So I’ve just finished playing through the Wyatt storyline of Wolfenstein: The New Order. I’m going to come clear and admit I never played the original games. However, from what I’ve read, William Blaskowicz may as well be an unmasked Doomguy in the originals. There is however, a lot more to sink your teeth into in this dive into the universe dominated by Nazis.
Me right now: I actually finished this game back in September, but I’ve only just gotten-round to finishing my bloody review for it. Oops.
You start off in the thick of it. The game thrusts you into a partnership quite early-on, as you already seem to know Fergus Reid at the open of the first cutscene, and you very quickly meet Probst Wyatt III. These two represent two different storylines you can take, and as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I went with Wyatt’s storyline on my first playthrough. (foreshadowing is a bitch) The opening act of the game felt like it was trying to accomplish more than it did: A daring, Mission Impossible-esque raid on General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse’s ginormous and very bloody Nazi-looking compound. Seriously, it’s actually a good take on the nazi fixation with concrete and gothic architecture. It’s quite terrific. You’re quickly thrust into the conflict, and as you take down a few Nazis your arsenal starts to expand slightly, giving you a taste of the destructive potential to come from the experience awaiting you. As a fan of shooters, especially the likes of Doom, which pits you- an everyday average Joe, controlling a harbinger of death and destruction equipped with an arsenal that would make Kim Jong-Un squeal in trepidation, against a horde of weaklings, I enjoyed Wolfenstein’s similar combat mechanics. The game wants to put you in the thick of it from the start, but actually the opening scene is pretty bogged-down with ammo-collecting and more-of-the-same combat scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, at first it’s a lot of fun lighting up weak Nazis, and yeah introductions introduce you to the basics before challenging you. Wolfenstein’s pacing is actually quite good in that the challenges get progressively harder as the game goes on. My issue is that the opening scene was intended to be huge, but was actually quite contained. That’s not a big problem, but it does make you expect a lot more. In actual fact, you’re going to spend the majority of this game in hallways, big rooms, small rooms, and contained courtyards. It’s not as explosive as it tries to suggest.
I’m not going to go into bit-by-bit detail about the campaign, because it’s actually quite formulaic in its mechanics: you shoot up a load of Nazis, and then there’s some harder Nazis to kill, and sometimes some mechanised Nazis. In each arena you operate in, there’s grenades, weapon upgrades, and plenty of health, armour and spare ammo to get you by. Sometimes there’s routes carved out that will make it easier for you to either sneak around your enemies and avoid conflict altogether, or to allow you to sneak around and pick enemies off. As a shooter, Wolfenstein nails that basic formula of gradually ramping up the challenge for you. This is a game best played on the harder difficulties, especially with all that ammo and health lying around for you. I never got bored of following that basic formula, and I think that shows how this game succeeds as a shooter. It’s fluid, it’s just about challenging enough, and it’s so much fun exploding Nazis! It’s not the best shooter I’ve ever played, but I think it’s made better by the characters that populate it, and the lore that surrounds it and gives context to the surroundings you decorate with the scarlet paint of Nazi innards. All that is what gives this game its special flavour. It’s a good but not amazing shooter locked inside a universe that had me wanting to learn more right from the start. That’s what kept me hooked.
Wolfenstein, from what I know, was born around the same time as Doom. Both are pioneers of the FPS genre. Both are also headed by ultra-badass, but completely siloutted, Men. By siloutted I mean there’s nothing to see. You don’t even really get to see what the character looks like unless you really delve deep. There’s still talk now of what Doomguy actually bloody looks like! Blasko, although he had a human face, was literally nothing more than a way for you to envisage yourself peering down the sights of whatever weird and wonderful weapon he happened to be brandishing in the face of everyone’s favourite thing to blow to pieces other than screaming demons from Hell: A Nazi.
However, things have changed a little bit now, and people crave meaningful characters. Not that developers will capitulate to that kind of demand easily- the latest Doom game was a faceless steamroller of a shooter. Nonetheless, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game driven by its very human characters. Blasko, although still a meathead, has to struggle with the reality of his situation. He’s seen the absolute worst of humanity. Historically, we know the Nazis had a fixation with science. On the one hand, you have biological racism, and on the other, you have the obsession with progress, and technological advancement. Imagine a world where Joseph Mengele had complete freedom to do as he pleased, and with seemingly infinite resources. Wolfenstein captures horrifyingly, in the context of a video game made to entertain, what a modern Nazi world could look like. Blasko has seen the furthest extent of unhinged Nazi cruelty, and he’s a man struggling to carry on. It makes him so relatable. At points in the game, you hear him thinking to himself. Sometimes he thinks these long and dark monologues, which to be honest don’t really do much to advance his character. What is powerful, however, is when he reminds himself to count to four, inhale, count to four again, and then exhale. I’ve practiced breathing techniques like this so many times to calm my own anxiety. On many occasions he also practices this breathing technique, and it really succeeds in making him a very human character. That is until he survives a grenade blast that leaves Deathshead lying in pieces at the end of the game. I guess you just can’t escape the invulnerability that surrounds these protagonists. To go back to the point, Blasko is a Man trying to stay strong amidst all that is going on around him, and it’s refreshing to know that he’s not just bearing all that weight on his shoulders without even breaking a sweat.
The side characters, whilst interesting-enough, are there mostly to enable the protagonist. Taken together, they form a likeable band of resistance fighters, and it’s easy to root for them in the fight against Nazi tyranny. They make you feel more involved in the game. Again, The New Order is more than just a “shoot everything that moves” kind of game. It contains intimate moments between characters in it’s well-acted and frequent but not too frequent cutscenes. The characters, whilst not too interesting in their own right, enrich the overall experience, which I think is better, anyway.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a really good game. However, it isn’t a perfect game. No game is. The shooting is fun, but it gets bogged-down by the fact that to actually pick up ammo and health you have to press a button to pick it up. This seems like a minor issue, but The New Order is a pretty fast-paced shooter at it’s best, and this tempo doesn’t mix well with the fact you have to actually pick things up rather than just run over them. Picking things up by just running over them would enable you to focus solely on enjoying a good old parlay with your Nazi compatriots.
Wolfenstein: The New Order was so much fun to play! I didn’t want to put the pad down, not just because the shooting was a blast, (yeah, I hate myself) but because you actually care about what’s going-on. The cutscenes in this game are so well-crafted that they don’t detract from the overall experience. You don’t enter a cutscene hammering buttons so you can carry on slaughtering Nazi’s. If that were the case, I’d have gotten bored after a while. I like senseless violence, but I like my senseless violence with a hint of plot. The New Order gives you an interesting-enough plot to give you something else to enjoy, and that means that when the senseless violence does resume, it’s like you’ve had a nice break and you’re ready to do it all again. At times, the fast-paced fights are slowed-down and made slightly meticulous by the fact you have to use button-prompts to collect ammunition, but this is just one gripe. Overall, The New Order was such a fun game to play. It’s a reyt good shooter and if you haven’t already played it, you can get it for cheap at any 2nd hand retailer like CeX and have yourself a grand old time.