With multiplayer FPS games seeing huge popularity over recent years, we’ve seen less and less in the way of lengthy, story driven single player campaigns. Though most games still have some form of single player experience, its often a tacked on after thought to the main multiplayer modes. Likewise, many games that pride themselves on single player content often take precious time and resources during the development stage to add in a usually weak multiplayer mode. Thankfully though, for those looking for a lengthy and quality single player shooter, Wolfenstein: The New Order has you covered.
The Wolfenstein series has been around for a long time now but The New Order is neither a sequel or remake, but a brand new re-imagining that takes its inspiration from the original games. The story still follows the series hero BJ Blazkowicz and this time centres around an alternate history. The game starts with a brief prologue set during the heart of World War II where the Nazi’s have access to superior technology and are well on the road to victory and then takes a jump to the 1960’s where the Nazi’s have won the war and now dominate the world. The story is of course intentionally over-the-top and ridiculous but it helps to set the scene for some truly intense combat and is extremely well paced and interesting enough to keep you pushing on throughout the lengthy campaign. This overly exaggerated feel also helps with the darker side of the games story. Dealing with Nazi story-lines always has potential to be a touchy subject, leading to a censored version in Germany and Australia, and there are also some extremely violent and gruesome scenes. Wolfenstein doesn’t take itself too seriously however and the Nazi characters come across more like Bond villains than anything that could be seen as being too realistic.
The alternate universe setting allowed developers Machine Games to really go to town with the design for the overall game world and the id Tech 5 engine, last seen on Rage, still holds up well on next gen systems. Each location players visit during the game is large and detailed, giving a convincing portrayal of a world under violent Nazi oppression. If you take the time to stop and look out across some of Wolfenstein’s more open environments, you’ll see just how much effort has been put into creating a really convincing looking world. There’s also a good variety of enemy types and each one has its own place in the back story, showing again the effort put in to create a believable enemy force rather than just simply something to point your gun at.
The combat is, as you might expect, where Wolfenstein shines, delivering one of the best single player shooter experiences seen for a long time. For the most part, Wolfenstein takes a step back to the glory days of the FPS shooter, doing away with quite a few features that have become common place in modern shooters. For example, there’s no restriction on how many weapons you can carry; by the time you reach the end of the game and have come across all of the usable weapons, you’ll find that you have access to them all from your menus. It’s also not much of a cover shooter, there are certainly plenty of times where you’ll need to duck down from the force of enemy fire but this is mostly a game that sees you standing tall and unleashing hell. This is a theme that carries on to the dual wielding system that allows you to fire two of the same gun at once. It’s not particularly effective and is hard to aim but being able to jump out on your enemies and hold down both triggers until you’re out of ammo is incredibly satisfying – regardless of whether you actually hit anything!
Another feature brought back from the past is non-regenerating health. In Wolfenstein you have health and armour which you collect from dead enemies and from around the environment and neither of these regenerate. For players used to the modern system of being able to dive down behind cover and regenerate, this may come as a shock. Having this feature brings an awful lot more challenge to the game as not only do you need to watch your health during fights, but you may also find that you’ll be heading into a bad situation having already been reduced to low health. For me, and plenty of other shooter fans who like to be challenged, this feature is very much welcomed, though its not without its flaw. In what is perhaps the most annoying feature of the game, the health and armour items have to be manually picked up, rather than simply by moving over them. It may not sound like too big a deal but with so many large scale firefights in the game, having to spend the next five minutes or so wandering around the room collecting items from the floor really breaks up the gameplay. With so many items lying around after a fight too, its also really easy to miss the collectibles and secret items that are strewn out across each location.
For anyone looking for a slightly slower pace to begin with however, Wolfenstein does offer a pretty robust and well designed stealth system for many of the locations. While its not present through the whole game, various areas can be completed solely through stealth and the in-game perk system rewards players accordingly, dishing out useful boosts to either stealth or assault style gameplay. Though you’re not going to see stealth on the level of games like Metal Gear Solid, the stealth in Wolfenstein is extremely enjoyable. I’m not the biggest fan of stealth yet I found myself taking the sneaky approach quite often through the sheer fun of it and of course if you are seen its effortless to simply pull out a more suitable weapon and go all guns blazing.
Although the game is linear, the large areas and accompanying story line give a great adventure-style theme that prevents the game from ever feeling like a repetitive corridor shooter. There’s also a number of hidden items and collectibles dotted around for achievement hunters and anyone looking to read up on more of the games back story. The rebel base that you find yourself returning to frequently offers a slight respite from the action and serves to introduce and develop most of the supporting cast. Some of these characters could have done with a little more screen time to help grow some attachment to them but in general they’re an interesting group that begin to feel somewhat of a family. This base area also houses a few quick side-quests and also one particular Easter egg that ranks right up there as one of the most entertaining secrets from any game.
To sum up, Wolfenstein is a shooter that the genre badly needed. Taking the decision to not include any multiplayer elements was no doubt very risky but with so many other online shooters around, there’s really no reason to add to it simply for the sake of it. By skipping out the multiplayer, Machine Games have had much more time and effort to expend on simply making an enjoyable and brutal shooter that can last anywhere up to around 20hrs depending on the difficulty. There may not be huge replay-ability, apart from increasing the difficulty or changing the storyline very slightly by swapping which side character dies in the prologue section. Despite this though, if you’re a fan of shooters, want a break from multiplayer and are generally looking for a quality and lengthy action game then Wolfenstein: The New Order will deliver in spades.
Screenshots taken on the PS4 version
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