will punish you for just running out into the open. This is where the influence of modern shooter philosophies come in, you’ll be taking cover often, and able to peek out around corners to take shots while protected.

All weapons have an alternate firing mode. The pistol can have a silencer attached for quiet takedowns, or left loud will fire three-round bursts. Or the shotgun, fires standards shells, can be swapped to fire flak a la Unreal Tournament 2004. Later, you’ll acquire a laser cutter. You’ll replace that with an even more powerful version that will see it’s fair share of upgrades, but the alternate fire mode is essentially a railgun, and you’ll wreck house with it. If you take the time to explore, weapons will naturally update as you find pieces to upgrade them.

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The game’s pacing is so well timed. Never did any bit of action take too long, and never did any moment while talking with any of the people inside the Kreisau Circle, the hiding place for the resistance feel like it was overstaying its welcome.

As you play, depending on your style preference, you can unlock perks just by playing. Perks give passive enhancements to you. It’s essentially a goal system. There are four trees: Stealth, Tactical, Assault, and Demolition. All the perks will stack, making you even more powerful. Some are unlikely to be achieved by happenstance, and so by opening your Journal to the Perks section can you see what is needed to accomplish each goal. There’s no reason not to do any of them, but if you missed most of them, there’s no negative impact as a result.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order also introduces the unexpected, but welcome addition of stealth elements. Each new level you are stripped of any items you’ve acquired before it. So you’ll start off with a knife, and will crouch walk to sneak by or quietly kill off patrolling enemies. Make too much noise or get seen without shutting them up fast enough, and everyone will be alerted to your presence. While there’s no fail state, you’ll often want to maintain stealth just to feel like a badass.

Appearing on your HUD, is the ability to take down Commanders. These special enemy types can call in reinforcements once detected. Silence them before they have a chance and you will have an easier time getting through a level with minimal resistance. Tying in with the perks, you can earn more information about the Commanders, where they are, what their status is, and even their exact position on the map. This level of detail is great, allowing you to slow down and be more methodical than just going on a gunpowder rampage.

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This wouldn’t be a Wolfenstein game if it wasn’t littered with secrets. There’s hidden panels that lead to treasure, upgrades that buff B.J., collectibles to find, and enigma codes that can be used to unlock bonus modes. Replayability is huge to go back and find the items you may have missed the first time around.

Maps can be found and picked up in the game world to fill-in gaps. In fact, everything in the game world must be picked up by way of a button press. This includes armor, health, weapons, ammo, upgrades, etc. It’s not a huge problem, but there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want any of this stuff, so simply coming within proximity should be all that qualifies for attaining these items.

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Michael John Gordon’s score perfectly compliments the tone and gameplay superbly. There are recurring themes that are just excellent at evoking emotional responses and really nailing the feel of the game. The sound itself is a cross between acoustic guitars and electronic screeches and beats.

MachineGames is made-up of ex-Starbreeze people. As you play, that becomes evident if you’ve played The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and/or The Darkness, where the characters take center-stage in the quiet moments, and the gameplay takes center-stage for the action.

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Reflecting on Wolfenstein: The New Order is not something I thought I’d do. MachineGames has made me care within the confines of a first-person shooter. It has elicited feelings of sadness, happiness, and everything in-between with the 12-15 hours the game has to offer. Everything from the tight gunplay, the wonderful score, the great characters, and the fictitious alternate timeline is nothing but fascinating from start to finish.

A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes