Wolfenstein: The New Order is the perfect marriage between classic FPS game play and new age story telling. Developed by MachineGames, which is comprised largely of ex-members of Starbreeze (The Darkness and Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay), The New Order creates the perfect blueprint on how to reignite a franchise without alienating from what long-time fans know and love.
Wolfenstein veteran and Nazi killing machine William “B.J.” Blazkowics returns and once again is assigned with halting the Nazi War Machine. Unfortunately he fails to do so, and after shrapnel gets imbedded in his skull he spends the next 14 years in a vegetative state. He awakens in an alternative reality where the Nazi’s have not only won the war but control the entire planet (and beyond). With the help of a small group of resistance fighters he looks to take back the planet one dead Nazi at a time. The narrative is deep and the production values shine during every cutscene. Voice acting and scripting make the characters memorable and their situations believable. B.J. is more than just the “meat head” we have come to know and it is refreshing to see his character evolve as the layers are peeled back. His supporting cast is no slouch either, highlighted by resistance leader Caroline Becker and the evil Nazi scientist, General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. I found myself engaged and even sympathetic at times during the 18+ hours of my initial play through on Hard difficulty. Also refreshing was the fact that the writers didn’t shy away from possible taboo topics including forced labor camps and human experimentation.
As a shooter, The New Order doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before, but it executes it so well and nails the old-school “feel” perfectly. The gun play is fast, silky and responsive making every gory, skull-exploding head shot extremely satisfying. Many classic mechanics are in place paying homage to Wolfenstein’s 22 year-old DNA. You can carry more than two guns and even dual-wield them, Health Regeneration is minimal, Separate Health/Armor meters and pick-ups are present, manual leaning mechanic for shooting from behind cover and a button press for item pick-ups. The inclusion of these older mechanics felt refreshing and added to the charm that makes this game so great. Dual Wielding weapons is a ton of fun and although it is an ammo waster in earlier levels, it is a necessity later on as you face the tougher Nazi horde. My only real gripe here is the button push pick-up system can be tedious. I would have preferred a mixed system of automatic pick-up when walking over ammo and guns while having a button push for the more unique items.
Although the majority of the 16 chapter campaign is linear it does offer enough variety to keep things fresh. Most situations can be taken on with a stealth approach and offer their own benefits. For instance when you enter an area there may be commander units in place. These units will spawn endless waves of enemies if you trigger an alarm. The only way to stop these waves is by killing the commander. Of course, you can make things easier on yourself by just sneaking your way to the commander without triggering the alarm and knifing him in the back. This will also reward you by marking valuable items and collectibles on your map. Stealth was my preferred play style, I loved equipping the silencer on my pistol and relying on my throwing knives to take out unsuspecting enemies. It was very rewarding to make it to the commander unseen and slit his throat with one of the many stealth kill animations. However it did shine a light on some odd AI hiccups like dead bodies not alerting anyone or knifing a dog at the feet of an oblivious soldier who then met my knife seconds later. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment but were definitely noticeable on occasion.
There is a unique perk system in place that will upgrade your character based on a particular play style. There are 4 skill trees that you can upgrade: Stealth, Tactical, Assault, and Demolition. Performing certain actions like kills from cover or silent take downs will award upgrades allowing for increased ammo capacity and faster reload speeds. What I liked about the system is it is based on how you play and you never have to worry about building your character a certain way then regretting it later. Majority of the actions will happen naturally while a few you will have to be mindful of so be sure to take a peak at it early on.
It is worth mentioning that The New Order is a single player only experience which does impact the replay value. There is a branching moment early in the campaign that offers different abilities (Hot-wire ability / Health Upgrades vs Lock Pick Ability / Armor Upgrades) which is enticing enough to warrant a second play through. Also there are 6 difficulty settings and a vast number of collectibles ranging from Gold statues, Enigma Codes and Letters that encourage exploration but some of these are only accessible with the alternate ability available to you on your second play through. There is also an amazing Easter Egg that allows you to play the entire first level from the original Wolfenstein 3D game!
For the PS4 owners out there, I did play a few chapters with remote play and although it plays great it suffers what most shooters do when transitioning to Vita’s control scheme and relying on the back touch panels for L3/R3 and L1/R1 functionality. Although melee attacks and running were easy to pull off, the leaning mechanic and accessing the weapon wheel can be cumbersome and frustrating during heated moments. It is definitely serviceable but not the ideal remote play experience.
With it’s engaging plot, memorable characters and perfect balance of classic and current mechanics, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fantastic shooter experience that shouldn’t be missed. To quote B.J. Blazkowics, “Count to 4, inhale. Count to 4, exhale.” and enjoy the ride!
*Review based on PS4 version. Also available on Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360