Note: The following review is SPOILER FREE!
For each of us, there was a point where we learned (or soon will learn) all about World War II. It’s fitting that we focus on the horrible things Adolf Hitler was able to accomplish during the Holocaust by way of the Nazi Regime. “Wolfenstein: The New Order” spins a variation of the story where the USA was not joined by Great Britain and the Soviet Union to stop the Nazi party from taking over all of Europe. It instead places you in the scarred psyche of William ‘B.J.’ Blazkowicz. When he awakes from a catatonic state, he discover that he not only spent the last 14 years in it, but also that the Nazi party won the second World War and has taken over the world.
This spin on the source material is where “The New Order” shines the brightest. Blazkowicz goes throughout his journey interacting with all the different things the Nazi party is doing with no fear of reprisal. Experimenting on mental patients, building bridges to unite continents and essentially placing checkpoints and strongholds all over the world ring with a sense of truth to what they would really do during this situation. The story unfolds very well in thanks to the writers of the game and voice acting from the cast. There is a compassion and anger to Blazkowicz that had every opportunity to fall short and become another “dumb shooter.” Instead, there are character moments where Blazkowicz is in pain over decisions he has to make, when he mourns the loss of a friend or struggles with his situation overall. This all gives you an excellent way to keep you wanting to play the game to see his conclusion realized.
The beginning of the game drops you straight into the action, riding along with a pilot during WWII, taking all kinds of fire from Nazi aircraft. The tutorial takes place during that time, teaching you how to interact with your environment. The biggest issue I have noticed with “The New Order” is how finicky the interaction button is. Most of the time you will need to stare directly at an object in order to pick it up or interact with it. The rest of the time you can just walk over it and smash “Square” to pick up whatever weapon or armor you walk over.
You will use all your basic first-person shooter knowledge to get through this game. Picking up health bags and various armor can increase your life and shield bars, both aiding in keeping you alive. Using stealth to take out a captain or your arsenal of pistols and rifles to dual wield are both liable ways to get out of a Nazi or robotic dog swarming situation. Those “up-close holy crap” situations are the only time you’ll need go akimbo as the accuracy from long range is awful, and rightly so.
The skill tree that unlocks your ability is different in the sense that it unlocks as you switch up your gameplay. You won’t be cashing in exp. in order to unlock better gear or equipment. Instead, you’ll be doing specific kills or attacks before unlocking the next upgrade for your character. It works because it forces you to experience the game on a broad level, not just find what works early on and to do only that and get sucked into the repetition of the game.
The architecture in each area is very well put together. One of the standout scenes is in the intro when your plane crashes and are attacked by several giant robotic creatures. The lip syncing works well during the cutscenes, and while every once in a while a character would freeze frame mid conversation and do nothing, it was such a rare enough occurrence that it didn’t take me completely out of the gameplay, but is worth mentioning.
Without very good writing and voice acting, the narrative would have been given the opportunity to fall flat and slide into the mindless shooter category. Instead, the moments between Blazkowicz (voiced by Brian Bloom) and Anya (voiced by Alicja Bachleda) are very strong. There are other great moments with an older family of Polish survivors around a dinner table, explaining what exactly happened to make the USA fall that plays particularly well because of the language barrier they’re trying to overcome. It added a sense of realism to the conversation that I’ve had when speaking to a friend from another country.
The sound FX of the game are all solid. The mixture of music playing behind the cutscenes and throughout the action work well, the levels of the voice actors all match up nicely and the sounds from you walking, shooting and picking up items are well situated and used throughout the game to help immerse you into “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” I particularly liked the blend of languages throughout the game, it adds a real feel of being a dislocated American trapped abroad, struggling to understand languages you don’t speak.
Despite a few issues with gameplay interfacing, “Wolfenstein: The New Order” is a welcome return from a franchise that has been helping to define the shooting genre since 1981. You’ll have a great time blasting Nazis as you progress through this unique take on historical events.
Are you surprised at the amount of depth that “Wolfenstein: The New Order” has? Think the game sticks pretty close to its roots? All hail the commenters who blast the comment sections with opinionated texts below.
*This review of "Wolfenstein: The New Order" is based off playing a retail copy of the game on the PlayStation 4 console.
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