Wolfenstein, being the first “official” FPS, has always been a good game. The only soiled spot on the franchise’s reputation was Activisions 2009 Wolfenstein which didn’t really suck per se, but just wasn’t that great. Before that, there was the unquestionably epic Return to Castle Wolfenstein – both in multiplayer and story – and it was a hard game to top.
I can safely say New Order tops RTCW and is the best game in the franchise. That doesn’t mean it’s without its faults, but Machine Games said they would deliver a fantastic single player experience, and they weren’t wrong.
Sure, the story is a little bit cliche – we’re talking about Nazi’s here. So, whereas previous Wolfenstein games have always gone the occultist route – we all know dem Nazi’s loved their occultism – New Order decided to go more of a Stargate/Indiana Jones route where the Nazi’s use ancient, high tech secrets as the source of their advancement. Frankly it’s a breath of fresh air, even if it isn’t so original, into a franchise that became a broken record with the exact same memes over and over again. More importantly, the story moves far away from World War II and tries something different: a world where the Nazi’s won. It pulls this off well, but this is also something that hurts the game overall.
The story in this game unfortunately suffers under the weight of its own grandeur. Early on the story was established and it took an interesting road to develop into something that would be better suited for a mini-series, but ran its course like it was a Hollywood movie. The game comes in at about 13 hours, and that’s including literally all collectibles and secret rooms, picking up all items, exploring 100% of the map, side quests, and dying about 10 times over the course of the entire game. As far as I’m concerned, MG had an opportunity to make a much longer game when they established the resistance – and it felt like that was going to happen, but it never did. To make matters worse, MG established this post-WW2 Nazi dominated planet, yet did not fully explore it.
Most importantly though, the story clearly sets up a sequel near the end, for everyone who can follow story and understands writing anyway. Over the course of the game, a certain villain is built up – with personal interactions with Blazkowicz no less – and then suddenly, off screen, the villain up and disappears. Is never seen again before the credits roll. Unfortunatelt though, the ending is a bit anti-climactic what happens, and that coupled with the disappointingly anti-cliche cliche ending (The type of ending that people started using to be somber and realistic and counter-cliche, except that now it’s just as old hat as the standard action movie ending) should leave a bad taste in your mouth if you are at all a student of literature or have any ability to write on your own.
One thing I thought was really cool was the weapon design. You only get to see it in some of the guns, but in those guns it’s very obvious that Machine Games took what existed in World War 2 and they naturally evolved it to be realistic and make sense in a fictional universe. The German assault rifle, for example, is based on the STG44. You can see in the 1960s version that they kept the standard HK style sight – the rear sight which all HK rifles, SMGs, and MGs use to this day – and kind of made it follow a realistic design progression of German weaponry. The Luger also can be clearly seen in both the 1948 version of the pistol, and the 60s pistol – which looks pretty badass in a scifi way and is actually based on a real variant of the Luger that hag a lengthened buttstock and a wood furniture at the front. MG60 is also another fine example of this. Better yet, all of the guns – pistol, laserkraft, MG, assault rifle, AR marksman, shotgun, knife, grenade, they all serve distinct purposes.
Pistols are absolutely perfect for stealth. Once you get the silencer, it takes 1 hit to the head to kill almost any enemy in the game except the more heavily armored super soldaten and rocket troops. The assault rifle is good for all situations and frankly must be substituted for actually having a sniper rifle, because you’re never going to get more than 30 bullets total for the AR marsksman. The laser AR marksman, a gun you’ll only use twice, is very good at accurate and powerful fire, making it an alternative to the assault rifle. Knives are great for stealth and make for some fun situations, like a swirlie and a knife in the skull, and can also be thrown. The SMG only really exists in the first level so it isn’t worth a mention, but it is good for close up encounters, just like the shotgun – which can also be used for ricochet madness in the submarine. Other than that, you have the laserkraftwerk, which serves as your main laser cannon, and your primary method for opening most crates, fences, and cutting chains in the game. Once you get used to it your arsenal seems kind of limited, but all the guns do their jobs well – if not with flair.
The only thing I can say negative about the actual gameplay is that even on normal, the game is dreadfully easy. There was one time in the entire game where I died and it was for no reason, on the Gibraltar bridge, until I figured out how to easily defeat all 294 Nazi’s. Other than that and the first phase of the last boss, it’s just silly how easy the game was. Will try again on superhard.
Also, Nazi Battlemech’s. Everywhere. Oh and of course, mofoing space/Moon nazis. And, they of course threw in a nod to mechahitler, as all Nazi movies like this do.
I really, really wanted there to be a sequel, but I think the way MG left the story at the end precludes it happening without a brand new hero. I’m just saying, a major villain is still alive as far as you know and it’s never explained – the end was just awful – but there is an entire planet of Nazi’s to deal with.