Shooting Nazis is a gaming pastime for many of us, and Wolfenstein set the bar back in the day. But the recent games have been trying to make the franchise fun for modern audiences, and The New Order is one of the standouts of those attempts.
I honestly don’t know how I missed this one. I had an Xbox One when this was released, but it still got overlooked. But that’s okay I got to play it now and boy was it worth the wait. Though I have only a faint familiarity with the series as a whole and I saw The New Order as a great jumping-on point since it acts as a reboot of sorts for the series.
However, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I was going in. Nazi Germany won somehow? And you are part of a resistance to take back the world? Yes, but there’s a lot more that game does and some of it might be a little gruesome for some people.
“While I was away, they set the world on fire”
Wolfenstein: The New Order opens up how you might expect a modern Wolfenstein game ot open up. Captain Blazowicz a part of an offensive to take part in an air raid against a Nazi shoreline. After some wild mid-air action that defy normal people’s luck, Blazowicz finds himself in a crashed plane where some giant robot dog is trying to claw him out of the debris.
From the sounds of Blazowicz, it seems this thing isn’t exactly par for the course and the Nazis have begun to incorporate new technology into their strategy. This is just the first sign that something isn’t quite right.
Blazowicz rescues his allies from another one of the metal beasts and together they continue their storm of the fortress where the find a laboratory of sorts where humans were being tested on. After a bit one of the crewman hits a button, and the room begins to light up a furnace which expedites their need to escape.
With nowhere to go, they become trapped in a room where they are confronted by Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse himself. Strasse knocks them out and upon waking up forces Blazowicz to choose who will have to die for Strasse’s experiments. Finally, after the difficult choice is made and most of the enemy forces leave, the furnace is turned back on and Blazowicz and the remaining crew must try to escape.
They jump out a window and Blazowicz is knocked out where he is found by locals who deliver him to an asylum to live in vegetable state for 14 years and once he wakes up the Nazis have taken control of the entire world. With no resistance in sight.
WHEW so much has happened. But there are a few things that I find really important in this set up. The first is that right out of the gate, developers MachineGames are setting this plot up to be a cathartic Pro-American adventure to conquer Nazis.
Much like how the original Wolfenstein must have felt. It doesn’t matter how wild or unlikely an event is as long as it serves to continue the plot in an interesting way. For instance, the 14-year coma comes to an end right when Nazis come to kidnap and kill everyone in the asylum. Blazowicz gets up and starts killing like he had been maintaining muscle mass with the power of his mind. I thought I was going to be a little slower or something but no, I can tear through enemies just like I had been.
The story utilizes elements of history to inspire some of its settings and events from concentration camps, asylums, horrifying human tests, racism, and more. It combines it with the futuristic tech/timeline they have created. It serves for an interesting plot that feels like the worst-case scenario of how events could have unfolded, but if it wasn’t for the fact that we were fighting Nazis, it might come off like it was a plot straight off an American propaganda poster.
From the way Blazowicz talks in his poetic monologues to his constant calm demeanor, he plays it like he is the mighty hero that can take any storm no matter how gruesome and messed up. And he often does.
Nothing can stop this man, and I often thought there might be some twist as to why he could overcome a tranquilizer that could take down a gorilla or several knife wounds to the abdomen. He’s an unstoppable force which is great fun in this fantasy world, but it can stand out if you care a lot about those things.
“Do or Die, son, Same as Always”
Now beyond being a shooter, I had no idea what to expect in regard to the gameplay. The first few minutes felt like the standard affair of combat, and I could see where Doom 2016 got its inspiration because the two games felt very similar.
The guns felt great, from the plain’s turret to the assault rifle and pistol. There was a basic cover, and lean system that I felt could be a little too useful at times, but on Uber, I needed it. Speaking of, I went straight to Uber, so I was a little slow on the uptake about perks. You see, you can gain perks, which give your additional buffs like a larger magazine, by completing in-game challenges.
