Advertisements

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Wolfenstein The New Order

I am always happy to welcome a new Wolfenstein game.  The previous Wolfenstein game from 2009 was slagged on certain quarters.  I would contend it was a bit underrated and overlooked.

I want to state upfront that this is game that merits a strong Mature rating most notably for some grim sequences and at least one very notable torture sequence that in my opinion was excessive and over the top.   You always have the choice to skip cutscenes so it’s not worth a federal case but I figured I would mention it as a courtesy heads up for people going into this game. This game pulls no punches.

Despite that this is a game that knows how to not take itself too seriously at the right times despite some extremely serious and dire situations.  Ultimately, it’s a really good and compelling single player FPS and for me it’s just what the doctor ordered because I feel like it’s been too long since a really good single player FPS came along and I think this is it.

Some favorable comparisons were made to the game Singularity. This is another overlooked and underrated gem and I will go ahead and make mention of that myself. There are some similarities in certain gameplay elements and at least one weapon tool that reminded me of Singularity and that’s a very good thing as far as I’m concerned.

Simply put: What we have here is a balls to the wall, bad ass first person shooter that delivers the goods.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 01

GRAPHICS:

Overall this is a very good looking and at times distinct looking game. The art direction is very impressive to me and enough so that I will very likely be buying the artbook for this game.

Id Tech 5 has potential to be a fantastic engine if developers can figure out how to handle its quirks. I’m starting to wonder what the prospects of that happening are. We have other new engines out there like Frostbite that just don’t have these kinds of issues.   Overall at this point I’m losing confidence in it or at the very least I’m losing confidence in developers being able to master it.

You can go to your favorite computer hardware break down site whether it be HardOCP, Guru3D, or whomever and they will break all of this down for you in much greater detail than I can here.

Thus far they have not been able to fully do so as some jarring texture pop in exists in this game as it did Rage before it.   If you played Rage you already know what to expect.

Is it a game breaker and end of the world? No. Is it annoying when it happens? Yes.

The game that scales pretty well and as of this writing has questionable SLI and Crossfire support that should get addressed in the near future.

As of the date I write this, there is no way to enable AA or AF and attempts to do so via GPU control panels and Steam launch options have not been successful. Despite this it’s a good looking game especially maxed out on the PC.   The game rewards you for exploring and being thorough so  you will have ample opportunity to appreciate some of the details incorporated into the game world.  A lot of sight gags and fun with alternate history are strewn throughout the game.  Enough effort was put into it that a fairly nice artbook for the game exists.  Despite the Id Tech 5 related quibbles I was impressed with the overall look of this game and care and attention to detail I saw in the game world.

I do expect some improvement on some of these issues over time depending on how much support this game gets post release and updated GPU drivers.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 02

AUDIO:

I have run across some complaints from people about a “lack of separation” in the audio. My own experience on my headphones I did not notice an appreciable issue and I’m someone that’s sensitive and picky about these sort of things.  On my setup, voices were clear and distinct from the rest of the game world.    I’m not saying there isn’t an issue. I’m simply saying I didn’t notice something appreciable.

The voice acting is solid throughout the game but major kudos and special mention has to go to  Dwight Schultz as Deathshead. How can you not love that?  Mad Dog Murdock. Lt. Barclay. He’s incredible. I couldn’t even tell it was him.  It will be an injustice of some sort of he doesn’t get some kind of award at the end of the year for his voice acting in this game.  He pulled a Mark Hamill “Joker” on this game.  I don’t know how I can heap any higher praise than that.

The music is hit and miss for me. Some of the guitar riffs during heavier action sequences wore out their welcome but were effective.  The opening menu riffs are good and set a tone.  For me, some of the best music in this game for me was during any of the quieter and more reflective times of story telling. Sound design is solid but this “separation” issue may merit a further look.   Weapons, articles in the game world, creaking floors, weather, you name it, it all sounds fantastic. I highly recommend cranking this game on your sound setup of choice. You will  have an extremely satisfying and immersive war zone experience.  The audio is a huge asset to that end.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 03

GAMEPLAY:

At its core it’s Wolfenstein. It’s violent, intense, and on occasion over the top. I can’t imagine a first person shooter fan being disappointed with this game.

Somehow this game takes some a lot of the standard FPS trappings, throws a few new wrinkles at them, and somehow brings it to altogether for an experience that is fresh and fun.

You can approach any situation either with stealth or go in guns blazing. When possible, the game does reward you for choosing to use stealth and explore. You certainly go in guns blazing any time you want but the situations I made the effort to use stealth in I was always glad that I did. Typically you will enter a scenario where there are station commanders who will set off alarms and make your life hell if you don’t take them out first. This is where stealth is ideal. If you take them out first then you don’t have to worry about alarms at all.

I found this to be a little too convenient. Like any grunt wouldn’t know how to bang a button on the wall and set off the alarm?  That goes against the previous Wolfenstein games just for starters and it just doesn’t make much sense. I understand that they wanted to make a concept where taking out the commanders had something extra going for it but methinks some further refinement and possibly different incentives could have been created as opposed to just that.

The laser cutter will become your best friend and its evolution throughout the course of the game is fantastic.

