The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Twenty-two years after its smashing debut, and the godfather
of first-person shooters is still piling up Nazi corpses. Over this impressive
span, the Wolfenstein franchise has experienced highs - namely Return to Castle
Wolfenstein and Enemy Territory - and a few lows, like the hollow 2009
re-imagining. To reinvigorate the brand, Bethesda tapped Machine Games, a new
studio led by former members of Starbreeze Studios - the developer best known
for its criminally under-celebrated The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From
Wolfenstein: The New Order is an amalgamated reimagination
featuring a few familiar characters and a new central premise. After a failed
attempt to assassinate General Deathshead in 1946, B.J. Blazkowicz suffers a head
trauma and spends the next 14 years as a vegetable. During his absence, the
Nazi Wehrmacht conquers the world. Only after his caretakers are shot and
killed does Blazkowicz snap out of his vegetative state and start a new rampage
against the totalitarian regime.
Along the 20-hour campaign he joins a colorful resistance
group hiding within Berlin, infiltrates a prison to save some old friends,
steals some valuable vehicles, and even journeys to the moon to retrieve the
nuclear launch codes necessary to wipe the Nazi regime off the map. The varied
environments do an effective job of keeping things fresh, and the varied cast
is much more memorable that most first-person shooter campaigns.
In building its own vision for the brand, Machine Games is
hardly forgetting the series' past. Many homages exist to The New Order's
precursors, including the muscular character model for Blazkowicz, using Nazi
helmets as icons for armor pickups, secret rooms hidden in each level, and even
a "nightmare" dream sequence that lets you play the first level of Wolfenstein
Traces of Machine Games' DNA are also evident throughout the
game. From the surprisingly varied and satisfyingly brutal close-quarters melee
takedowns to the quiet moments interspersed between action sequences, The New
Order shares many similarities with the Riddick title. The studio also endows Blazkowicz with an internal dialogue to give the character more depth, but
these monotone, philosophical ponderings feel at odds with the wanton brutality
he projects through the rest of the game.
The combat is a mash-up of both lineages. You can dual-wield
and decapitate enemies with headshots, or take a more measured approach to
combat. Most levels have Nazi commanders stationed throughout. Sneaking up and
performing a stealth takedown prevents them from pulling the alarm once the
bullets inevitably start flying, giving cautious players a tactical option. You
can also fire from cover, but the cumbersome mechanic makes this the least
valuable tool in your arsenal.
The RPG-lite perks system offers some incentive for
experimenting with your approach. Meeting certain requirements, like completing
a certain amount of stealth takedowns or racking up a set body count from
cover, unlocks useful upgrades that give you an edge in combat that isn't
necessarily needed thanks to the stunted A.I.
The New Order offers a wide array of enemies, from
traditional soldiers and panzer hounds to monstrous mechs and heavily armored
super troops. None of them are very smart. Their casual approach to patrols
makes it easy to run through levels carelessly making stealth takedowns
(including on the hounds, which seems highly implausible), and they have the
unfortunate habit of running for the furthest cover away from them in the
middle of live fire, giving you ample time to line up kill shots. The final
boss fight is the only exceptional challenge, but this battle essentially boils
down to classic trial-and-error. If you're looking for a challenge, I strongly
suggest you up the difficulty.
With no multiplayer modes on offer, Machine Games adds
replayability by littering levels with collectibles and introducing an early
choice that changes the trajectory of the narrative. Deciding which of two
fellow soldiers lives changes who participates in the resistance, and gives you
different alternate navigation routes in levels, but otherwise the game is essentially
the same. Scavenging for enigma codes and cracking them also unlocks new challenges
to give seasoned players a run for their money.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a positive step forward for
the series after the last dud. Machine Games presents a competent shooter with
more polish and a better array of characters, but ultimately the game feels
more comfortable recompiling established conventions than it does striving for
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.