There is certainly a divide amongst gamers when it comes to the presentation of story in video games. Some feel it’s the most important aspect of a game, while others claim that gameplay trumps all. Machine Games, the development studio behind Wolfenstein: The New Order, apparently thinks a world can exist where great stories can combine with splendid gameplay and have created an experience that few other games can rival.
Wolfenstein: The New Order initially feels like yet another twitch shooter with loads of creepy Nazis and muscle-ridden American saviors, and in a sense, it certainly is. Though it has a pretty weak opening, which lasts about 30 minutes, the game quickly moves into uncharted territory for the Wolfenstein franchise. Sure, you can dual-wield assault rifles and shotguns, and yes, there’s some over-the-top sci-fi moments (like a Nazi moon base!), but the heart of Wolfenstein: The New Order lies within it’s wickedly sharp character development that, believe it or not, asks you to care about a character named B.J. Blazcowicz.
More surprisingly, Wolfenstein: The New Order succeeds in accomplishing this task very well. And while it is extremely successful in that regard, it struggles with the plot in terms of tone and the ability to tell a coherent story over it’s approximately 15 hour length. In other words, you’ll grow to care deeply about Blazcowicz and company, but be damned if you care to understand exactly what it is they’re doing (I mean, it’s there, but at times hard to follow).
Beyond the characters, the game lacks the depth most modern AAA-titles shoot for. Understandably, that will be sure to turn many gamers off. With a brand-new PS4, it’s always exciting to see what new feature might be added to a game that could potentially revolutionize a genre. The original Wolfenstein 3D was the first 3D first-person-shooter, which would go on to create some of the biggest games of all time, and perhaps that’s why Wolfenstein: The New Order doesn’t feel inclined to introduce game-changing mechanics. Instead, it focuses on the core of what makes a shooter fun (big guns, grenades, and wacky villains) while peppering the experience with mini-shots of standard FPS mechanics.
There’s a perks system which allows you to build upon your favorite play style. For example, killing several enemies with a dual-wielded weapon will allow you to reload faster whilst dual-wielding. The unlocked abilities rarely seem to really pay off though. I found myself making my way through most levels in stealth-mode, that is crouching while I move and using silenced pistols or knives to take out most foes. This worked perfectly fine without the need to upgrade. I didn’t get a blowdart or some other quiet, more powerful, weapon, but instead was rewarded with the ability to carry more knives which were either scattered everywhere or I could remove them from the bodies of fallen enemies. The same goes for a more balls-to-the-walls approach. Most enemies were killed using my assault rifle, with a few here and there with the Nazi laser gun. Being able to change weapons faster never felt like something that would’ve enabled me to be much more powerful.
At the core of Wolfenstein: The New Order is very responsive, very rewarding gun-play that offers just enough weapons to barely scrape by without leaving you feeling cheated of any content. There are your standard shotguns, pistols, and assault rifles, as well as few laser-powered guns. With a lone exception, no guns feel particularly new, nor bad. Bolstered by great sound design and semi-destructible environments, it’s difficult to find much to complain about when it comes to B.J.’s arsenal and everything about them feels pretty good.
As a matter of fact, that’s what I found so alluring about Wolfenstein: The New Order. Everything just felt right and while I knew the game could’ve been so much more (it really could), it never hindered the experience as a whole. The graphics aren’t good, but they’re not distractedly bad. The voice overs are corny, but rarely campy. The enemies are hokey, but only a little cheesy.