Developer: Machine Games
Platforms: Steam, PS3/4, Xbox 360/One
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Rating: M (for Mature)
If you like shooting mutant robo-Nazis in the face, stabbing armor-plated mecha-dogs, dismembering evil scientists and infantry, battling hulking tripod robots, and having random moments of introspection on the horrors of war, Wolfenstein: The New Order is for you. It's like Quentin Tarantino decided Iron Sky wasn't cool enough and wanted to make a prequel set in the 1960's, except Germany wins WWII, steals a bunch of hoodoo-voodoo occult tech, and uses all of it to dominate the world. For perhaps the final time, it's up to BJ Blazkowicz to defeat General Deathshead and the Nazi menace once and for all. If you want entertaining ultra-violence with a good story and likable characters, you've come to the right place.
The New Order picks up right around the end of the underplayed 2009 sequel. Blazkowicz attempts to infiltrate the lair of the Nazi mastermind Deathshead in an attempt to end the war. The assault goes horribly wrong and Blazkowicz is forced to make a terrible decision that will affect which exploration ability he takes with him. When the beefy all-American next wakes up, it's 14 years later in a Polish asylum and the Nazis are everywhere. The world's gone FUBAR and the last of the Kreisau Circle resistance is all that stands between the Nazis and total annihilation.
Despite Blazkowicz's time off, a few returning cast members are still kicking and provide humorous, if nuanced, dialogue. Reuniting with Caroline Becker is both hilarious and depressing as her wit, but not her ability to walk, remains intact. The other Kreisau Circle members are equally well-written and voiced, even if one guy named Max is a little unnecessary (one reviewer called him the Hodor of Wolfenstein). Together with Blazkowicz, these resistance fighters must traverse a 15-hour or so campaign of destruction across Germany and elsewhere in the Nazi empire in an attempt to break Deathshead's stranglehold on the world. It's a surprisingly well-done story and filled with all sorts of character conversations that truly color Blazkowicz's experience.
The plot may not be the most original but the terrifyingly beautiful environments Machine Games has composed certainly are. Every building, from towering Nazi labs to small checkpoints in the country-side, is lovingly crafted with utilitarian concrete. It may sound odd to say concrete is beautiful but Machine's attention to detail is incredible. The environments feel like a bizarre, sterilized art-deco movement caught between Nazi authoritarianism and the classic '60s high-rise architecture some will remember. Even interior environments reflect the pseudo-futuristic feel of The New Order's world; alien, yet familiar. It's a post-war planet that's embraced utilitarianism and Germanic nationalism to a fault.
At the end of the day, The New Order wouldn't be worth it if the game wasn't fun to play. Luckily, Machine has you covered in blood-spattered spades. Blazkowicz can dual-wield almost any weapon, silently take down enemies with knives and pistols, and upgrade his entire arsenal. Rather than follow the aggravating two-weapon carry limit of modern shooters, Wolfenstein stows all of your equipment in a weapon wheel. You can also find new parts for your guns scattered throughout the levels, including silencers and beam-weapon upgrades.
The shooting mechanics are as meaty as the main character and feel incredibly potent. A single bullet can split a Nazi's noggin open a la Tarantino. If an enemy is only wounded, he might roll over and continue to shoot at you. Toss a Tesla grenade at his feet and he'll never have to worry about the medical bills. Enemies aren't brilliant but will utilize flanking and cover maneuvers to keep you guessing. If you alert a Nazi commander, he'll continuously call in reinforcements until you blow him sky high. Stealth and balls-out approaches are equally rewarded with satisfying, explosive combat. Also, it feels completely okay to get spotted so you can blow holes in bad guys with a flechette shotgun. Seriously.
Looking for multiplayer? Look elsewhere. The New Order knows where the goods are and that's the campaign. While I'm sure a ridiculous deathmatch or some classic MP game modes would be fun, nothing would truly add to what's already an immensely entertaining experience. Machine Games knew all of the right buttons and knobs to push for a thrilling, adrenaline-pumping ride without the need for extra human players.
On the presentation side of things, you'd be hard-pressed to be disappointed with the bombastic explosions, detailed environments, ludicrous gore, and pitch-perfect soundwork. The idTech 5 engine does have some issues with pop-in, particularly on higher settings, but the game still looks great, especially when everything is breaking apart. Voice overs are also well-done, especially from some of the returning cast. The music is smashing, including those classic pop songs remixed with German vocals. It all combines to create the perfect atmosphere for killin' Nazis.
As you can probably tell, I adored Wolfenstein: The New Order. It's the perfect summer blockbuster shooter with the added bonuses of a competent story, strong presentation, and brilliantly realized world. Aside from some minor pop-in issues and one or two unnecessarily added characters/scenes, The New Order shines because it's so stupidly entertaining. The game maintains an upbeat rhythm and almost never drops below a billion heartbeats per minute. If you're looking for a good time, look no further than Wolfenstein: The New Order.
+ The plot is actually well-written
+ Awesome campaign
+ Great gunplay and strong mechanics
+ Strong presentation values
- A few minor glitches
- No multiplayer will be an issue for some
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a brilliant shooter that makes all the right moves. Fun, explosive, and well-written, it's a joyous game that wants you to blow up the whole Nazi-infested planet.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher.