Machine Games, was formed in Sweden in 2009 by a group of former members of the Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness developer, Starbreeze, and was picked up by Bethesda in 2010 before being given their first crack at the flailing Wolfenstein series, one that Raven’s last, semi-open world attempt almost buried before its time.
Built upon id’s Tech 5 engine, Wolfenstein: The New Order sees player once again take control of the famous William “BJ” Blazkowicz as he continues his campaign against the malevolent forces of Nazi Germany, and seeks to settle a personal score with the twisted, General Deathshead. The opening to the game sees the Allied forces staging a final, desperate attack on the General’s compound, perfectly setting the scene of the final days of Allied resistance as they struggle against overwhelming odds to prevent the Nazi war machine stomping completely across Europe and ultimately, beyond. Naturally, this military excursion ends in disaster, and sees our protagonist badly injured, before his body is found and his wounds tended, though it leaves him to spend fourteen years within a psychiatric hospital. And it is here, in an alternative, Philip K. Dick inspired version of 1960, that players once again resume control of our hero, and take the fight to the dominant Nazi forces that control the world that B.J. was once fighting to protect, leaving him now struggling to bolster a flailing resistance movement and bring some hope to the oppressed masses. Interestingly, the story does feature an unexpected sentimentality, as Blazkowicz falls in love with the woman who tended to him whilst he was incapacitated, she becomes a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow, and the main reason for BJ to press on along the dark and dangerous path upon which he has been placed.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is certainly not the most attractive looking game on next-gen platforms, though it all runs about in 1080p and at a super smooth 60fps, though in all honesty, it would have been a travesty if it hadn’t. Textures are incredibly low res, and completely fall apart under any form of examination, though this mostly balanced out with an array of impressive lighting and particle effects. Of course, visuals aren’t everything, right? And Wolfenstein, thankfully, is something of a winner in the gameplay department instead.
Machine Games have created an unashamedly old school first person shooter, one that doesn’t lead gamers by the hand but rather throws them to the dogs instead. It is a taxing experience, but it is one that has benefitted immensely from the addition of the addition of a fairly solid cover system, which allows players to take cover behind a variety of objects before leaning out to fire off a few rounds. This is made all the more essential as the AI enemies are all highly skilled sharpshooters. The downside, however, is that levels feature a healthy dose of destruction, which generally renders every piece of cover as a mere temporary reprieve from the onslaught of bullets and lasers invariably aimed at BJ Blaskowicz.
There is a vast array of weaponry, most of which feature alternative fire modes and all of which can be dual-wielded, and whilst it may seem wise to go charging into area with two shotguns at the ready, Wolfenstein generally offers multiple ways to tackle levels, including the use hidden routes that all BJ to sneak up on his foes. One of the best and most useful of weapons to be found are the throwing knives that allow enemies to be taken down silently, helping players to reduce enemy numbers before escalating situations, as is almost unavoidable, into visceral, fraught, gunfights.
The campaign mode is also fairly extensive, and will probably take in the region of twelve hours to complete, and with the addition of a difficult, yet necessary, choice early on the story provides some much needed replay value, especially given that this choice affects how the remainder of the game is actually played out. We’re not talking massive changes, but it certainly affects it enough to warrant a second playthrough. In addition, there are a variety of perks to be unlocked; these are unlocked by performing certain actions, and reward players with such benefits across the Stealth, Tactical, Assault and Demolition skill trees, seeing players rewarded with the ability to carry more grenades or throwing knives, increased damage and even the opportunity to steal health from enemies killed with a silent takedown. On top of this, there are tons of collectibles to discover, including the enigma code fragments, which, when fully collected and deciphered, unlocks additional game modes, ensuring that, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game set to last a very long time indeed.
Sadly though, the game is very linear, and is usually propelled from one set piece to another, though in its defence, some of these moments are actually very good indeed, particularly BJ’s prison escape that sees him commandeer a robot to blast his way out. Cut scenes are typically cringe-worthy, with some substandard writing and horrendous characterisation, particularly, the rather dire Scottish character, Fergus-of course, this could just be me.
In all though, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a solid return to form for the series, it is an exciting and robust shooter that does more than enough to warrant some attention from gamers eager to find an FPS that offers something beyond a multiplayer experience. As an added bonus, it even features a playable (and replayable) dream sequence in which BJ revisits his past, with a reworked version of the original Wolfenstein, though sadly, it is just one level, and not the full game, which would surely have heightened this release a truly essential purchase. As it stands though, Wolfenstein: The New Order, despite some shoddy storytelling, is an enjoyable first-person shooter set in an intriguing world, and it is one that personally, I would rather like to return to.