Game Review: Wolfenstein The New Order

Wolfenstein The New Order

This is the sequel we’ve been waiting for! Our boy, Blazko is back! And in this installment, weird and wild Nazi super-science creates even more strange adversaries to plaster with lead! Now, this wouldn’t be complete without an alternate timeline and everything! But, The New Order takes it a step further. The Year is 1960, we lost WWII, and the Nazis rule over the world! Despite Captain Blazkowics’ failure to stop Deathshead all those years ago, he’s back to set things right! More after the jump…

The prologue takes place in an alternate WWII, with the Nazis in a lead thanks to Deathshead’s technology! Blazko, Wyatt, and Fergus smash their way through a retro-style Wolfenstein castle. They make their way to take down the head of operations himself, only to end up a trap! He sort of offers Blazko a chance to escape after he chooses which comrade dies. The rest of the team make their getaway before Blazkowics is smashed in the back of his bed by shrapnel before plummeting into water. For 14 years, he’s kept in a Polish asylum before Deathshead shuts them down. Blaszkowics snaps out of his long daze and FIGHTS SOME NAZI SCUM! With the help of the head doctor’s daughter, Anya and her grandparents, he makes his way to a resistance base. On a comfy train ride to Berlin, he meets Frau Engel and her douchey companion called “Bubi”. After that run-in, he sneaks his way towards a secret base right in the heart of Berlin! From there, Blazkowics and the resistance must obtain a genius engineer from a Jewish secret society, steal a nuclear weapons code, and grab some aerial vehicles before taking the fight to Deathshead on his own private island! After Blazko smashes his way towards Deathshead’s chambers, he gets ambushed by Bubi. Fortunately, it’s easy to take out the annoying little fucker. After fighting the companion you fail to save, Deathshead gets sick of your shit and fights you himself! Deathshead blows himself up in last ditch effort as Blazko gives a heroic A-OK to nuke the island while he’s still on it, as Anya leads prisoners and resistance fighters back to their crafts in victory.

So, the story isn’t half bad at all. It does a pretty good job at exploring a post-WWII society if the Nazis won, even if it is through a retrofuturistic lens a la classic Wolfenstein! In fact, this alternate timeline ranges from fascinating to downright hilarious to see the historical parallels between our world and the Nazi-occupied one. Whether it’s the Wolfenstein parallel of The Beatles or Germany landing the first man on the moon (pay attention to his name!), there are many wonderful details to keep an eye out for.

In terms of visuals, some were more interesting than others. The highlight for me was overworld Berlin! It felt like a fascist controlled nightmare; a mix of Fascist Aesthetics, Big Brother’s Oceania, and Half-Life 2’s City 17! From the train ride there to the battles taking place on the streets themselves, it felt like the setting was an antagonist on its own! Other environments like London Nautica, Deathshead’s personal science museum, and a NAZI MOON BASE were wonderful experiences to crawl and shoot through, both embracing this bizarro alt-future of high technology and Nazi overlords. Plus, all the throwbacks to the classics during the beginning and endings of the game were a nice touch. Blasting your way through grimy old castle corridors that are crawling with cyborg Nazis was a nostalgic treat! I wish I could say the same about the underground missions and the mining camp felt pretty dull to me.

Control wise, results varied. Just to get this out of the way, the stealth mechanics were relatively broken. As long as the enemy’s not facing you, it would be same to assume you could dance or moon them and they wouldn’t notice. To have AI that stupid, when it was otherwise pretty fine, really hurt the immersion. But, when the AI feels right, it’s glorious. Ranking up stealth kills can be pretty fun as well! Also, there’s quite a bit at stake for failing stealth; as enemies will signal for backup immediately! As for more tactical play, it proved to be pretty engaging and fun. While some enemies were a drag to take down, others proved to be a fun challenge. The guns themselves were cool and retro, designed with an alternate history Germany in mind! In fact, the ammunition was interesting as this wasn’t using pea shooters here! When you shot those bullets, it looked like huge slugs slamming into your enemy. You could SEE the damage! One new addition that Machinegames brought to the table was trainable skill charts, which felt pretty Fallout-esque. It was very rewarding to level up your skills and unlocking new ones through a variety of combat styles! More nuanced stuff like prompts for obtaining items rather than automatically collecting them added an old school touch.

One thing that kinda bummed me out was that the game was marketed as a tongue-in-cheek madness filled romp. Sure, we got some of that, but not to the degree that tons of people assumed. Now, I’m not saying this game needed MECHA HITLER, but it would have been a nice touch. I’m just saying the game seriously needed to lighten up, especially considering it’s Wolfenstein. Plus, I could have done with the hero-does-a-heroic-sacrifice trope that seems to be super popular these days. It’s not a bad plot device, just not for Wolfenstein. I know they were trying to give more attention to Anya, but the ending just seems like they ran out of time on production and feels way too far from plot and character. I have my own headcannons by all means, besides that this ending feels like sequel bait to me. Since Bethesda was involved with this game, I was honestly surprised we didn’t see their trademark self-aware dark comedy being more prevalent. But, since this game was made by the creators of The Darkness and Riddick, I’m not sure what I should have expected. Another thing that I feel we got cheated out of was a boss battle with Frau Engel. After Bubi was taken out of the picture, I figured we were going to have a large staged battle with Engel next, before or after Deathshead. There was so much set up and potential too.

This wasn’t to say that this didn’t feel like a living and breathing world. Despite the overused trope of Nazis, as well as the fact “Nazis Win WWII” is likely an equally used alt-history trope; the writing made up for it for the most part. Subtle actions from the characters themselves helped to make the game for me! From the jittery motions and anxious stress of Tekla to the sadistic smile and mocking tone of Frau Engel, each character felt believable in their role in this world. All of this is reinforced with some top notch voice acting to further flesh out the characters. The NPC chatter, ambiance, and music only adds another layer of awesome to everything as well! Whether it’s a kickass soundtrack, or the words of rage from Nazi grunts as you backstab and blast your way through, everything felt in place.

So, would I call this game of the year? That’s what I was hoping for, but I can’t quite do that. That isn’t to say that The New Order didn’t resonate with me on some level, because I had a great time from start to finish. Save for a few hiccups, I never really felt bored or disparaged in the game. All in all, it was a very fun and nostalgic experience.

Wolfenstein the New Order gets 7 and 1/2 exploded Nazi heads out of 10. Mond, Mond; Ja, Ja!

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