Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review (PS4/ Xbox One/ PC)

There aren’t many first-person shooters that can raise a smile via gunning down waves of enemies, only to stop you in your tracks and make you question some pretty heavy topics. Dual wielding machine guns while unleashing hell one bullet at a time in one moment, mulling over racism and oppression the next. Wolfenstein: The New Order is far from what was expected.

Franchise protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz is back, complete with a voice and high-definition chin, and once again he’s battling the Third Reich. The New Order opens with a brief mission set during, what should be, the end of World War 2, as B.J. and his team assault a Nazi compound.

Right from the start, the tones and themes of New Order are laid out: robotic Nazi Dogs; Frankenstein-like super-soldiers; and giant mechanical units dominating the field. The opening mission acts as a tutorial as well as an introduction to the game’s antagonist, General Deathead, climaxing in a choice that impacts the rest of the game. The story then picks up some years later, in a world where the Nazis have gone on to global domination.

The alternative timeline is the perfect place for traditional Wolfenstein enemy designs to make an appearance. There’s a number of times in which the enemy design is genuinely impressive due to their sheer twisted creativity. Their over-the-top nature feeds into the desired tone of the game. At least for the most part. The New Order doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously, but at times its nature comes into conflict with the more somber moments of the game. For example, a number of times a cutscene will focus on the horrors of war, while there’s also a short scene in which the topic of racism is touched upon. While these sections are well done and give the game a sense of soul , they come off a little out of place given how over-the-top the game is.

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The action is relentless and outlandish, removing any sense of realism in favor for sheer balls-to-the-wall fun. There’s a sense of unbridled power when B.J. dual-wields assault rifles and creates a tidal wave of bullets and Nazi corpses. The core enjoyment of New Order is down to how well Machine Games has nailed the gameplay. There’s a strong sense of understanding and appreciation for classic first-person shooters. Running and gunning has never felt so good, each movement furled with a tight control scheme that lends well to the fast-paced action at hand.

Wolfenstein: The New Order freshens up the gameplay by including a perk system that feeds into how the player plays the game. Perks will unlock once the player has met the criteria. For example, the stealth tree requires stealth kills and keeping a low profile to progress. The other trees mostly cover making things die at the hands of various weapons. It’s a simple system that gives the player short-term goals to improve their efficiency in the way they play, and it’s welcome and well rounded addition to the franchise.

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Shockingly, there’s quite a lot of freedom when it comes to how a player can approach most situations. Each level often plays host to a number of paths for the player to take. Want to go in all guns blazing? There’s a path for that. Want to take it slow, steady, and adopt a stealthy approach? Heck, there’s often two paths for that. The choices aren’t simply there for show–the stealth is genuinely well done for a game that’s mostly about shooting literally everything in front of the player.

In terms of production value, The New Order ranges from fantastic to questionable. Cutscenes are beautiful, with some characters coming to life thanks to fantastic detail and smooth animation. The visuals during gameplay tend to dip in and out of being decent to rough, however. Some textures can look slightly last-gen, especially on the weapons. It’s not that the game looks bad, it’s just that it struggles to truly make the impression that the game fully belongs on the new hardware from Sony and Microsoft. The game’s audio is adequate but has little to get excited or complain about.

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The New Order does a lot well, but there are a number of issues littered around throughout that stop it from truly excelling. The 18 certificate given to the game seems like the result of some awkwardly forced-in scenes. Sex scenes and some random gore moments feel out of place and forced, even more so when they are sandwiched in between some heavy ethical topics. Also, the weapons on offer feel a little tame, which is disappointing given how creative the game is elsewhere.

The main issues are mostly buried in the technical side of things. Enemy AI can go a bit off the wall and unresponsive to the actions around them. Enemies can find themselves trapped on scenery, as well the player. Boss battles are also thrown into The New Order, none of which feel engaging or even challenging, allowing some sections to feel a little underwhelming.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a solid experience. The action is solid, the experience is enjoyable, and by the end of the decent-length campaign, the player feels truly well traveled thanks to a fantastic range of environments. It’s a shame, then, that The New Order struggles to keep a balance between being over-the-top and serious. Fun, conflicted, sometimes even sad, The New Order is enjoyable but not essential, but is nevertheless a return to form for a somewhat forgotten franchise.

 

 

 

Sean Halliday


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