Review: Wolfenstein: The New Order offers familiar gameplay and a blood-soaked story
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
Wolfenstein: The New Order is the latest installment in one of the most venerable gaming series in history. Gamers have been playing Wolfenstein titles since the days of the Commodore 64, but The New Order is the first we've seen from the series since the 2009 game simply titled Wolfenstein. New developers MachineGames are the latest to put their own special touch on the Nazi-killing adventures of B.J. Blazkowicz, and that studio's pedigree (many of the key members of the team previously worked on The Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness games) shows through in The New Order. While the gameplay occasionally walks the line between "classic" and "primitive," there are enough subtle tweaks and minor innovations to make The New Order a title worth checking out for FPS fans -- especially when the game's bold and entertaining story and game world are taken into account.
Running, Shooting, and Reloading
The heart of The New Order is, as is right and proper for a Wolfenstein game, shooting Nazis. It does all the core FPS mechanics well, with modern features like a cover system, some destructible terrain, and dual-wielding serving to bring the game into the modern age. While it's a shame that some of these features weren't more fleshed out -- the destructible terrain is too rare, for example, and it's impossible to dual-wield two different types of weapons -- their presence will be enough to satisfy a lot of gamers.
MachineGames should be commended for the new elements they have managed to introduce to the classic Wolfenstein formula, with the game's stealth system being the best example. Taking a clear page from the development team's earlier work on the Riddick game, The New Order sees the player using stealth knife takedowns and silenced weapons to an extent the series has never explored before. Thanks to the game's well-designed perk system, which provides boosts to the type of skills you use most often, players who dedicate themselves to stealth will be able to do it quite successfully in certain gameplay segments, throwing instant-kill knives and taking out enemies using a silenced pistol even when those enemies are just a few feet away from other foes. Much of the time stealth won't really be an option, as the game seems to flow naturally into the expected big gun battles -- but it works well while it lasts.
Blood and Guts In a World Gone Mad
The best feature of The New Order is, without a doubt, the incredible world-building that the design team has done. I had a chance to ask the game's Narrative Designer some questions about the setting of The New Order before I played the game, but seeing it in action was a fresh and amazing experience. The world of The New Order is one in which the Nazis won World War II, and the game tells the story of that bleak world through its characters, newspaper clippings, in-world music featuring alternate versions of popular real-world songs of the era, and even the architecture of the world around you. Against this brutal backdrop the incredible violence displayed by both the Nazis and the player-controlled main character seems perfectly at home.
The actual story of The New Order that unfolds in this well-realized world isn't quite the treat that the world itself is, but it's still one of the highlights of the game. The main character's narration dances gleefully on the border of gruff self-parody at times, and by the end of the game I was personally convinced that it was all done intentionally-- and I thought it was great. The character of B.J. Blazkowicz is a simple American soldier in a world of incredible technology and incredible evil, and over the course of The New Order you'll guide him through hundreds of Nazis, robots, and combinations of the two. You'll take him from the bottom of the sea to the moon itself. You'll be thrown into a Nazi work camp, you'll drive an experimental personal submarine -- you'll even take LSD from a man who is very probably an alternate-world Jimi Hendrix. It all adds up to a wild and bloody ride, with a combination of grim horror and dark humor that evokes the style of Inglourious Basterds.
The world looks and sounds good too, for the most part, though the sounds are more impressive than the looks. In fact the music in the game is absolutely top-notch, dominated by industrial/heavy metal sounds that fit perfectly with the game's tone. The sound effects are great too, as are the voices -- especially considering the different languages and accents on display in The New Order.
The graphics are solid overall, though the cut-scenes look so much better than the standard gameplay that it's hard to ignore. The visual effects that come into play with the game's energy-based weapons are a treat, but the absolute standout visually is the blood and gore. Skulls and bodies gush streams of red in a way that I'm not sure is exactly realistic, but that looks incredibly visceral -- sometimes literally.
The introduction of Titanfall onto the FPS landscape marked a major shift in what gamers can expect out of the genre -- and unfortunately The New Order doesn't stack up especially well in comparison to that title. After playing the full game, I found that while it wasn't the deal-breaking issue it could have been, many of the concerns I wrote about back in April did materialize. Aside from basic running, jumping, and crouching, the only kind of movement The New Order permits is a slide move that isn't terribly effective.
Most of your time in the game will be spent running on horizontal planes and taking shelter behind vertical cover. While this was an acceptable standard for many years, it feels like it isn't quite enough anymore. While other shooters are pushing the boundaries of the genre and taking on aspects of MMOs, redefining co-op play, or opening up new worlds of free movement, The New Order has nothing new to offer.
Rechargeable laser weapons and the ability to "overcharge" your health above its normal 100 point limit are nice features, but they aren't nearly enough to make the gameplay feel like something new. I'm fine with the single-player only nature of The New Order -- in fact that's usually my preference in shooters -- but I want my single-player FPS experience to have all the innovation and freshness of modern multiplayer-focused FPS titles.
Here are the criteria I consider most important for judging Wolfenstein: The New Order.
The basic FPS gameplay is solid, the cover system is well-implemented, and the stealth components are fun.
Story and Setting: 9/10
All of the creativity and historical research that MachineGames poured into building this vision of a Nazi-dominated 60s setting paid off, because the world of The New Order is one I wish I had been able to explore in more detail. The story is occasionally over-the-top, but mostly strong.
Most of the new ideas in The New Order show up in the plot and game world. The gameplay itself doesn't offer much of anything new.
Cut-scene graphics are fantastic, gameplay graphics are good, and the music is wonderful.
Overall score: 7.5/10
The New Order took me about 16 hours to beat on its normal difficulty setting, and I could see myself revisiting it in the future on a harder setting for a fun challenge -- but probably not for a while. It was a fun and bloody ride while it lasted, but it lacks anything special in terms of gameplay to make me want to dive right back in.
GameCrate reviews represent the opinions of the GameCrate writer who wrote them, and not necessarily those of Newegg.