Three years have passed since the events of Wolfenstein (2009) and the Nazi regime gets stronger by the day. Our protagonist William Blazkowicz (for the benefit of the review I will now call him Blitz), along with his two comrades Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt they infiltrate a focal Nazi bunker, events soon go tits up and the group find themselves captured by the Nazi army.
When Blitz felt that events couldn’t get any worse, he is faced with a gruelling decision that can come of no good, no matter his intentions. Blitz soon seizes an opportunity to escape the Nazi compound, but following an unforeseen reaction to a laboratory explosion, Blitz has a shard impaled into his head and all goes dark.
Blitz awakens 14 years later in a Polish asylum to find that the Nazi’s have taken over the lands and before they put a bullet through the brain of a nurse named Anya, Blitz’s killer instinct returns just in time giving him and Anya the chance to escape. Hearing whispers of a résistance, Blitz soon finds himself heading towards a Nazi prison in the hope of being reunited with a close friend and joins the underground résistance to bring down the Nazi regime to their knees once and for all. This is a start on one gruelling, tense, thrilling journey that will have you on the edge of your seat losing many an hour. Welcome to Wolfenstein: The New Order.
While the visuals of The New Order won’t blow you away and you will see better looking games on the new gen, the cinematics however are quite possibly the best that I’ve seen yet in the new generation. It’s not necessarily the visuals in the cutscenes that impress me the most, it’s the way their presented and progress the story as well as I’ve seen in any game in recent years. It has a proper movie feel about it, the multiple angles, the shaky camera, the art style and the superb voice acting makes for one awesome cinematic presentation package.
It almost reminds me of what if Quentin Tarantino had a love child with the TV series 24 and that love child then decided to make a video game, it would produce something like Wolfenstein: The New Order. Sometimes cutscenes can be misused, just to lengthen out a games campaign and while The New Order has a more lengthy campaign then most FPS games, the cutscenes here are used for their proper intentions and are a truly vital and a worthwhile method of storytelling, with its own distinct ‘lovechild’ concoction style.
Though stunning cinematics aside, the visuals of The New Order are not without some minor issues. When looking close up, some of the environmental textures do not look as detailed as they do from a far and can look a little blurry and at times a little more pixelated then you might expect to see on a new generation game. Also The New Order does suffer from some texture pop-up issues. In the normal circumstance, texture pop-ups can occur from quite a distance away, especially to scenery that you will not be engaging in any time soon. Or games such as Skyrim, textures can have a delayed reaction when suddenly textures to some brickwork would improve right before your very eyes.
Oddly in The New Order you could be in a room or corridor and when looking through the doorway ahead, the scenery beyond that doorway can look a little pale or blurry. Then when you walk through that door, suddenly the textures will change to a higher detail. This is a very picky aspect of the game for the most part looks stunning, especially the facial animation during the cinematic cutscenes. For a game as pretty on the eye as The New Order and considering it’s a game on the new gen consoles, I didn’t quite expect texture pop-ups to that extent. But like I say, this is a picky aspect as after all, no game is truly perfect and some discrepancies are expected along the way.
The stunning cinematics that I spoke of in The New Order would be next to meaningless if it wasn’t for a well supported voice cast and compelling soundtrack, these two aspects really shine here. Firstly the soundtrack is one of the most compelling that I’ve heard in a long time, it truly is artistic and relevant to the current goings on in The New Order. It has that big budget feel and you can tell that no expense, time or effort has been spared.
In the most part The New Order is a very tense game and the soundtrack perfectly complements it with added suspense, whether you’re going on a gung-ho Nazi killing spree or taking the silent and deadly approach during the stealth orientated moments and when its needs to, it entwines with the few moments of serenity. In my humble opinion, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mick Gordon won an award or two in the coming twelve months for his work in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
All the cast members also do a superb job in voicing their characters, from the main, right on through to the characters that you will only cross paths with briefly. Notably Brian Bloom as William ‘B.J’ Blazkowicz, Alicja Bachleda as Anya and Nina Franoszek delivers a terrifying and intimidating performance as Nazi Frau Engel. Though despite the vast majority of The New Order’s audio being sublime, there are some issues. This game as you can guess is full of action, bullets flying and plenty of explosions. During many moments in the game, you will have a colleague communicate with you via the radio.
