WOLFENSTEIN: The New Order is a game that defies expectation, remaining faithful to its bloodied corridor-shooter roots while imbuing the narrative of one of gaming’s most fondly regarded series with a depth and sensitivity that feels startling yet curiously apt. It may not be the best first person shooter you have played but it is one of the most thoughtful.
Game review: Wolfenstein: The New Order
Platforms- Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3
Score: 8.7 / 10
The original 3D game, a spritely 22 years young this month, is credited with laying the foundations for the run and gun blueprint. That lineage has blossomed, giving rise to successive generation of games such as Doom, Quake, Goldeneye and ultimately, the unrelenting spectacle of the Call of Duty titles.
As for Wolfenstein, there have reboots down the years, such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 2009’s Wolfenstein. Both were enjoyable enough but did little to try and tweak the formula of their progenitor, serving as racy if limited riffs on an experience that is a classic one, yet not immune to the ravages of time.
For the 2014 update, Swedish developers Machine Games have struck upon an excellent balance of the old and the new. Conceptually, the Wolfenstein games have always occupied an imaginative world, one bordering on the demented at times, with its quasi-medieval imagery fused with an atmosphere that is oppressive while also knowingly schlock-horror. This is all present and correct in New Order, but the story, told through the grizzled protagonist of Captain B.J Blazkowicz is engaging and considered, while also allowing for some enterprising gameplay.
Set in an alternative Europe where the continent has bowed to a fearsome Third Reich. The 1960s timeline is misleading, however, given the way the Nazi forces have augmented their rank and file resources with all manner of advanced technological weaponry thanks to nefarious dabbling in the occult. How Blazkowicz tackles this onslaught is up the player; the majority will no doubt opt to dual wield weapons and go in all guns blazing, but clever level design means that a stealthier approach is also possible.
A passive perk system which aids Blazkowicz on his assault on the heart of the Third Reich is a superb addition. It rewards players to mix up their play styles and encourages repeat playthroughs of a campaign that is generous in length. However you choose to play, the tension evoked in the original Wolfenstein is in full force in the New Order, vindication of Machine Games’ decision to eschew the claustrophobic corridors of the original’s castle for a more expansive game world with various pathways.
Whereas Titanfall showcased an interesting new direction for the FPS genre by including only a cursory campaign mode which still required multiplayer play to progress, New Order harks back to a bygone era, with only a single player campaign on offer. Part homage to the roots of the series, it was a decision which carried the risk of making its most recent iteration feel like an exercise in retro fan pleasing.
Machine Games, however, have shown that is possible to evolve a classic franchise, demonstrating an innate understanding of the iD Software DNA, without compromising its core values. Medipacks and shotgun shells still scatter Wolfenstein’s war-torn domain, but look closer and you will discover the 2014 iteration has a whole lot more to offer.