These became my favorite thing to work on while going through the levels because they forced me to play a different way instead of relying solely on explosives and assault rifles. On top of the gunplay, there is a stealth mechanic that I was pleasantly surprised to find. The stealth not only gives you additional options in many portions of the game, but it allows for everything to slow down and for the player to hear optional dialogue they might miss otherwise.
It’s a chance for a more intimate look behind the scenes at the terrible mindset of the Nazis in the world. There are stealth perks you can pick up by using different stealth kills with knives, throwing knives, or the silent pistol. However, my first playthrough I never realized there were attachments for the silencer, so I didn’t get one until the moon base level and I thought that was the only way to get it. I figured it out eventually but I felt I little silly when I did.
Now there are also sections of the game where you return to the resistance’s base to catch up with everyone and prep for the next mission. I don’t like these missions so much. I’m fine if you want to add exposition levels but make them straightforward. I don’t want to explore your base looking for a file or cutting a sample off some concrete.
These always felt tedious and too much of a break from the action. However, there was one time on a train that I felt was done really well since it was straightforward and gave us a great look into one of the main villain’s psychology. If the resistance base levels were more like this and less like “errand boy time,” I’d be happier.
All the levels did feel pretty distinct in their presentation and offered an escalating level of difficulty. It’s so rare to find a game that has such a perfect amount of level scaling. I never felt like I was becoming too acquainted with the sandbox that I was always plowing through enemy forces. Enemies kept getting stronger and introducing new concepts to the battlefield that I had to overcome, which is exactly what I like.
Finally, the boss battles. There are a few boss fights and mini-boss battles sprinkled through the game. For the most part, these are an okay change of pace. They are all just big robots of varying sizes and numbers, so they begin to blend together.
But when one of them shows up, you know it’s time to change your playstyle, or you’ll be ground into a paste. The final boss, however is ridiculous on Uber difficulty because the room slowly erupts into fire which will take your health away while he is also shooting missiles at you.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at tearing away at his health quickly or how much health you have saved up for the fight. He will win if you can’t drain his health which requires you to either have over 20 rockets saved up or time to use your rifle or shotgun. It was not a fun experience, and I will never do it again (at least on Uber).
“Inhale. Count to four. Exhale”
Despite the frustration of the final boss, I really enjoyed my time in Wolfenstein: The New Order. The world always felt like it was a fleshed-out piece of dystopian fiction with small newspaper clippings and propaganda spread out throughout the levels.
The citizens, refugees, and prisoners whispering about the atrocities in the world make the setting and society all the more horrifying. Even the soldiers themselves will spout nonsense that will make you see how entrenched the beliefs are in that world. The way that MachineGames fleshed the world out makes me excited to return to finish the fight in the other games (which will hopefully be soon).
Though I became a little frustrated with some of the more tedious or even poorly designed aspects, such as the final boss, I was impressed by the amount of content in the game. The level of content has me already setting up high expectations for the sequel. I hope that isn’t too presumptuous of me.
However, I can ignore Blazowicz being an overpowered ox that can’t be taken down like a normal human. That’s fine. But how doesn’t this futuristic Nazi society have better communication skills? Blazowicz is going around liberating concentration camps, breaking prisoners out of maximum security prisons, and crossing checkpoints as if he was some faceless man. Where are the cameras? The security checks?
The entire time I was breaking out of the prison, I was expecting Hitler himself to be on a tank ready to blast Blazowicz in the chest the moment he stepped outside. The entire Nazi army should have been there, especially since Blazowicz appears to be the only real resistance fighter not accounted for. What is the rest of the army doing?
I know it might be a bit nitpicky, but it did feel like with how big the events were of New Order that there would have been more impressive repercussions. Like, HE ESCAPED IN A CAR IN THE NAZI CONTROLLED CITY. Wild.
Despite this, Wolfenstein: The New Order was an action-packed thrill ride to take back the world from Nazis. I felt my back against the wall on multiple occasions, and though there were sections where my progress seemed to come to a frustrating halt, this dreary world and Blazowicz’s determination to make things right had me hunkering down to make it to the end with him. 8/10