Set in both the 1940’s and 1960’s Wolfenstein: The New Order is the story of an alternate future where the Nazi’s won the second world war and ultimately conquered the world. You play William “BJ” Blazkowicz as he fights to bring down the psychopathic General Deathshead, a maniacal scientist who turned the tide of war through stolen futuristic technology and seeks to bring the world to its knees.
At first I was confused when playing this game as BJ was a meathead, who had spent his previous games gunning down nazi’s with over the top guns. The New Order felt so serious, but as I played through I was exposed to all the subtle nuances and then it all clicked.
Machine Games have done a fantastic job of mirroring the story of Wolfenstein the game, into the story of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Both William “BJ” Blazkowicz, and the Wolfenstein “game” are out of time. The protagonist is a blunt instrument whos sole purpose is to gun down Nazi’s. More modern first person shooters (FPS) games require main characters to have a back story, motivation, and emotional baggage. BJ however is a relic of a different time in both gaming and in his story. One minute he is in the trenches of 1940 and the next minute the world has grown up around him as he sits like a vegetable with shrapnel lodged in his brain, leaving him behind. It’s done cleverly and subtly and never draws attention to the fact. For this I applaud you machine games.
The two worlds of first person shooters have been merged together beautifully and many of the distinct features of the original have been retained. BJ can carry all of his weapons at once which might seem unrealistic compared to modern shooters but adds an extra depth to the game as you can change your tactics for different firefights. You can decide whether or not to take then out quietly with a knife or silenced pistol, steadily moe them down from cover using an assault rifle or go in all guns blazing with dual wield automatic shotguns.
The levels look and play beautifully with a selection of close combat corridors, to larger arena style battles. Each level is different to the last as BJ is taken from concentration camp to a moon base and despite the overall dreary colour palette, you can forgive them due to the nature of game. Machine games have done a sterling job of conveying a crushed world, which is most poignantly seen when the player gazes over the London skyline. The view of buildings littered with swastikas, newly added oppressive structures and the ever watching robotic eye of the London Monitor really support the feeling of desperation.
Killing Nazi’s is still fun and made easier by the fact they are now mainly faceless armoured soldiers, mechanically augmented soldiers and brain controlled mechs who have literally had their morals and compassion removed by the evil villain, General Deathshead. Any worry that you might be shooting the innocent who are simply following orders is wiped out when the soldiers shoot bed ridden mental patients in front of you, bomb innocent people and slice and dice anyone who stands in their way. Even during a brief meeting on train where the evil Frau Engel quizzes you, they ooze evil making bringing on their demise so much more satisfying.
Both the stealth mechanic and cover mechanics are simple but well implemented. Each level can be tackled differently depending on your play style and the player is rewarded with ‘perks’ accordingly. The perks may only reward you with extra ammo capacity or increase health, but the very fact it exists encourages the player to try playing levels differently to unlock the myriad of achievements.
The commander mechanic is also a nice touch as these high ranking officials have the ability to call in more troops meaning players will want to take these out quickly and if possible, quietly.
It weird to think of a character like BJ actually having a love interest but his story works well and even the sex scene is tastefully done. Supporting characters are well acted and their very ‘broken’ nature fit so nicely with the fact that BJ is a relic himself. The rag-tag team of a crippled soldier, a mentally unstable strategist, a mentally disabled ‘man-boy’, an emotionally broken ex-nazi and a Scottish soldier with a grunge against you for saving him. The various parts work together to create a wonderful whole.
I can’t praise Machine Games enough for handling what really is a difficult game and concept so well. I think this title is going to be Mis-understood by many and criticised for not fitting into the modern day FPS mould but over time this will be appreciated by more and more.
Despite all of its features, it does have a few niggles which that detract from the experience. The enemy Ai is not always great and some of the later levels are actually easier then some of the early ones. My main gripe was the home base levels which consisted of a number of fetch-quests designed to pad out the game time so thy can boast a 20 hour game experience. These levels are ok for introducing supporting characters and for helping the player connect with then but I didn’t enjoy delivering notes and collecting drills just to increase the game time. The lack of a multiplayer does reduce the replayability but the split path narrative and slew of collectables to get should keep most bargain hunters busy.
I came into this game thinking I was getting a Duke Nukem style shooter but left feeling like I had played a well thought out and considered homage to not only the Wolfenstein franchise but also to the original FPS games of the 90’s. This has to be one of my top three games of the generation so far and whilst it has its issues I found it refreshing to be back playing a single player focused shooter. I would definitely recommend it.
Did you find the classic Wolfenstein 3D game hidden within The New Order?