Last year during Quakecon as part of my first experience with the press pass, I got the privilege of playing an hour demo of Wolfenstein New Order and Elder Scrolls Online. Needless to say at the time I was more excited about getting a chance to look at Elder Scrolls than Wolfenstein but after I played both I was on board for The New Order. All I got to play was an hour, so the question was, would this game live up to Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein 3d while implementing some modern gaming mechanics like a well written story, characters and setting? The answer to that is an emphatic Yes.
Wolfenstein The New Order is an old school shooter with newer shooter elements in it. The levels are set up with lots of big halls and corridors in a way to allow for lots of gun fights with enemies big and small. What New Order does a bit differently from its predecessors is that it added the element of stealth. There are lots of secret hallways and vents where you can sneak around enemies in order to stab them in the back. In fact I would say unless I felt pumped up to go guns blazing around (there are some levels that made me feel like that) I, for the most part, was sneaking around the entire time. Another one of the more modern elements of New Order would be that of their perk system. To get bonuses and abilities towards your weapon skills and other character stats, you can earn perks that you acquire through getting kills in a certain way (stealth throwing knives, shooting enemies out of cover, killing them with grenades or the LKV, etc.).
The big strong feature of this game is how Machine Games has created a great pacing throughout the game. You aren’t bombarded with enemies constantly and even at times being able to stealth and sneak around enemies is a great plus to that pacing. You are moving from event to event while building upon the story with each step. It doesn’t have the mindless spawning enemies that games like call of duty and the newer battlefields have. You fight only the units that are already there.
Now that isn’t to say there isn’t a downside to the mechanics of New Order, one of those being that the AI is pretty bad. At times you can sneak up right next to enemies and stab them without noticing. I’ve had times where I would be stabbing a Nazi near another Nazi and it would cause the other to react from his sound of dying. Then I’ve had other instances where they wouldn’t react at all. In fact at times it can be so bad that the game will help the AI out. If I’ve killed one of the enemies’ comrades in a stealth manner and have moved away, if that enemy finds his body he will immediately know where I am regardless of where I’m hiding. Another trait of the AI is if they know you are around the corner they won’t make any attempt to come after you. They will end up staying in their same patrol route and not move. I could see this as a problem as they will make no effort to flank you and try to make the game challenging.
Another problem with this game (and this might just be me), I was running on a pretty good machine, 2600k/780 ti/8 gigs of ram, and I had problems with this game at times. The framerate was fine at ultra and all but at random occurrences during either loading screens or cutscenes, or even sometimes gameplay itself but to a lesser extent, I would get a temporary freeze of the game. It wouldn’t freeze the computer but the game itself would just hang for about 10-20 seconds and then be back to normal. At times it kind of made it difficult to really get into the game as cutscenes would stop and you could lose your focus of what was going on. Now this didn’t happen all that often but it happened enough for me to notice it.
The game starts in 1946 and you are BJ Blazkowicz, the same character in all the previous Wolfenstein games, and you are heading towards General Deathshead’s, also a reoccurring character, compound in order to kill the General. As it is, the Nazis are winning the war due to some ancient technology that the Nazis are using that is making them far more advanced than the Allies. In the end the assassination attempt fails and Blaszkowicz is hit in the head by some shrapnel while trying to escape and is put in a coma. During his coma he is put in a Polish hospital where he meets Anya (love interest) and he stays there motionless for 14 years unaware of what is happening on the outside world. As it turns out the allies surrender in 1948 when Germany drops an atomic bomb on the US thus making the Nazis the winner of WWII. When Blazkowicz wakes up he finds himself in an unfamiliar 1960 with complete Nazi control. He must find the resistance and attempt to complete what he started by killing Deathshead if they ever want to be free of Nazi rule.
Wolfenstein New Order runs off of the id Tech 5 engine that the game Rage before it ran off of. As you would guess, this game is absolutely beautiful but not at the cost of being able to run it. The minimum specs that are on most pages is an i7 3770k and a 600 series nvidia or higher card but I’d be willing to bet that you could get away with a system a little weaker. But it isn’t just how the game looks, the aesthetics and the setting are amazing too. Machine Games took a sort of retro sci-fi feel with the world and it looks amazing. From a very militaristic feel of Berlin and London to a very high-tech feel of a German U-boat and the Moon. This game is very gorgeous and well made setting wise.
Machine games also did a fine job with the sound of the game. They didn’t have the voice actors use nothing but English like a lot of games tend to do. But instead they made sure to make it feel as real as possible as having many languages including German and Polish being spoken throughout the game. The music is top notch as well. Along with the symphonic soundtrack that occupancies you on various missions but they included 3 other tracks that illustrate how pop music would be if the Germans had won the war including a Nazi Beatles track called Ja Ja, Mund Mund.
Overall this game is a fantastic addition to the Wolfenstein franchise which frankly is a surprise as not much information was given about this game other than a few long trailers describing the Nazi rule of the world in the 1960’s. The pacing, story, characters, graphics, sound and gameplay are all fantastic but that doesn’t come without a few bugs and dumb AI. If you can look past those small problems you’ll really enjoy this old school shooter with new shooter features.