This review contains some very light spoilers
The Wolfenstein series, which is credited for creating the standards of the FPS genre, has evolved and adapted over the last 30 years. The games have been (generally) well received by fans and critics, but have stayed out of the spotlight. Wolfenstein: The New Order (New Order) takes a somewhat different approach to the idea of a WWII shooter. Instead of the traditional Wolfenstein story of blasting your way through Nazi castles and strongholds in the 40’s, New Order has our beloved B.J. Blazkowicz acting as a resistance fighter in a world where Nazi Germany won WWII. Alternate histories like this have been done in video games before, but does New Order stand out from the crowd? Let’s find out.
The story begins in 1946, with Blazkowicz and the forces of the OSA flying to assault the fortress of General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. After fighting your way through his castle and making a choice which splits the game into two timelines, Blazkowicz is hit in the head with shrapnel while escaping. The game then lapses in time, where Blazkowicz is being cared for in a Polish insane asylum. The damage caused by the shrapnel rendered our hero to a vegetative state and he has been idle for 14 years. He regains control while the Nazis are purging the facility and killing the patients. You rescue the head doctor’s daughter, Anya, from being taken by the Nazis and set out to find the Resistance. The rest of the game takes place throughout Nazi Germany, with Blazkowicz rescuing comrades, destroying forced-labor camps, and, most importantly, stabbing a lot of Nazis.
I have to admit, when I first started up New Order, I was pretty underwhelmed. I hadn’t read any spoilers, not even the game’s own description. So, I was worried that the entire game was going to be like the previous Wolfenstein games. After running through trenches, shooting Nazis and stabbing dogs, the plot of the game started to form. I was totally caught off guard by the second chapter and the realization that there was going to be an actual plot to this game. After completing the 15+ hour campaign, I can easily say that New Order has one of the better stories I’ve seen in the First-Person Shooter genre. There are a multitude of characters that have meaningful interaction with you and the story, some interesting twists and turns, and in classic Wolfenstein fashion, some technological mysticism. The two different timelines are a welcome addition to the story of the game, but aren’t significant enough to really change the events of the campaign.
The gameplay of New Order follows a recent trend in FPS games, allowing you to decide how to approach situations. Unlike traditional shooters, New Order has plenty of opportunity for stealth. When you reach certain areas of the game, it will show that there are Nazi commanders in the area. The goal then becomes to eliminate all the commanders in the area, but if they are alerted, they will continuously call in reinforcements. So, you can always just blast your way through all of the enemies until you kill the commander and any reinforcements they’ve called in, but my personal favorite way to complete a section was to sneak around and kill each of the enemies one-by-one. The stealth in New Order isn’t the most advanced or technical mechanic I’ve seen. It’s mostly just staying out of direct sight of the badguys and doing stealth takedowns from behind them. But, it is supremely satisfying to use the silenced pistol and throwing knives to Predator your way through an enemy stronghold. The other mechanic introduced in New Order is the leaning function. Now, leaning is nothing new to shooters, but New Order allows you to hold the left bumper button and use the left thumbstick to move in every direction. So, you can look over cover, under boxes or vehicles, and look around obstacles. I actually used this quite a bit, since I could hide behind some shelving, then use the leaning to get the perfect shot on someone without exposing myself.
Visually, New Order isn’t the most incredible game. Playing on the Xbox One, games like Ryse or Thief were much better looking. Excluding the cutscenes, New Order still falls into that generational gap between the new and old technology. Of course, that could have something to do with it being released on both previous and current gen consoles, as well as PC. (No Wii U version, though. Sorry guys.) But, the lackluster visuals are more than made up for with sound design. The guns sound fantastic, parts blow off of people with a satisfying, “Squish!”, and the voice acting is top notch.
There is no multiplayer in New Order, or any other game modes, for that matter. At first, I was a little miffed about the lack of multiplayer, but as I played and beat the game, I saw that the developers had a story to tell. No reason to clutter a good game with a half-assed multiplayer tacked on at the end. So, I can’t really fault them for that. What does bother me is the lack of any other way to play the game. There are cheats that can be unlocked and there’s always the Uber difficulty to play on, but that’s about it. This really limits the amount of replayability for New Order. Really, my only gripe about this game is that there isn’t more to do in it. I’ve completed the game, but I don’t have much reason to continue playing, unless I just want to replay the same levels. I usually don’t say this, but New Order is ripe for some DLC.
The achievement list is pretty uninspired, with no real unique or interesting challenges. There are achievements for unlocking each of the perks for your character, beating the hardest difficulties, and finding all of the collectibles. I mopped up 800/1,000 points from one playthrough and reloading a couple of chapters. While it may not be the most exciting list of achievements, it is easy. So, you Achievement Hounds should certainly look into New Order. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a game is enjoyable and an easy completion for achievements.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fantastic mix of stealth/shooter combat, well written story and dialogue, and campy Nazi-blasting fun. It stands out in the Wolfenstein franchise and I can only hope that the series doesn’t end here. While it lacks any real replayability, that doesn’t take away from the incredibly enjoyable experience of playing through the campaign. Unless some additional content comes out, you may want to rent this one and beat it. But, I know I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed in owning this game and going back in a few months to tackle the Uber difficulty.
I give Wolfenstein: The New Order 4 “Moonraker Laser Rifles” out of 5
By Blake Edwards