Game review: ‘Was Gutes kommt wieder’

Jon Mercer
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The New Order
PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)

It was 22 years ago this month, that id Software acquired the rights to a little-known computer game from the early 1980’s, and reworked the concept, giving the gaming world the original first-person shooter proper, 1992’s “Wolfenstein 3D.”

A screenshot from “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” — Submitted photo

And while it wouldn’t truly take off for another year with id’s “Doom” — gaming truly has never looked back. Sadly, “Wolfenstein” has been left behind in the wake of much more popular fare.

Outside of a mildly entertaining pseudo-sequel in 2001, and a bland, misguided series reboot in 2009, the brand has endured but the gaming world has mostly forgotten about “Wolfenstein.” This is something that the publishers id and Bethesda, along with the brand new developer Machine Games are seeking to remedy with “Wolfenstein: The New Order,” a surprising title that takes the series in a bold new direction, and does so with a jaw-dropping cocktail of relentless zeal and gameplay so solid it feels forged in steel.

Gamers are once again standing in the boots of series protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz (or as I like to imagine him ... Captain America). After a crackerjack of an opening gambit, Blazko spends 14 years in a catatonic state in a Polish asylum. In that time, the Nazi war machine develops impossibly advanced weaponry and stomps down the Allied Forces en route to total world domination. When the Nazis come to liquidate the Asylum staff, after using the patients for years as subjects in what can only be imagined as horrific experiments, Blazko wakes up, and goes back to doing what he does best. And believe me, it is one hell of a rocket ride that has stops in both unbelievably dark, and goofy places.

On the front line of “Wolfenstein’s” assault on boredom is of course the fast-spaced shooting.

The guns are large, just about everything can be dual wielded for twice the firepower, and ammo is plentiful enough to make this wonderful, lead-filled dream a reality.

The well-designed levels are chock-full of black-clad enemies to blast into id Software standard gibs.

The action unfolds at quite a clip, and on higher difficulties players will have to tread carefully, as attracting the attention of every enemy soldier in the area is a express ticket to a violent end.

That’s where “Wolfenstein’s” option of a stealthy route comes into play. And despite reservations that it was going to be a popular industry buzzword stapled onto gameplay that couldn’t support it, the silent and deadly approach works stonkingly well in this regard. Using either a silenced pistol, or a knife it is loads of fun to stalk soldiers and commanders through the grand hallways of their command centres and castles and the cramped confines of their bunkers, listening to their plans and secrets before putting them in the hurt locker. In some situations, it is actually preferable to the bod standard lock, load and unleash hell approach.

There may only be a single-player campaign, but “Wolfenstein’s” is a pure joy to play through, and features a couple of twists that can be altered through choices made that leaves room for additional playthroughs. The action has a great sensation of weight to it, not matter what approach players prefer.

I’ve only seen “Wolfenstein” in play on PC and PS4, and in both regards it was impressive. The characters are well modelled and very expressive, and the environments look great. More importantly, having freed the franchise from the stodgy old occult trappings that plagued 2001’s “Return to Castle Wolfenstein,” and 2009’s self-titled entry and tossed it into the real of super science lets the designers go wild with imaginative surroundings that translate a world long gone mad, crushed under the iron boot of the Reich.

The story is surprisingly ambitious, to boot, adding a lot of unexpected depth to what I expected to be action movie caricatures. This is a game that takes players into the horrifying depths of a Nazi facility where dissidents are used for medical experiments, and then a little ways later it sends them to the moon. Have I mentioned Captain America in this review, yet? It is, at it’s core, an adventure story, but one with unforeseen and very much appreciated gravitas, even in the face of cartoonish super villainy.

“Wolfenstein: The New Order” is especially refreshing after having suffered through the last attempt at a series rebirth. Machine Games clearly have a lot of love for the source material, and were given full support from id and Bethesda to make a polished, superbly crafted shooter that is honestly a whole lot of fun to play, and way more ambitious than any of us would have expected.

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC (PS4 and PC versions reviewed)

Developer: Machine Games

Publisher: id Software and Bethesda Gameworks

Release Date: May 20, 2014

Rated: M for Mature.

 

Walking through the wastes of the digital frontier, Jon Mercer fights a lonely war against the nefarious agents of boredom and

mediocrity. If you seek his help, or wish to join his cause, send a communiqué

via thejonmercer@gmail.com.

Organizations: Id Software

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