Yakkin ‘bout Games: Wolfenstein: The New Order
Yakking ‘bout Games is a series where I talk about games that I’m currently playing or have just finished. It can be new or old, console or PC, good or bad, it really doesn’t matter. If it’s a game worth talking about, you’ll see it covered here.
I think it’s fair to say that the FPS genre has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance over the last decade and a bit. The modern military shooters that dominated the late 2000s and early 2010s have become less common. We have seen the return of classic franchises like Doom and Half-Life, and we have also witnessed the influx of “boomer shooters” like Dusk and Amid Evil. A lot of cool stuff indeed.
With that being said, let’s take a trip back a few years. 2014 to be exact.
This was the first year of the (then) brand spanking new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The two consoles were not off to the best of starts though. Their early exclusives like Killzone Shadow Fall, InFamous Second Son, Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3 had failed to impress. The only games picking up the slack were multi-platform releases like Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag. The only FPS games available at the time (other than Killzone on PS4) were Call of Duty Ghosts (dull as dishwater) and Battlefield 4 (I enjoyed it but it was completely broken on release.)
Not exactly the most exciting of times for an FPS fan on console.
Wolfenstein: The New Order finally came along that May. It had been announced the year prior but it didn’t have much fanfare behind it. The initial E3 showing didn’t really impress anyone and there wasn’t really a great excitement for the game’s release. Perhaps it was because the previous Wolfenstein game was largely ignored by people or maybe because people were skeptical due to the game being MachineGames’ (the developer) first effort. People needn’t have worried though. The game turned out to be a massive surprise. It ended up being one of the best of that year.
Why am I covering this now? It’s because I recently got the urge to play it again after all these years. Plus I wanted to see how it would function in a post modern Doom world. So with that in mind, let’s get psyched and see how the game holds up.
Never has a smile brought terror to my heart so fast. Well this and my last dental appointment...
The New Order is set in an alternate universe where the Nazis won World War II due to their advanced technology being too much for the Allied forces. After an operation to try and assassinate the spearhead behind this growing technological evolution goes horribly wrong, Captain William “B.J.” Blazkowicz ends up taking a piece of shrapnel to the back of the head which puts him into a vegetative state. He ends up spending fourteen years in a Polish mental asylum before finally being awoken again due to witnessing a horrible atrocity committed by the Nazis. B.J. is now in the alien world of 1960 where the Nazis rule over the world with an iron fist. It’s up to B.J. to link up with the remnants of the Resistance and take the fight back to the Nazis once and for all.
The story was and still is one of the most surprising elements of The New Order. It paints a brutal picture of a world controlled by an evil and ruthless force who will stop at nothing to assert their dominance. The cast as well are very memorable. You have the plucky and likable Resistance fighters who you get to spend quite a bit of time with. You then have some memorable encounters with the evil figureheads of the Nazi regime at certain parts of the story. Anyone who has seen the train sequence in this game knows exactly what I’m taking about. I have to give MachineGames credit as well for the characterisation of B.J. himself. They managed to turn a character who was known for being a badass Nazi killer to a very sympathetic and likable Nazi killer. B.J. in this game is weary and tired after years of fighting evil and tyranny at every corner. The man wants nothing more than for the war to be over so he can hang up his guns and finally settle down. How could you hate the man after hearing something like that?
B.J. is such an upstanding guy that he would infiltrate a Nazi controlled train just to get you some coffee. Liberation and a Cappuccino, you can’t beat it.
The real bread and butter of The New Order though is the gameplay. It has held up fantastically for the most part. Combat is a blast thanks to the very meaty arsenal at your disposal including assault rifles, shotguns, marksman rifle and a Laserkraftwerk which allows you to blast enemies to smithereens. You’ll have plenty of enemy types to cut through including rank and file soldiers, big mech suit soldiers with heavy weaponry and robots that have massive lasers. B.J. has a few abilities though to help turn the tide of battle. Leaning is one such ability and it’s implemented very well. How it works is that if you hold the L1 button, it locks B.J. in place and you can then use the left stick to lean at different angles. It’s super useful. Earning a well placed few shots at a Nazi from a very awkward angle never gets old. B.J. also has the ability to dual-wield certain weapons to deal even more hefty damage to his foes. Press up on the d-pad and prepare to bring the carnage. While this is a pretty fun feature, it does limit your movement speed and it can result in you burning through ammo quite quickly. It also is restricted to two types of the same weapon. You can also find upgrades for weapons which give them different ammo types and fire modes. The Laserkraftwerk, for example, can be used to cut through certain boxes and materials which is pretty nifty.
In terms of how health works, it’s a hybrid between classic pick-ups and regeneration. You can recover health by picking up health packs and food throughout the game. Armor can be found as well to allow you to take some extra damage. If you take health damage and managed to find cover, you’ll eventually get 10 health points back. You also have the ability to overcharge your health. How this works is that if you end up picking up a health item that takes you over your max health, you get higher health points for a brief period which is quite useful. You can increase your max health by finding hidden health upgrades throughout some of the levels.