But sometimes during the more frantic moments (especially in the opening moments when invading the Nazi bunker), it’s very difficult to hear the NPC’s voice through the radio in which they are communicating with you. This can at times result in you missing out on some important Intel, perhaps this problem could have been tackled if there were some advanced audio options in the configuration settings. Unfortunately there is only the option to turn up the master volume, which of course turns everything up and does not allow you to turn up the dialogue on its own. So for this reason, I would recommend setting the subtitles in the options to “All”.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is what I’d describe as the videogame equivalent of the popcorn movie. It’s a no brainer, pick up and play kind of game. Back in the day, this is what games such as Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem were. While the FPS genre is not always known for their challenging and advanced gameplay, The New Order is a game that you will easily pick up and be gripped with for hours on end. During its short lifespan since release, it is a game that at times I have lost complete track of time and it’s not often a game has that kind of effect on me.
There’s nothing complicated about The New Order and that’s a big part of its appeal. Though there is a perk/levelling up system that will see Blitz improve as you progress in the campaign. The perks will upgrade depending on your play style or actions, to an effect. There are four different categories of perks and they are Assault, Demolition, Stealth and Tactical.
They are pretty much self explanatory, but for example, the more Nazi’s you skill using stealth tactics, the more your stealth skills such as moving more silently and being harder to spot will improve. The more Nazi’s you kill via the tradition gung-ho firearm manor, the more competent you will become with firearms and so forth, so as being more competent when duel-welding.
With The New Order evolving from its old school ancestor, a lot of those old school qualities have made their way into this new age, which is sure to please many veteran fans of the series. For example there is no regeneration health here, if you want to gain more health, then you must find a health pack. Well that’s kind of a lie, because when you health is low it will regenerate a little. So if you’ve been a bullet punch bag and you’re on the verge of dying with health at 11/100, if you find a safe spot it will raise to 20/100.
With your standard health having a maximum of 100 (that number will increase when you unlock the required health perk), if you find enough health packs you can increase your health above the maximum number. So if your health is 100 and you find extra health packs that take you to 140, your health will slowly degenerate back towards the standard 100.
This temporary increased health number is called ‘Overcharge’ and the same rule will apply to the many armour packs that you will find along with the health packs. So for that temporary moment in time, whether it is health or armour (maybe both), Blitz will be extra badass for that short period of time. Something that Wolfenstein veterans will also appreciate is that unlike a lot of today’s games, especially in the FPS genre, The New Order has no set waypoints.
With The New Order having no set waypoint, it’s up to you to find your way around. You will of course have your set objectives to guide you to an extent and a little later on in the game, you will also come across the odd side-objective, but it’s mainly down to you to find your way. Never fear though, because if you like to explore, then you may come across a handy map for the area in which you are in. So that will give you a little helping hand, as well as highlight other areas that maybe of interest.
While The New Order isn’t the most open game you will play, there are often a number of ways in which you can approach an area, so you can replay doing things differently if you choose. Like Wolfenstein games of old, there are also a lot of secrets to hunt down. The New Order will be one of the least linear FPS that you will play likely play. I’m already looking forward to approaching certain areas differently, making other choices and of course track down those little treasures. It certainly pays to take your time here and have a little dig around of your surroundings.
Depending on the kind of gamer that you are, The New Order will accommodate two main disciplines of play. Gung-ho and stealth. For the vast majority of The New Order you will be gunning down just about anything that moves, but there will also be some moments in the campaign that will require sneaky stealth skills. Some stealth sections will be optional, while some will be mandatory. The stealth sections are simple enough, sneak through areas unnoticed, avoid any alarms and take out the Nazi with a good old stealth melee. These sections can be very satisfactory and both tense, especially with the awesome soundtrack to pick up the tension.
But if there’s one aspect that lets these stealth sections down, it’s the dumb A.I. There were literally plenty of moments when I would be in the crouch position and the enemy would be looking directly at me, to the point that their head would turn and follow me. Despite this I was still able to walk behind them to perform a brutal stealth melee. I’m unaware at this time if this happens on the highest of difficulty settings, as I’ve only been playing it on normal thus far, but even so I was not expecting it to be as dumb as this.
During these stealth sections it will also be likely that you will leave a trail of Nazi bread crumbs in your wake, but don’t worry about the living Nazi being alarmed by the dead body that he has just walked over, because they will not react and they will walk on by as if the dead body is invisible. Also while the many gung-ho moments are incredibly enjoyable, the A.I during these moments is not that much better it pains me to say.
