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Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

by William Schwartz

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a beautiful game about an ugly story.

Talk about how to breath life into a 30 year old franchise. With the original game published in 1981, Wolfenstein has seen many iterations over the years. But the new order isn’t a remake or a redo, this is a story of the Third Reich and the horror of fourteen years post World War II. This is Wolfenstein recreated with a brand new storyline, a new take on the fiction. Set 14 years after the Nazis won WWII,  Swedish Developer MachineGames puts a new spin on an old setting. This shooter will take you to many places — Berlin, London, a Submarine and even the Moon among others.  Creating an idea of London, and Berlin as an occupied territory was one thing. Seeing them with over a decade of occupation and the influence of a new nation and their constructs, streets and landscape only further enriches the experience and very effectively immerses the player into an alternate reality of what could have happened if Allied Forces hadn’t toppled Hitler’s German Army.

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The New Order has old school gameplay values

Protagonist BJ Blazcowicz leads a strong cast of characters that portray both good and evil with both conviction and depth. Reaching easily into a deep well of horror stories from Nazi history, MachineGames delivers on a premise of the war torn world run by an arrogant master race. It’s not new territory entirely for the Wolfenstein series, but it is the most ambitious effort to rework the fiction. Exchanging occult tones for technological, The New Order is Wolfenstein, familiar, but surprisingly fresh.

Ambitious as it may be, there are expectations here. Expectations from fans who want a shooter through and through, and one that holds true to the gameplay values of its predecessors. While Machine Games takes liberties with the story of Wolfenstein, from its very onset, a point was made loud and clear that you are here to kill Nazis in fashionable ways.

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Enemy AI was particularly dull in spots

For the most part, Machine Games holds true to the mechanics of old, and does a good job of bringing the game up to speed with modern sensibilities and options in play style, but The New Order is a balls to the wall shooter.

Blazkowicz can take a lot of fire.  The New Order isn’t a sit and wait shooter.  You won’t be waiting for enemies to pop their heads out of cover, so you can take them out at a distance.  Wolfenstein: The New Order, instead asks you charge straight in, with your weapon or weapon(s) at the ready.  Core gameplay features from previous games are here.  You’ll be tasked with constantly scavenging the environment for ammunition, shielding, and health.  There’s a nice mixture of both corridor and more open areas in the game, and it’s a satisfying feeling to go headlong into a straight away with two automatic shotguns blasting everything in sight.  While there’s plenty of this bombastic shooter experience in The New Order, it’s also more thoughtful in the way it gives you choices.

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Stealth plays a role in The New Order, and spices up the gameplay significantly if you so choose to take this route.  It’s entirely optional, but if you seek out enemy commanding officers, you can eliminate a lot of the potential enemies that will be found in a given area.  If you alert them, they’ll call in reinforcements that ratchet up the difficulty as you’ll see a significantly greater amount of resistance.  It’s fun either way, when its optional.  Though one of the glaring weak points for The New Order is when they force you into stealthy segments of gameplay.  The AI is bad, and noticeably so in these scenarios.  The New Order doesn’t keep you there long though.  It doesn’t keep you anywhere for too long.  Constantly changing up objectives, perspectives, and setting, the campaign really maintains a feeling of freshness.

Some of that fresh feeling  is attributable to the perk system as well.  While not entirely too deep in itself, playing with the right set of perks can change the game immensely, opening new avenues for you to explore, collectibles to find, or just buffs to make you a more formidable gunslinger.  Those who do get to collecting in Wolfenstein will have a lot on their hands.  Enigma Codes are strewn throughout every level, and if you find them all, you’ll have the ability to unlock different difficulty levels that place constraints on the player, such as permadeath, limited health/ammo caches  etc.  The amount of hidden items and goodies throughout the game are palpable, and as always, quite a fun addition to seek out. Also, making a choice early on dictates an alternate set of advantages in navigation and dialogue. You’ll be asked to choose between two men to die at the hands of the game’s antagonist.  Your choice will affect the game in that you’ll gain different abilities, secrets to uncover,  and the story line is altered insignificantly.  This does mean, however, that a single play through of the game won’t have you seeing all there is to see in the game.

Wolfenstein: The New Order harkens back to old school gameplay values.  A smart expansion of the Wolfenstein story, and plenty of options when it comes to how you choose to play, The New Order has proven to be different that a lot “mindless” shooters out there.   This has been done by sticking with the absolute basics of what makes shooters fun…shooting, and lots of it.  The New Order shines brightest when it takes your leash off, and lets you blaze guns in dramatic fashion.  It’s not a game that should work, really.  Plenty have tried to revive old school arcade shooters and bring them into a modern era, Machine Games is one of the first to truly succeed at it.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order

  • Available On: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Published By: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developed By: Machine Games
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: May 20th, 2014
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Wolfenstein: The New Order is not a game that should work, really. Plenty have tried to revive old school arcade shooters and bring them into a modern era, Machine Games is one of the first to truly succeed at it."
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