Among the many games that use revisionist history plots, Wolfenstein has always been one of the most interesting. As one of the games that pioneered the entire FPS genre, the Wolfenstein series of games has long played with the idea of Nazi oppression, the human capacity for extreme violence and blended it with just fun shooting action.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is no different. It starts off with a similarly bleak version of the world where Nazis are still in power, and their dominance has spread worldwide. London and Berlin, once proud, now stand as poster cities for the Nazi empire. Everything is grey and dull and bleak, and the streets are guarded by sinister Nazi inventions like evil robots and ferocious attack dogs. But if there’s one guy who can take down the Nazi empire all over again, it is William Blazkowicz aka ‘BJ’. Yes, players familiar with the name might’ve guessed that this is the same BJ that pumped Robo-Hitler full of lead in the old-school Wolfenstein 3D.
But that game came out over 20 years ago. The FPS genre has advanced leaps and bounds since then. We’ve seen complex storytelling and graphical advances that make old FPS games look silly. Can a game that has you killing Nazis again survive in the FPS landscape today? Turns out, with the new technology that the powerful platforms of today are able to run, the answer is a resounding yes. Developers MachineGames have taken the old Nazi-shooting formula and revamped it for the new age.
You start the game off in 1946. Hitler has fallen, but the Allies are still ending up on the losing side of the war. You, as BJ, are at the head of an assault operation on the headquarters of the Nazi forces, hoping to wipe out top leadership and turn the tide of the war decisively in the Allies’ favor. Unfortunately, things do not quite go according to plan, and you eat a shrapnel in the head. As you would imagine, this doesn’t leave BJ in the best of health, and as a result, you spend 14 years recuperating in a Polish insane asylum in a coma-like state.
While this might seem like a convenient plot device to advance the timeline a few years, this is not the case. You see, when BJ wakes up in 1960, he hasn’t gone through the horror and despair that the world has seen in the years that he has spent recovering. He hasn’t seen the major cities of the world capitulate to the Nazi empire, and hasn’t had to experience the horrible atrocities committed by them. When he wakes up, he’s still the soldier of old, and he knows only one way to solve a problem – by shooting it. This makes him a fun protagonist since he’s not a brooding, Batman-esque character constantly plagued by internal guilt and strife. The man who killed the head of the Nazi empire in a game 20 years ago has woken up in the New World, and he’s still itching to kill some Nazis. Blazkowicz is not subtle about anything, and that makes his journey a lot of fun.
The Game Play:
His dialogues when he’s asked to complete complicated missions are hilarious. He’s often dumbfounded, and he figures that as long as he killed or blew up every single thing that could be of Nazi ownership, it’ll be alright. This, it must be said, might be the right attitude to have, if we ever are attacked by a reanimated Third Reich. In some ways, BJ is a remnant from games of the old era, when men were manly, and the idea was simply to blow stuff up. Through his eyes, you get to see much of what has changed in the FPS world in 20 years, and it is a fantastic way to approach the whole gameplay experience of New World Order. The world has moved on, and BJ has to find out where he fits into the scheme of things all over again.
Much like old-school shooter games, you can carry all your weapons at once, and you recharge your health and ammo via packs that you can find in your surroundings. The weaponry is loud, devastating and provides a lot of visceral thrill. You can also dual-wield guns and shoot wherever the crosshair is pointing, instead of the tediousness of having to aim down an individual weapon’s sights. Your enemies aren’t the smartest tools in the shed either, but it ties in with the overall theme of the game. You will need to vary your attack tactics to bring down some of the tougher enemies like robots, and be nimble to avoid the fast moving dogs.
Maps are well-designed and provide an excellent sense of variety. You will fight through open spaces as well as narrow corridors and you will have to adjust accordingly. Enemies are plentiful, and you’ll never go too long without having a nice Nazi to shoot. Certain sections of the game employ stealth mechanics by stripping you of all but your knife, and you will have to navigate your surroundings carefully to avoid bringing down a horde of gun-toting enemies upon you. There’s a nice sense of tension and danger created by the variety in the combat situations. Certain high-level Nazi enemies can call for reinforcements if they spot you lurking around. It’s a lot of fun to tiptoe around them, assassinate them by using one of your quieter weapons, and then go all out once you transition into a more open environment.
In a mechanic that might remind you of Dishonored, you can unlock different abilities in the stealth and combat skill trees, depending upon how you want to play the game. Each ability has a task associated with it that you need to complete before it is unlocked. While most of these tasks are ones that naturally occur during your campaign, it is fun to have some extra motivation for killing enemies in a certain fashion. You can also upgrade your weapons to make them more powerful versions of themselves, or add extra firepower capabilities. For example, you can upgrade your shotgun to fire ammo that ricochets off walls, making it a great asset in a crowded room. You are also equipped with a laser cutter than allows you to gain access to areas that would otherwise be blocked off by metal doors.
Wolfenstein: New World Order is a throwback to the old-school FPS days, and it’s a lot of fun. The protagonist doesn’t have any complex moral dilemmas, all enemies are purely evil and the guns are big and awesome. Even in 2014, shooting Nazis still remains enjoyable if it’s done correctly, like it is here. It’s a lot of fun to lead BJ through this new journey, since a lot of gamers might have played the original Wolfenstein 3D and were fans of his exploits. If you’re looking for a fun shooter that keeps it simple, give this one a go.