Wolfenstein: The New Order review – Delightful Old School Stomping Grounds

Today we take a look at Machine Games’ rather cool and old school throwback game Wolfenstein: The New Order which is available now on consoles and PC platforms. With a simplistic approach to first person shooting, how well does the game stack up against more complicated peers. Take a look at our Wolfenstein: The New Order video review for the full picture.

Wolfenstein: The New Order review:

Today we’re going back to the old school with Bethesda’s Wolfenstein: The New Order which comes from a long running series of first person shooters that started off the whole corridor shooter movement way back in 1981. Whilst adopting very modern looks, the core essence of the game remains faithful to the original in that gamers are tasked with pointing guns at German Nazis and letting rip from start to blood soaked conclusion. The story is told via several rather well polished cut scenes as players assume the role of soldier  William “B.J.” Blazkowicz and his unit against the oppressive Nazi regime. The opening mission presents itself as a traditional scenario filled with action sequences and the onus of the entire game which revolves around fierce fire-fights to more subdued moments of stealth gameplay. What’s instantly noticeable once players set foot on the ground after the rather dramatic aerial based intro is that this is no ordinary World War II setting as the Nazi uniforms aren’t what you’d expect and the giant robotic monstrosity tearing up the beachy head isn’t historically accurate. The game adopts an alternate universe which becomes all the more apparent once players reach chapter 2 where the world is overtaken by the German regime and all resistance has been thwarted.  What follows is a series of crazy events where Blazkowicz and fellow fighters wreak havoc on the Nazi machine and ultimately strive to return things to normality.

In a nutshell, the gameplay is ultra tight, affording some extremely satisfying gun-play versus an assortment of accomplished and pretty dumb AI opponents who rather than act intelligently, on occasion allow you to sneak right under their noses and stab them in the neck. It’s a bit hit and miss but makes for some great moments of sneaking around armed with knives moving around cover and simply completing objectives like a real spy. There’s a neat twist with the Nazi officers as well where once in range, players are tasked with seeking them out to prevent alarms being raised. How you do this is up to the player but does reinforce some the excellent approach of allow players to go stealth or guns a blazing.

The enemies start off pretty tame and take few hits to drop which is great, but as the story progresses, players come up against more mechanized foes which require different tactics to beat. What is often the case is avoiding going head to head with these tough opponents and sneaking around the rear to find weak points in their armor for an easier time. Whilst this isn’t always possible, when it does work it’s pretty neat to make light work of the seemingly tough enemies. Luckily, players are given a wide assortment of weapons to use and can even dual wield shotguns for example for that extra kick. It’s very much arcade, and with weapons upgrades to be found means that fire-power is never lacking and always at hand. What’s also very likeable about the gameplay here, in a refreshing way is how players have to collect ammo from the fallen or caches lying around, the same goes for health and armor. Modern techniques such as recharging health still remain, but only provide so much making searching for extras a well integrated part of the old school gameplay. Players can gather perks if specific requirements are met, but these can largely be ignored as many are gained simply by playing normally.

Aside from shooting up an abundance of cannon fodder, players can also delve a little deeper into the story by way of collectible items which are scattered across each level in the form of notes and other documents, there are also audio files to listen to which create an even greater sense of what is going on. That said, the story can be ignored due to its simplicity as players simply use the scenarios as an excuse to maim and kill. If there’s really any criticism with the gameplay is that aside from featuring all of the usual set pieces such as shooting from mounted guns, riding in helicopters and such like, is the repetitive nature of simply moving through linear levels shooting anything that moves.

In terms of looks, Wolfenstein The New Order sports some fantastic visuals when moving quickly through each area and when not paying much attention to the details. The character models are well designed, and for the most part when the game works it runs smoothly. The cut scenes are well produced making for some likeable characters and emotive scenes. However, on closer inspection there are some fairly low resolution texture details which look rather dated compared to the game’s first person shooter peers. Probably the biggest issue with the game’s looks is the performance on PC which is problematic at best and in need of fixing. The game doesn’t seem to be well optimized for PC players and is a bit hit and miss as to whether it will actually work or not or run with consistent frames per second. Luckily we were able to download some third party fixes which made the game perform much better, but this is no excuse for Bethesda to release a product that’s causing problems for a reported high number of gamers.  Console players don’t have these issues, but still, the experience is marred for those who opt to play the supposed superior PC version. unless the search Google for a potential fix.

Audio is also of a high quality with some impressive voice acting and a rousing score to suit the on-screen carnage. Sound effects are also well produced with the more meatier weapons providing a hefty kick to the ears when fired. Coupled with some native German voice work, makes for a not only visually pleasing experience but an all out assault on the ears as well.

Players can expect to spend quite a number of hours working through the 16 levels on offer and if captivated by the lure of collectibles and achievements, there’s enough incentive to jump back in and replay levels. What’s more, at the start of the campaign, players have to make a choice in the story which then has an impact on the rest of the game. In this regard there’s two campaigns to play through offering slightly different approaches in each one. Aside from this, player can pump up the difficulty for an even greater challenge if they are glutton for punishment.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fantastic and refreshing game thanks to its WWII subject matter being familiar after taking  a back seat following a long period of being the dominant force in first person shooters. The gameplay is accomplished despite some dodgy AI at times, never really frustrating and filled with objectives that are always crystal clear. The old school approach works well here and makes for an enjoyable no nonsense game that’s full of character and engaging enough to not drag it feet even though the campaign is quite long compared to most. With no multiplayer to soak up resources, the core experience is well polished for console players and less so for those struggling to run the game on PC. That said, if you’re fortunate enough to avoid any of the problems, there’s a slick looking visceral game on offer that comes highly recommended to anyone who loves first person shooting.

Score 8.5/10Review By Robert Cram