It’s been five years since the name Wolfenstein emerged in gaming and back then it was met with dislike due to its vast blandness. Having lost its charm the series was put aside for awhile, seemingly waiting to be redeveloped for the next generation to appreciate. With the latest franchise addition, Wolfenstein: New Order, developers Machinegames decided to take the old school FPS approach and mix it up with some new dynamic juices from the modern era of gaming. So, how has the revamp gone? Fairly well, but the title isn’t without some major setbacks.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun, engrossing and grips you on an emotional level. The action is entertaining and well crafted, with some old school FPS tactics being employed. You get to carry multiple weapons at once and everything has an explosive punch along with a pretty detailed gore system, which heightens the combat experience. Some weapons do have odd sound effects though that make them feel slightly weak, such as the particle based weapons, which don’t sound as awesome or have the same impact when firing compared to other shooters like, for example, Battlefield 4.
The return of dual-wielding weapons is welcome, only adding to its old school charm. While The New Order‘s world is lovingly designed, giving the player something enjoyable and immersive to explore. There’s also a vast number of these locations, including the freaking Moon, which looks amazing! However, the game does feel slightly confined as you often feel trapped in large structures and only see the vast open world in the distance. It would have been nice to explore more of the outside world, such as a huge city area, like Half Life 2‘s City 17 perhaps. This could’ve hosted a massive gun fight or two or included more interesting driving sections that differ from the standard FPS experience.
Stealth’s the newest series feature to be added in The New Order, as players can choose what style of mayhem to take: loud and destructive or silent and deadly. It’s a great mechanic that lends a good deal of diversity to the gameplay, allowing you to pick up a knife and stab an enemy in the back of the head if you get bored of the gun-ho tactics. Delightfully, you’re rewarded for using stealth and you gain tips on finding hidden secrets. I also enjoyed the idea of relying more on your own senses as opposed to a radar or a mechanic that allows you to see through walls.
The actual execution of the stealth though is slightly underwhelming as it’s too simplistic, mostly due to the poor AI. It’s tough to play through an area and feel victorious when all the bad guys walk into their own corners, blank you or ignore dead bodies before succumbing to their own gruesome deaths. This sneaky approach in The New Order is a nice idea, but better executed in games like Splinter Cell: Blacklist or even Thief, as the stealth element in those feel more constructive.
The New Order‘s biggest issue though, is its underdeveloped choice-making. Early in the game, you, play as Captain William Blazkowicz and have to choose between a close friend or a young private who saved your life. It’s a tough choice, not only for the main protagonist, but for anyone with a heart thanks to the game’s great characterization. The choice will result in the survivor following you, Blazkowicz, in your journey through an alternative, Nazi filled timeline. Each of the two survivors will give you certain gameplay adjustments and advantages depending on who you choose. They are small changes, though, like the ability to pick either a lock or hack a key pad, finding either armor or health upgrades and, of course, different character models in the cut scenes.
I personally would’ve liked something more dynamic like different missions, story arcs, or alternate endings to bring some sort of diversity to the campaign. There was a chance for the game to have vast campaign opportunities, meaning greater replay value, but sadly, it wasn’t explored enough. Even with the developers pleading with us that the game had huge replay value, in all honesty it didn’t.
I’d agree that if a campaign’s long enough, like Fallout 3 or Skyrim’s, you don’t need a multiplayer mode. The campaign here, however, is pretty short-lived and hardly repayable. Both timelines are near-identical, just with a different supporting character and some very minor changes in gameplay. In this case, I definitely would’ve preferred a multiplayer option.
There are a vast amount of secrets and unlockables in The New Order, giving the game new modes to play and items to look out for after completion. This is a mixed bag as some secrets, such as the hidden areas and enigma codes are pretty cool to find, but then you get the bland, generic objects to find that have no real value or unlock anything useful.
The additional game modes are fun and a nod to old school FPS titles but these inclusions aren’t enough to make you want go through the game again and again. More substantial additions and secrets would’ve been nice or even a longer campaign. The game does have great emotional depth and characterization, though. The New Order offers you a truly heartfelt experience, one in which I developed a love/hate connection to the characters of Wolfenstein, as they had such interesting and well written identities. Along with the models being animated and designed so well, you can also feel an emotional connection by just observing the characters facial expressions.
Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s desire to bring us a more mature, unique FPS than Call of Duty, is certainly respectable, but Machine Games falls short with one big, underdeveloped game that, if done properly, could’ve been the ultimate shooter. The extras in the game could’ve more varied with the addition of other rewards and unlockables to boost the replay value. The New Order’s still an enjoyable, but only worth a rental or bargain bin buy. If you’re like me, the only reason you may want to buy The New Order is purely for the Doom Beta, which sadly it was.