There will be plenty of moments in which the Nazi soldiers will be coming at you in full force, if you are in plain sight in an open area, you might not last too long. But should you find a narrow corridor with a doorway, just wait behind that door and on most occasions they will line up one after another waiting to get shot. It’s kind of disappointing that in this new gen era, I’ve yet to come across enemies that offer you any kind of real challenge, I found a similar problem with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Hopefully the Nazi’s might be a little more alert on the higher difficulty, only time will tell from my own experience.
Though it has to be said that despite the dumb A.I, the weapons of Wolfenstein: The New Order feel and look great, each one feels distinct to the next. While I love both the Playstation and Xbox consoles, the Xbox console has often been my point of call when it comes to the First Person Shooter and the Xbox One is no exception.
While I preferred the Xbox 360 console on the previous generation, I favour the DualShock 4 in this new era. But when playing an FPS on the Xbox One, it especially feels great more so. This is largely down to the vibration functions on the Xbox One controller. You can literally feel the power of each shotgun blast, the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun and the subtle recoil of a silenced handgun.
A nice touch that MachineGames has also implemented is that when not gunning down Nazi’s and you’re strolling through a section, Blitz will brush the dust of his shotgun or randomly check the ammo in the magazine. Blitz is a killer (shocker I know) and he obviously gets off with doing what he does, but it’s these subtle magazine checks and dust-downs that helps make you believe that Blitz loves his weapons, almost as much as he does gunning down Nazi’s. All these little elements add to The New Order’s immersion.
During the later moments of 2013 the somewhat controversial decision was made that The New Order would not contain any multiplayer, so that the developers could concentrate purely on the singleplayer experience. This may seem like an odd choice, especially when you think of the FPS genre, you will often associate that genre with multiplayer. Sometimes multiplayer modes can feel like it’s been added on for the sake of it and as a consequence the singleplayer campaign length can suffer. Games such as Tomb Raider, God of War: Ascension, and Bioshock 2 have all arguably been a prime example of this. This is something that MachineGames wanted to avoid and they wanted to dedicate their time to benefit singleplayer experience of The New Order and that I am glad to report is what’s been achieved here.
Obviously it all depends on the gamer at hand, do you explore or run through chapters? Do you play on the normal difficulty setting from the offset or do you throw yourself in the deep end on the higher difficulty? Either way you are going to get your money’s worth with The New Order. It has a lengthy campaign and depending on the choice you make early on, it can change the events of the story somewhat. Then of course when you finish the campaign, you can play it through again making the other choice.
As I’ve briefly spoke about, you also have the perk system that will upgrade depending on how you play. You can also upgrade many of your weapons, via the many weapon crates that you might find after a little exploring. There are tons of secrets to find such as enigma files that each will be an individual piece to a larger puzzle for you to solve, you also have pieces of gold and letters to find and much more. You will also find little pieces of documents detailing the alternative history in which you are playing, such as the iconic Abbey Road Beatles image in its Nazi form. There are also a number of alternative vinyl records to find, which add an unnerving twist. Just checkout this trailer to see what I mean.
There is so much to discover and do in The New Order, along with several awesome Easter eggs to look out for. The developers at MachineGames have clearly put every effort into making sure that their fans get more than their money’s worth and you certainly get far more bang for your buck with The New Order.
To summarise Wolfenstein: The New Order is not without its faults, but in truth is any game? But what you will get here is one of the most well told stories, with a pick up and play gameplay style, an awesome soundtrack and voice cast and plenty value for money. For some reason despite being a fan of the original game, my hopes were not set high for The New Order and in some way perhaps that helped my perspective of this game.
With so many great games yet to come out in this new gen era and plenty of competition afloat it would be easy for even the most respectable game to sink into the pile of shame in what is sure to be an epic and packed 2014. Wolfenstein: The New Order will perhaps not be the best game that you will play this year, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that it will be one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable games that you will play in the coming months.
This is a game that will throw you into the deep end, it will keep you gripped and on the edge of your seat throughout. It will be easy to invest your money into one of E3’s big guns next month, but if you were going to have a flutter on any game this year, then I urge you to make that game Wolfenstein: The New Order. Don’t make this game one of the sleeper hits of 2014; help make it one of the hits of 2014 period, that soldier is an order!
+Superb cinematic cutscenes
+A fun, no brainer popcorn of a shooter
+No taped-on multiplayer clearly benefited the singleplayer
-Some odd texture pop-ups