Posted on May 19, 2014, Phil Hornshaw Wolfenstein: The New Order Review: The Best of the Old Order
Editor’s Note: GameFront was unable to secure PC code for Wolfenstein: The New Order in time for this review, but we’ll be adding our PC impressions after release.
Given that Wolfenstein: The New Order is best described as an amalgamation of every good idea in first-person shooters, it’s fitting players get the title not long after the launch of a new generation of game consoles.
Much like the Xbox One and Playstation 4 on which many will play it, The New Order is built on the generation of games that came before it. It’s less an evolution of shooter mechanics and ideas than it is a compendium of them; whatever you want, you get. Multiple pathways and stealth? Got it. Cover shooting? Available. Run-and-gun dual-wielding chaos? Fully possible.
MachineGames’ freshman title as a new studio, in many ways, gleans the best parts of different kinds of shooter and rolls them into a single package, allowing for a lot of versatility in the way The New Order plays. Though the artificial intelligence isn’t always equal to the task of challenging one-man army BJ Blazkowicz, there’s a variety in level design and in gameplay style that make it possible to attack scenarios in lots of different ways, and they all feel generally tight and well-supported.
The New Order is a well-built shooter that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it mixes lots of wheels together to make one giant wheel. Along with its mechanics come some occasionally very strong character development, as well as a harsh narrative tone of a world on the brink, making for an FPS experience that’s extremely familiar but still manages to remain fairly fresh throughout.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Platform: PC, Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Unlike other games in the Wolfenstein series, The New Order breaks free of World War II, instead allowing MachineGames to inflict the Nazis on a conquered world. The Nazi conquest was made possible with the help of some strange technology and one General Deathshead, a mad scientist who creates both powerful fighting machines and hideous cyborg monsters.
As series protagonist BJ, its players’ job to blast all those monsters and robots and Nazis in the face. The core of the game is a pretty standard shooter full of corridors and arenas, although MachineGames smartly adds a little freedom into most of the major gunfights. Diligently study your map or look around an area and you’ll discover an alternate path or two, usually hidden by vents or in side areas.
That versatility in pathing through The New Order’s many battles goes extremely well with the game’s willingness to let players choose their approaches and play styles for most encounters. You can easily switch your methods depending on the situation: If you carefully slip into a room full of soldiers, you can attach a silencer to a pistol and dispatch them quietly; look around and you might even find a secret path that gets you around or behind them. Sneaking up behind guys allows for a mostly silent, up-close knife takedown, and you can earn the ability to hurl knives for silent kills as well.
Or, you can enter the same situation completely differently. Another path might take you to an upper floor and a flanking position, where you can snuggle up to a wall to get automatic cover, and use the position to crack headshots on out-of-position baddies. Yet another method is to toss a grenade through the front door, cradle a shotgun in each arm, and achieve peace through superior firepower. A nifty perk system rewards you for how you play in each category, allowing you to unlock buffs for BJ in four different areas, or in just the ones that fit your style.
None of it is new or groundbreaking. Players familiar with the last 10 years of FPS gameplay will instantly recognize all the trappings of stealth, tactical uses of cover, and overpowered dual-wielding. But The New Order is commendable for effectively gathering all those play styles in one place and making them work so well together. When you botch an attempt to stealthily take down a room’s commanders, who can radio for reinforcements, you can instantly flip out a pair of assault rifles and mop up your mistake. You can quickly go from taking cover and methodically dropping soldiers to sprinting to a mounted turret, pulling it free of its moorings, and bringing it to bear against a giant robot.