Publisher: Bethesda Studio
Developer: Machine Game
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Release date: 23/05/2014
May 5th 1992 saw the release of Wolfenstein 3D and whilst Right Said Fred were sitting top of the charts with ‘Deeply Dippy’, id Software were treating gamers to one of the greatest and most important video games ever created. For the fans of first person shooters such as Call of Duty, Battlefield or Medal of Honour, none of these games would be here today if it wasn’t for Wolfesnstein. This was the first game where your view of the world was from your characters perspective, Doom and Quake are often given credit for beginning the trend but, it was Wolfenstein that started it all. This was the birth of the first person shooter, this was genesis.
Fast forward to present day and we have the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. A game that promises to stay faithful to the original in form of gameplay whilst presenting with today’s more sophisticated form of storytelling. Boasting veterans from Starbreeze Studios, developers of The Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness, Machine Games certainly have the pedigree but, have they been able to pull it off?
It is July 1946, we join our returning hero, William B.J. Blazkowicz, as he takes part in a titanic raid against a Nazi fortress in a last ditch attempt to put an end to General Wilhelm ‘Deathshead’ Strasse and his merciless human experimentations. Sadly the mission is a failure and our hero suffers a severe head injury. Residing in a Polish asylum for 14 years, Blazkowicz awakes from his vegetated state just as the Nazi’s try to execute him and close down the asylum. It’s here that he is almost overcome when he learns the harrowing truth that the US has long since surrendered, the Nazi’s won the war and have continued with their reign of terror.
To elude any further with regards to the narrative would be tantamount to stealing. This really is a game that you have to experience for yourself. This is one of the most astounding examples of storytelling to grace this genre, it can hold its own with likes of Bioshock, true praise indeed.
An excellent plot is one thing, but it would be sadly wasted if the gameplay was a failure, this is a videogame after all. Thankfully, it’s almost evolved as much as the story telling has. Most areas can be approached in numerous ways. You can run and gun and lay waste to everything in your path or you can approach it a little more strategically, using stealth and cunning, something which is definitely recommended on higher difficulty levels as this world can be brutal and unforgiving.
The presence of Nazi commanders in certain areas only further increases the need to use a stealthier approach. Kill these silently and they are unable to raise the alarm which, once sounded, will increase the amount of enemies attacking you, this will be relentless until the commanders have met their end. Killing them quietly you will also gain access to their knowledge of collectables within the vicinity. The souvenirs vary in usefulness, enigma codes can be used to unlock more game modes, music continues the wonderfully dark ‘what if ‘theme, recordings shed light on the past. Collecting all the items will require at least two play-throughs. At one point, early in the game, a decision must be made with regards to saving one of your comrades. This ruthless choice effects abilities you will have for the rest of the game which, in turn, will open different pathways through each level.
Character design is excellent, some of the scarred and tortured flesh on view is horrifying. At times you’ll want to avert your gaze as some of the scenes are brutal and gory in equal measure. Mechanical, oversized enemies move with purpose and a real sense of menace. Weapons feel powerful and fire with authority. The ability to dual wield most of the guns make you feel unstoppable. Couple this with some of the awesome set pieces and at times you will be left breathless. The excellent visuals have been accompanied with some wonderfully disturbing sound effects which when it it’s all fused together provide a very bleak and terrifying world.
The feeling of ‘what if’ haunts you throughout the whole campaign and yes, whilst in can be quite preposterous at times, there are enough instances that may will make you shudder and question your own morality. Enemy characters have been so well implemented that you will genuinely wish they meet a painful and unsavoury end. It is very rare to come across such mature themes, perhaps because it is based upon a time of such human atrocity however loosely but, for me, the hatred and disgust is real.
Combing the truly excellent story with the loving nostalgic nod to the titles heritage is a master-stroke. It may be intended for the slightly more mature gamer, the storyline is often brutal and some of the more horrific scenes are certain to leave a lasting impression. At times the game may feel little old fashioned and it may, on occasion, miss the mark in terms of ambition but, overall Wolfenstein A New Order comes highly recommended.