Wolfenstein has been one of those games that I started playing “back in the day” but just struggled to get past the first couple of missions for whatever reason. I’m a bit of a history buff, so anything in the past gets me interested, and the direction MachineGames and previously Raven Studio’s ‘re-imagining’ of the series provided a ‘what if’ scenario. […]
Wolfenstein has been one of those games that I started playing “back in the day” but just struggled to get past the first couple of missions for whatever reason. I’m a bit of a history buff, so anything in the past gets me interested, and the direction MachineGames and previously Raven Studio’s ‘re-imagining’ of the series provided a ‘what if’ scenario. What if Nazi Germany won World War II. During my reading of A Man in a High Castle (by Phillip K. Dick) this just played on my mind, so I decided to crack on with my playthrough of a New Order and help William “B.J.” Blazkowicz take down the Nazi’s.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Steam, GOG.com, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 20 May 2014
Following the events of Raven Studio’s Wolfenstein (2009), the war has turned in the Nazi’s favour. So the combination of Allied troops attacks William ‘Deathshead’ Strauss’s fortress, Where you’ll find all sorts of gruesomeness before your capture. You find yourself in a human experimentation laboratory. Where you must choose between comrades Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt III, one will become a subject of Deathshead’s sick experiments. This event separates the timelines in which New Order takes place. However, very little is different, other than lock picking mechanics and a couple of character changes, who have minimal impact on the overall plot.
After this, B.J. is in an explosion resulting in him being a vegetative state, where is placed in a psychiatric asylum in what remains of Poland. During this period he witnesses the horror of the Nazi regime as they take patients away from the asylum, who claim they Untermensch (inferior) and are taken to Strauss for more experimentation. In 1960, 14 years later, the asylum was forced to shut down by the Nazis, but luckily B.J. is the perfect Nazi killing machine and quickly awakens from his state, takes down a small army and saves one of the nurses, Anya. With whom he travels to Berlin and joins the Kreisau Circle, a resistance group, and this is where the main plot carries on.
The early game of New Order is what drives the narrative before on the face of things seems to get lost into its retro-futuristic, sci-fi, Nazi vision. (need to extend this a bit) B.J.’s character design is called into question in an early mission, with a Nazi’s commander complimented him on his Aryan features and telling him that she would be able to identify an inferior person just by being able to look at him. B.J. is of Jewish heritage, which was seen an inferior people, however, his blonde hair, blue eyes and muscular stature conflict this idea making him a paradox of the Nazi race hierarchy, a superior Jew. This scene is a brilliant critique of race science.
His actions in the game further B.J.s character design; he is a personification of an ideal USA. He strongly believes in the American constitution; the country is a land of the free. This is what drives his hatred for the Nazis. However, there a couple of characters who challenge this. Specifically J, an African-American member of the Kreisau Circle who explains his experiences with racism before the war and explains how the countries ideology was similar to that of the Nazi party, calling into question B.J.s loyalty to the “man” of the USA.
New Order is an FPS which allows the players the option of rushing hordes of enemies or taking a stealth option. At times it feels like you’re playing as a superhero, allowing you to select from a variety of weapons but most of all when you dual-wield, specifically the shotguns, which will enable you to take down enemy after enemy in quick succession. The superhero mentality is combated with a dual-health system, split into armour and health, which quickly disintegrates, meaning you have to dive into cover immediately, hopping between them in search of health and armour packs. It’s this that makes the game more tactical, as you have to plan your route to avoid or flank ever moving enemies.
Dependent on your timeline chosen during the first mission, you will have one of two mini-games which can help you progress through other routes to sneak around enemies or find collectables. Fergus’ timeline provides with the hotwire mini-game while Wyatt’s is the lockpick mini-game. Neither of this is challenging to complete, and I felt they were a pointless addition to the game. Another difference, as mentioned before, is the Kerisau Circle members available during the safehouse missions, these levels are your breath of fresh air in an ever ending swarm of gunfights and hack and slashing. It’s these mission that leads to exciting background stories being told through several different sources and cutscenes.
Look and Feel
Wolfenstein is a phenomenal looking game with its stunning visuals and level designs. While the FPS mechanics make for an almost perfect gunfight, ducking and dodging behind cover. B.J. narration allows you to get inside the head of his character and will enable you to live his thoughts as he is continuously in the face of danger. The level of realism in this game is another quality I would like to mention; it’s the little details like if you gain a headshot on a soldier would mean his helmet could drop which can be used to boost your armour. If enemies are hit with a grenade they will explode so there is a lot of blood and guts to go around during gunfights. However, the game can at times make you feel like an overpowered superhero, which does take away from that realism and the dual shotguns although useful annoy me for apparent reason. But the retro-futuristic scenery makes anything seem possible.
Wolfenstein is a great game from beginning to end, although I do feel it got caught up in its fantasy of the future which took away from the narrative slightly the gameplay and final boss fight more than makes up for that. B.J. was a fascinating character, when delved into and starting to have played New Colossus, it seems that the sequel adds more to his character and the others. I’m not usually a massive fan of the FPS genre so Wolfenstein was a big surprise for me and I can’t wait to get stuck into New Colossus.