AI is decent for the most part. They will attempt to find cover in the heat of a firefight and they do try to flank you. Some of the heavy soldiers will also attempt to rush your position. I certainly didn’t notice any unusual behaviour from them. Boss fights are a bit unremarkable for the most part. The game pretty much spells out how to take them out and they don’t really put up much of a fight. The main exception being the final boss but even then, it really isn’t that hard.
The secret painting boss fight was an interesting idea though. Definitely a canvas for them to work on in the future. (Apologies for the bad pun and joke.)
The game does have a basic stealth system and it works fine. When you enter most of the areas in the game, you will be informed that there are two commanders in the area. Take them out without being spotted and you can sneak through the area without having to worry about reinforcements if you get spotted by an enemy. You can take down enemies stealthily by using a silenced pistol, throwing knives or by sneaking up to them and performing a takedown. Stealth can feel a little overpowered during some of the early sections because the pistol is super accurate and it only takes one headshot to take some of these enemies down. The game does balance this a bit better later on as areas are populated with more elite enemies that harder to kill without being spotted.
Being a Wolfenstein game, you would expect exploration to be a big part of the gameplay and it does play a part for sure. There are hidden areas to be found with collectibles such as the Enigma codes which can unlock new difficulties and cheat codes. You can also find hidden max HP upgrades and other stuff as well. Maps can be found in each level which will indicate possible hidden secrets with a question mark. Levels are definitely more linear than some of the prior Wolfenstein games so don’t expect huge hidden areas or levels.
Key and item hunting still exists of course. You will find doors that require a key or a tool needed to progress which requires a bit of skulking around to find that key or item. You see this especially in the Resistance HQ sections which occur after most of the levels. In these sections, you will be tasked with finding a certain item for a character to progress to the next level. There are also side missions where you can do the same thing for other characters in the HQ and completing these unlocks extras such as artwork. I’m mixed on the Resistance HQ sections overall. On the one hand, they’re good from a lore perspective because you can overhear conversations from some of the characters and there are newspaper clippings and notes to find which do a good job of building up the world. On the other hand, they do feel a little bit like filler. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose...
I don’t really have many issues with the gameplay as a whole. My only real gripe is how the weapon wheel works. Weapon wheels are commonplace on console because a controller doesn’t have many buttons when compared to a keyboard. Makes perfect sense. The New Order’s one however can be such a temperamental thing to use. How it’s supposed to work is that you hit the R1 button to bring up the wheel and then you use the right stick to pick the weapon you want. Sounds simple enough. In reality what happens is that the game ends up giving you the wrong weapon time after time. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times that I tried to switch to the assault rifle and the game switched me to the dual-wield pistols instead. It can be a bloody nuisance. Part of this is down to how sensitive the stick is when using the wheel. It’s way too fast. Also why do the dual-wield options even need to be there? You can already hit up on the d-pad to dual-wield a particular weapon plus I didn’t really need to dual-wield all that much so it’s just clutter. They could have cleaned this up a lot better. I also had issues with swapping back to the previous weapon. It would sometimes default back to the Laserkraftwerk even though it wasn’t my previous weapon. Thankfully these issues didn’t get me killed but they certainly got on my nerves a little bit.
Textbook schadenfreude here from one of the villains. Shouldn’t be that shocked really...
From a graphics point of view, Wolfenstein: The New Order still holds up remarkably well. It runs on the same idTech engine that powered Rage before it and it certainly looks great. Character models are well detailed and they animate well. Cutscenes are well framed and the angles are perfectly done. Environments are beautifully crafted with amazing detail so whether you are in rainy soaked London or even the friggin’ Moon, you feel immersed in the world of the game.
I wasn’t kidding about the Moon. Look Ma, I’m in space! (In a video game...)
The game is quite aliased on the consoles. You definitely see sharp and jagged edges at times. Plus the textures look a bit low-res when viewed up close, but the game still looks great, and I imagine the PC version cleans up most of this stuff anyway so there’s that.
Tumblr’s image compression doesn’t do this environment justice. Oh well. C’est la vie, I suppose...
I can’t fault the game’s sound though. All voice performances are pitch-perfect with Brian Bloom (the voice of B.J.) being the standout. The music is incredible too with a great balance between atmospheric tracks and hard edged ones when the action really kicks off. It’s composed by a guy named Mick Gordon. Don’t think he’s done anything of note since though.
In terms of length, you’re looking at about roughly 8-10 hours for a first time playthrough. There is replay value with the collectibles and the Timeline system. To briefly explain, the Timeline system is related to a choice you make at the start of the game which changes some of the characters you encounter during the game. It doesn’t drastically change much. The events remain the same. You just get some unique dialog and a scene or two. Not much else.
So as you can see, I think that Wolfenstein: The New Order is still a bloody good time. The shooting still feels great with some really meaty weapons, the story and characters are super engaging, and the presentation and sound still kicks some ass. It has some minor issues here and there, but this game is well worth experiencing. You can pick it up pretty cheap nowadays on most of the platforms and it does go on sale quite often.
It’s nice to go back sometimes and revisit a classic, isn’t it?
Check back here soon for Part 2 of this where I take a look at The Old Blood. Until then, stay safe, folks!
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