The AI leaves something to be desired. I am convinced that the huge day zero patch partially addressed this after a scandalous video went viral the week before the game’s release that showed an appalling breakdown of basic AI behavior that wouldn’t have flown 20 years ago let alone now.  I’m not sure what difficulty those people were playing this game at, either.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 04

I recommend playing at the higher difficulties to minimize those deficiencies. There are four difficulty levels in total. I played at second to highest difficulty on my first playthrough and I never had a situation with the AI that was even remotely close to that scandalous viral video.

On my first playthrough I played on second to highest difficulty and I found myself in intense situations and healthy challenges where I died a number of times.  As I would have hoped for, I had a number of instances where enemies would catch a glimpse of me in passing while I was sneaking around at a certain believable distance and react like “What was that?” or some variant thereof.

I do see people out there saying they played the game at maximum difficulty and it was still super easy for them.  All I can figure is they are likely better players than I am because I had a number of boss fights and situations like that where I was getting killed plenty.  I definitely have seen better AI in other games but I think for a large body of people out there if you go into this at higher difficulties you should get something respectable out of this.

I encourage people to not rush through this game. Take your time to explore the game world so you can pick up collectibles, loot, and very interesting anecdotes and backdrop story about the alternate history you are playing in.  The game unlocks various perks according to gameplay styles and approaches. You can press the appropriate key (default J) to see your perks and see what you would need to do to unlock another perk on a given gameplay track. This is a neat feature that rewards you as you play how you want but it also encourages people to experiment with different approaches for the sake of unlocking more perks.  This helps for potential replay value.

My first playthrough lasted a total of 13 hours. For a single player FPS in this day and age that’s pretty good.  Despite my attempts to explore my hidden treasure/goodie gathering was barely above 50 percent as a frame of reference.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 05

STORY

The narrative in this game overachieved and was a pleasant surprise considering the type of game that this is.

This entire series has been couched in a compelling alternate history timeline where the Nazis gain power and ultimately win out and it’s mostly you with the help of a band of rebels against impossible odds. As you would probably expect by now from this series things are played larger than life and over the top.

The game opens three years after the events of the 2009 Wolfenstein game.  It’s 1946 and the Nazis are basically dominating and already have some amazing technological advances that just shouldn’t be.

The game starts you in what can be considered a glorified tutorial for the opening level. I didn’t mind this because it introduced some of the new gameplay elements and got things rolling right away. Early on the game seems to be little more than a standard FPS corridor shooter with nothing compelling in the storyline except intros and setup… until a certain event takes place where you as the player are forced to make a life and death decision on two key characters that split the game into two different timelines which guarantees some sort of replay value. It was at this point I realized this story was going to have some meat to it and I was correct.

The entire story pivots on this and the fallout from this event has BJ out of action until 1960. This is a 1960 where the Nazis have dominated the entire planet and are at least hundred years ahead of the curve on technology vs the real 1960.   From here on out the story becomes a well executed one of absolution, revenge, and turning the tide against truly impossible odds. The story doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself too seriously despite some admittedly very grim and serious situations.

As mentioned before, this game is a very strong M for Mature game. This isn’t a game for young kids.  These are Nazis and no punches are pulled especially when they are precursors to the evil Empire out of the Star Wars films for all intents and purposes.

Solid voice acting helps and the game is well written for this kind of over the top action adventure. It’s not Shakespeare but each character gets some moments to stand out and get fleshed out, especially if you take your time to do the little side quests in between main missions.  Blackowitz is likable and often mutters humorous one liners but he’s given some dimension that makes him more than just a Duke Nuke Em variant.  He’s sympathetic and has some depth to him that you normally don’t see for this kind of action first person shooter.

The supporting cast is distinct and supported by solid voice acting and I was impressed that each character was given at least one moment to shine through the course of the game. I felt the writing was strong for a game like this and it added some depth that you don’t typically see in these kind of more violent and fast paced first person shooters. Even BJ himself is given some depth in this game that he hasn’t had before and that goes a long ways to having the player care about him and the other characters and therefore adds to the emotional impact of events that take place.  It’s very well done for what it is.

The entire series is obviously couched in alternate history. In this alternate history the Nazis gain power and ultimately win.   Each game has been a “soft sequel” to the game before it which means you have some continuity with certain events and characters but dogmatic attempts to stick to continuity are not taken. It’s not a problem for this kind of game.  For example, there’s a certain character that was killed in the previous game 2009 Wolfenstein game that makes an improbable return and is established as the strongest secondary character in the series for sure after this game.   We all knew we would see Deathshead again and there would be ramifications and consequences for events in previous games.  Deathshead evil is taken to another level in this game.

I have no doubts that there will be another Wolfenstein game in the future and I’m looking forward to it. Without giving away any story details, I am left wondering “where do they go from here?”  but that speculation is part of the fun.

Wolfenstein Screenshot 06

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Overall, this is the best single player first person shooter I have played in a long time. We really don’t get a lot of these since the FPS market has largely gone multiplayer.  I celebrate any solid single player experience these days regardless of genre because that still is my personal preference far and away.

This game is fresh, fun, and intense. It has some replay value thanks to the perks tree and the hard choice you have to make early on that branches into two timelines.

The last first person shooter that took me by pleasant surprise was Singularity and I’m just going to close this review out with a recommendation on that overlooked and underrated gem because this game borrowed a few gameplay concepts from that one.

It’s a safe bet that if you liked one you will like the other as well.

Wolfenstein: The New Order gets a four out of five: GREAT.

Advertisements

Join the Discussion, Share Your Opinion Below

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: