Monday, 9 March 2015

Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)

Wolfenstein: The New Order logo
Developer:MachineGames|Release Date:2014|Systems:PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Today’s game on Super Adventures is recent first person shooter Wolfenstein: The New Order, which is the something like the seventh game in the series, and the fifth single player first person shooter. Who even knew there were so many of the things?

That's not even counting the original pair of Castle Wolfenstein stealth games by Muse software that inspired the id Software franchise. Not that The New Order was made by id, nope they haven’t developed a Wolfenstein game themselves since 1992’s Spear of Destiny. This is actually the debut release by MachineGames, formed in 2009 by seven key members of Escape from Butcher Bay developer Starbreeze. I try to come into games with an open mind, without studying reviews and bringing too many expectations, but I have to be honest with you here: I'm expecting to love the shit out of this one. A sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein by the people who made an actual good game out of Chronicles of Riddick? Fuck yeah, sign me up for that.

I'll be playing the PC version due to the system's convenient mouse and keyboard full of potential screenshot keys (and because it's the one I own), but it should work out well because I believe that all formats got pretty much the same game here. As usual I plan to stick with the game long enough to reach the regular gameplay and get a decent impression of how it plays, so be aware that I'll likely end up spoiling huge chunks of the first hour or so. No seriously, I get the impression that this actually has some kind of worthwhile plot to it.

(Click screenshots to view them slightly bigger, but not by much. Let's not go crazy here.)



Here's the first big spoiler: the game almost takes as much HD space as Final Fantasy XIII! This is easily the biggest game I've got installed right now at 47GB, towering over even Max Payne 3, and that thing's like half video. It's so big that I've had to banish it to another drive on its own, in case my other games feel inadequate by comparison.

You know, seeing the game icons lined up in my Steam library has just brought something to my attention. Did you know that Wolfenstein logo changes with almost every game? Because it hadn't even occurred to me until now.

The logo first showed up in the Quake III Arena engine powered Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and I don't feel I'm crazy for thinking that it's deliberately based on the Quake III logo. Seriously, cover up the top half and then tell me I'm imagining that.

The 2009 sequel replaced the stylised eagle wings with lightning bolts, and made the middle of the W taller (but only in game, the game disc features the old logo weirdly). Now we've got The New Order logo, which keeps the lightning bolts but makes the bottom part look even more like a W.

Anyway I'm sure you didn't end up here on my site reading this fine article because you wanted to see logo comparisons. No, what you really want is to see one of gaming's most enduring and well respected first person shooter heroes dressed up like a baby.

Yep, they brought back the difficulty select faces from Wolfenstein 3D, just updated a little for 2014. I'm still playing as American OSA secret agent William 'B.J.' Blazkowicz, only this time our hero looks more like Mark Valley from that Human Target series. I'm not considering this to be a bad thing.

Annoyingly I had to leave a face out when I was putting this picture together and now the difficulty settings don't line up right, as The New Order includes a fifth setting called ÜBER for players who are even better than 'Death incarnate'. I try to play all these games on the normal difficulty setting to let me make a fair comparison (plus I get cranky when faced with constant unrelenting failure) so I'll go with 'Bring 'em on!' instead.

By the way, the title music playing now really isn't the ultra-heroic, stand up and salute the screen, Allied Assault-style World War II military theme I was expecting. The soaring strings and brass section I imagined have been replaced by downbeat droning distorted guitars and a drum kit, and it's setting a very different kind of tone. Here, follow this YouTube link and listen for yourself if you want.

Wolfenstein: The New Order Get Psyched text
Hah, I caught the game trying to sneak this reference to Wolfenstein 3D past me subliminally after I started a new game. It's fine though, I don't mind getting psyched.

The game starts with Captain Blazkowicz asleep in chair, narrating his own dream.
"In my dream I smell the barbecue. I hear children. A dog. And I see someone. I think I see someone. These things... none of it for me. I move by roaring engines. Among warriors. We come from the night."
Not entirely in character with the action hero who showed up for Wolfenstein 2009 maybe, but I guess he gets more poetic when he's sleepy. 

Uh... why am I waking up a cockpit, tasked with minding the plane while this well rendered Scottish gentleman goes to take a leak? Where's my pistol, where's my hallways, my stone corridors? Why did it just tell me to "Get psyched" when it knew I'd end up stuck here watching an Allied invasion force maintain formation out of the window?

The year is 1946 and the end of World War II is 10 months overdue, but were here to fix that, before the Nazi's take Europe entirely. We're not here to kill Mecha-Hitler though this time (even though his death was presumably retconned away somewhere along the line), instead we've been sent on a raid to kill recurring Wolfenstein super-scientist villain General Deathshead (not his real name).

This is with the graphics maxed out by the way, so if it looks a bit crappy it's probably because of the combination of film grain, JPEG compression, and the lack of any anti-aliasing option in the video menu.

Holy shit, I don't know what that pilot's been drinking but he's made a real mess of the room back here.

Actually Fergus was distracted by incoming fire before he made it down here; this particular leak is actually due to a bit of chaos outside wrecking one of the engines. Now I have to clamp the fuel line before we explode (by walking up to the blue diamond and pressing 'Action'). First though I need to go find the tool cupboard and collect some wire and a pair of pliers (by walking up to the other blue diamond and pressing 'Action'). Seems that before I'll be allowed out to partake in a bit of Nazi shooting I'm going to have to demonstrate a thorough comprehension of blue markers and the action key. It's possible to turn tutorials off in the options, but somehow I doubt that's going to get me out of doing this.


SOON.


Get the tools, clamp the fuel line, cut the cargo straps, shoot down the incoming Nazi jets... this agitated friend of mine sure loves to send me running errands. Now I'm stuck in here shooting at sci-fi looking planes while these badly designed turret guns eject their red-hot empty shell casings all over me. You know what other first person shooter featured an early turret level with sci-fi fighters? Duke Nukem Forever. Just saying.

I've got subtitles turned on to 'foreign only' right now but the pilot's Scottish accent is thick enough to qualify, which amuses me. I wonder who's voicing this guy, he's actually pretty good.
Gideon Emery ... Fergus Reid
Gideon Emery? Seriously? Damn, I would not have guessed that it was Balthier providing the voice. Brian Bloom is playing Blazkowicz, so I'm beginning to get my Dragon Age II crew back together here.


BUT THEN, ONCE THE TURRET SHOOTING WAS OVER.


Well, I fucked that up.

Our plan was for the two of us to leap out of our plane and land on the wing of a troop transport to take over for the deceased pilot and save the soldiers, and it was going great right up to the point where I utterly failed to sprint jump and went sliding off the wing instead. Twice. I think... I may have forgotten to map the 'sprint' to the button I thought I was meant to be pressing. There's no quicksave key I'm aware of, but the game's always finding excuses to save my progress, so the most painful part of a death is the loading times afterwards.

The worst thing about this though, is that we're finally leaving the plane, but only to transfer to another plane. Enough of this slow-burn triple-A bullshit New Order, just give me some proper gameplay already.


EVENTUALLY, STILL IN THE PROLOGUE LEVEL.


Well the good news that Blazkowicz successfully avoided drowning, and also that the plane crashed and he's not stuck in a cockpit any more. The bad news is that we've got machine gun nests staring back at us from the other side of the beach and they're not even the thing effortlessly cutting through all of our troops right now.

The mission’s really going to shit, but command is adamant that retreat is not an option because this is our last chance to hold on in the war. The Nazi forces have been advancing across Europe at an incredible rate and no one knows why. It’s possible that Nazi robot terminator dogs have something to do with it though.

Yep, we've got giant metal robot dog problems here, and the only cure is lead. Trouble is, the turret I need to kill them is situated on a wrecked plane further down the beach, and these things are munching on anything that sets foot out of cover with their big steel teeth. If only I had a string of cybernetic sausages to throw out and distract him

Time for a slow motion swimming section then. I can't rely on my blue diamonds here, they're for when I'm already in the right room and need to know what I should be looking at, so I guess I just have to keep going forwards until I reach the plane or run out of air. Or the dogs learn to swim.

Man, it's been a while since I've played a first person shooter so keen to keep me away from the first person shooting. Duke Nukem Forever and Bulletstorm were both pretty bad for this I guess, but I don't remember anyone praising them for it. Half-Life 2, that pulled it off I suppose, but it was deliberately trying to make the player feel vulnerable and powerless in a nightmarish future dystopia, so there was a purpose to it. Plus it at least let me walk around a bit! I got to go to a park and play on the roundabout and everything.


SOME SWIMMING AND TURRET FIRING LATER.


Oh damn, I managed to catch this shot just as the lightning flashed! I love it when that happens.

Anyway, I've just gunned down two robodogs with that crashed aircraft's turret, and now I'm free to join up with the rest of the troops and discuss exactly how we're going to get around the gun emplacements, assault Castle Not-Wolfenstein here, and prevent the Nazis conquering the world.

I found a way to turn anti-aliasing on by the way. I did a little research and learned that by opening the console and typing 'bind x "r_multiSamples 4"' I can turn 4x anti-aliasing on by hitting the x key (where 'x' is whatever I want it to be). It can go higher than that, but I'm not greedy. Not sure why this wasn't an option in the menu really if it's that simple to enable.

First person shooting! At last!

Though I'm kind of put off by the way this gun takes up a full sixth of the screen when I aim down the sights. I'm not sure how it's even possible that I'm not used to using iron sights in games yet, but still find it annoying when enemies are able to hide out of sight behind my gun's fat ass.

I'm ducking behind a conveniently placed box right now, making use of the game's cover system. If I get right up to a wall or a box and look near the edge a tiny arrow will appear indicating that holding down the aim button will make me pop out in that direction (as shown above). But it also has another button to let me lean and bob around in any direction I please, a bit like in Medal of Honor: Airborne. Probably more fun to use with an analogue stick that one.


Oh, and if you're thinking that cover systems are out of place for a Wolfenstein game...

Wolfenstein 3D title screen
First thing you ever see Blazkowicz doing in Wolfenstein 3D is taking cover behind a wall; it's right there on the title screen mate! Sure you can't do it in the actual game, but it's not exactly mandatory in New Order either so it's all good.

Man, I can dual wield assault rifles in this too? That's another thing Wolf 3D promised in artwork and never delivered on in game!

It took 22 years, but you can finally do this. Well, not with Gatling guns, but close enough.

Double the firepower comes at the cost of iron sights though, as my right mouse button becomes the right hand gun's trigger instead. Man, this almost makes up for the fact that I'm stuck using alternate history rifles instead of genuine WW2 weapons!

The enemies are alternate history troops too, with glowing sci-fi backpacks that very nearly helps to make them stand out from the scenery occasionally. I think the idea was that the game should feel nothing like the World War 2 shooters that people grew tired of a decade ago, and if that was the plan then they've succeeded. For one thing I'm entirely on my own here, as my squad is still being pinned down by these mechanical gun turrets I'm meant to be throwing my hand grenades at. Oh right, you can't see it here with this box in the way. Well I'll smash that too while I'm here, there's bound to be something worth having inside it. I'll have that hat on the right as well for extra armour; can never wear too many hats*.

*There is actually a limit to how many hats you can wear.

Oh shit, I found a map as well!

It seems that the lit up area is the part I've discovered myself, while the map I just collected has filled in the rest. Wait, that means... that I have a proper automap! I'm playing a modern first person shooter with a proper automap! Thank you MachineGames, thank you thank you!

Of course the level design is still a bit of a straight line right now (I'm in a trench after all), but this is a good omen. Some people after seeing 'Bethesda' on the box might be hoping this'll turn into WWII Skyrim, and that's just not going to happen, but personally I'll be happy if it at least matches the moderate complexity of Return to Castle Wolfenstein's levels.

This is cool too: I can unlock extra damage, better ammo capacity, sneakier sneaking and all kinds of other things by reaching certain goals. The more I play the game in a certain way, the better my character gets at it, but the system also encourages trying different approaches to get extra bonuses. 'Stealth' is about getting kills without being seen, the 'Tactical' style is getting kills from behind cover, 'Assault' is running and gunning (and sliding) Duke Nukem-style, and 'Demolition' you can probably figure out. Not really the kind of game you can finish non-lethally.

Hang on... the unlockable upgrades are called "Perks" in this too? I guess that's Bethesda's thing now since making Fallout 3, seeing as they were called that in Skyrim too.

AGH! Melee attack, melee attack, knife him! Keep knifing him!

Bloody jump scare cyborg dogs. At least he didn't take off half my health in a single bite. Also, there were no QTE buttons to mash during the process, which is interesting.

What's also interesting is that my health only regenerated up to 80% and then stopped. Seems that I only recover a fifth of my life at most, and anything after that I have to get back myself by collecting health kits. I have to actually aim at them and hit the action key too; weapons, health and ammo aren't automatically sucked up by the vacuum cleaner in my pants. I'm not finding this to be a bad thing though so far.


SOON, AFTER THE TRENCHES (BUT STILL IN THE PROLOGUE LEVEL).


I was finding it a bit claustrophobic so I've opened up the field of view a little. I always appreciate it when developers put in the extra effort to include these kinds of options, seeing as I'm sitting up close to a monitor, not across the room from a TV.

I've got to be honest though... I'm kind of bored right now. That long fuel line clamping, turret shooting, plane jumping intro kind of kicked the enthusiasm out of me, and now I'm shooting at tiny grey figures in a smoky grey room with my grey made-up gun, and I'm finding it hard to get engaged. Plus it doesn't help that there isn't even any music; just the sounds of machine gun fire, pissed off Nazis, and Blazkowicz occasionally muttering under his breath about how rubbish war is or something. I might have to turn subtitles on to tell what he's actually whispering.

I can't keep sleepwalking through the level like this though, not when my health isn't magically returning after every fight. This place looks awesome, the shooting is rock solid, but my heart's not in it.


A FEW DOZEN NAZIS LATER.


Whoa, that actually worked? I wasn't even supposed to shoot at the giant robot, I just came up here to shut these guns down so they'd stop shelling my guys on the beach. This robot’s been stomping around the trenches and mocking me all level, so it’s nice to turn the artillery its way this time. Hmm, I wonder if I can shoot the other gun emplacement over to the right as well...

Haha, I just demolished that thing in a single shot! I love it when games let me play with the toys. There's a huge psychological difference between being required to do something and being able to do something, and that's what makes stopping to shoot a Stomper way more entertaining than being forced to shoot down enemy fighters. Plus the fact that it comes after the first person shooting, that helps too.


SOON, STILL IN THE PROLOGUE LEVEL.


Okay, with the defences taken care of and the doors opened, the Allied forces are finally able to storm the fortress! They're all somewhere else though; I'm still alone up here and to be honest I prefer it this way. It lets me take the game on at my own pace, without getting harassed by people yelling orders or having to wait for them to kick the next door open.

Also look, I'm in a castle for once! Finally some proper old school Wolfenstein action, even if it's not actually Castle Wolfenstein itself. I've managed to set off all the alarms though, so I'm thinking I should probably find a quieter way around, or at least switch to a gun with more than 5 bullets in it.

A secret passage behind a painting of the villain! I might not be connecting with the gameplay right now, but I can always appreciate a good callback. I also found some treasure in here, which seems to be pretty much pointless unless you're after the achievement for finding all 50 gold items.

The secret passage let me sneak around behind a commander and put a bullet into his head without revealing my presence to his men outside! There's only one of these guys left in the area now, I can tell by the "Signal Detected" message on my commander scanner up there on the top right. Commanders are the ones that trigger the alarm and stir up the hornet's nest when they know I'm around, so taking both of these guys out will make my job a lot easier.

Alerted commanders like to call in reinforcements until I can find and stop them, but fortunately there's a limit to how many extra enemies they can bring into the game. This isn't like CoD: Modern Warfare with its infinite enemy issues.

The silencer I found on his desk should help as well. Time for a bit of optional stealth.

Stealth killing a commander can also mark the position of collectables on the map, which is ridiculously useful if you're trying to grab all this stuff. It's not the end of the world if I screw it up though, as it just means more first person shooting.

It's nice to know that eating people's dinner is still a good way to recover health.

I'm already full from munching down a bowl of dog food earlier, but collecting extra health items will overcharge my HP, giving me bonus life that quickly ticks back down to 100. So I have to make a tactical choice between stuffing my face immediately and rushing off with twice the health, or only using what I need and leaving the rest where it is in case I get into trouble later and need to run back to grab an emergency snack.

This is pretty different from a pure regenerating health system, which encourages a lot of hiding and waiting around. In New Order there's very little reason to hang around and a lot of excuses to rush in.

Man, this is typical for this game: I found that I can detach mounted turrets and run around with them, which is awesome, but now I have to shoot these tiny dots in the distance with it! If it wasn't for my crosshair turning red I wouldn't even know I had a target in my sights, and every time I walk over to shoot them they all gang up on me and shoot back.

Oh fuck it, I'm falling back to cover and getting my sniper pistol out. The accuracy of my weapons is amazing in this, even when I'm not using the sights, so I'm pretty confident I could pick them off just as well from here with a handgun.


2 MINUTES LATER, STILL IN THE PROLOGUE LEVEL.


Well that's just great. I finally meet up with Fergus and the rest of my team, and everything immediately goes to shit. Not that I'm saying it's their fault, they did their job just fine; no one could've predicted that the floor would give way and trap us all inside a lab filled with human test subjects. I could probably blame them for hitting buttons on the wall and activating the incinerators, giving us mere seconds to find a way to avoid becoming charcoal.

Of course it's all up to me to save the day... by searching in all the drawers until I find the door key.

Well this next room didn't turn out all that great either.

This mechanised super-soldier is the kind of bullet-sponge boss that stomps around without an obvious weak point, so I'm finding it hard to tell whether the damage I've dealt is a result of all the magazines I've emptied into it, or because a few of my stray shots ended up hitting something fragile.

I mean I am trying to focus on things that look like weak points, and I figure the head and those things sticking up behind his neck are good candidates, but I'm not getting much feedback here. If this was Doom or Quake I'd know to just circle strafe and keep the fire button held down, and that can be satisfying in its own way, but the uncertainty here is frustrating to me. This is why I like shooting regular soldiers: it's always obvious where to aim and it only takes the one shot if you do it right. Then afterwards I'm free to get on with the rest of my day!

Well at least this guy finds it all hilarious.

Hey that's the glowing smiley face of Deathshead, the guy we were sent here to kill! And he's just flicked a switch to send the walls sliding together to crush us alive. I suppose it's in my job description as a secret agent to be caught in death traps from time to time, but I think I forgot to pack my laser cutter watch.

Hmm, I noticed bits of the scenery getting chipped away by gunfire earlier; maybe if I put 170 rounds of heavy gauge ammunition into this wall I can drill an escape route right through it! Not going to happen is it? Crap.


AND THEN THEY ALL DIED, THE END.


Actually General Deathshead has more use for us alive rather than dead, so he turned off the wall crusher at the last second and saved me from becoming a Blazkowicz sandwich. Well he has a use for one of us anyway, and apparently the lucky candidate needs to be conscious throughout the procedure. The game's been kind of miserable at times, but I honestly can't say I was expecting it to get this dark.

So now I have to choose who Deathshead will "dissect" right in front of my eyes: Grizzled badass Scottish pilot Fergus on the right, or... the other guy on the left. Wyatt I think his name is. I was half tempted to choose neither and instead pedantically point out that the word he was looking for is ‘vivisect’, but that would only get them both cut up. There's no getting out of this.

Man, this is a harsh choice. Fergus was the first character I met in the game and I’ve grown attached to the foul mouthed lunatic, but he’s the kind of tough-as-nails sergeant that would beat the shit out of me if I had the nerve to save his life over someone else, so I'm going to have to choose to save... uh... damn I knew this a second ago. Wyatt! I'm saving Wyatt.

Wow, that choice created a new timeline? Damn, if I'd known Fergus was that important to the space time continuum I'd have sacrificed Wally instead. Wyatt. Whatever.

After Fergus's gruesome demise, Deathshead locked us all in the incinerator again, but this time Wyatt noticed that the window has a lock on the side of it, and thus Blazkowicz suddenly gains the ability to lock pick it with a minigame. Could've really done with him spotting this earlier really.

The idea here is to use the mouse to steer the green arrow back and forth so that it keeps up with the three circles on the ring above long enough for all the pins to lock. The ring really doesn't want the arrow pointing at those pins though, so I have to keep tweaking its position very slightly to follow it as it rolls from side to side. Pretty unusual minigame but it seems alright.

Just out of curiosity I replayed the (entire) level and unlocked the Fergus timeline as well, which comes with a hotwiring minigame. So the choice of timeline determines what doors and cupboards I'll be able to get open along the way it seems.

The game has a chapter select with the two timelines getting a column each and I can switch between them whenever, but I have to make progress in each separately. I can't get to chapter 5 or whatever in the Wyatt timeline, then switch over to the Fergus timeline and continue playing chapter 6 from there without having played the proceeding Fergus chapters. The timelines share collectables, perks, and weapon upgrades, and once I've unlocked something I've got it forever, on any chapter, so the second timeline is basically a New Game+ I can get started with early.

What's annoying about this PC version though, is there's no way to start an entirely fresh game without wiping all progress, and there's no user profiles to switch between. So if you're the kind of person who has friends or family, they're either going to have to share your profile or start messing around with moving save files.

Anyway, the last survivors get the window open and jump out into the sea, just in time for the incinerators to fire up and blast them with shards of shrapnel. End of prologue, finally!


CHAPTER 2: ASYLUM.


Our hero survived the blast and the days drifting at sea unconscious on a piece of debris, but he took with him a souvenir of his trip: a four inch piece of shrapnel, making itself at home in his brain. "Scrambled eggs" was the expert medical assessment given when doctors in a Polish hospital examined the damage, but they decide that removing the metal would only make things worse.

With their patient unresponsive but stable, there's nothing they can do for the guy but put him in an asylum.

So Blazkowicz is placed in the corner of a room, where he sits watching the world go by, locked inside his own head, unable to speak or move. Sometimes seasons flash by in the blink of an eye as he loses consciousness, his brain struggling to repair itself. And all the while there are the Nazis, dropping by every now and again to take a few of the 'sub-human' patients for Deathshead's ongoing experiments. Which is a bit of a concern for a number of reasons, not least the fact that it means the Nazis haven't lost the war yet.

I have to say, this is a fairly unusual turn of events for a World War II shooter, and I'm really feeling for Blazkowicz as he narrates how he sees things from his fly on the wall perspective. It's got extra impact because this isn't just anyone stuck in the chair, this is a videogame legend who's been shooting Mecha-Hitlers since 1992, who's saved the day in four or five other games already and helped establish the genre in the first place. And this is his reward: to lose entire years of his life staring at a wall, encountering some of the real-life horrors of the Nazi regime up close, and the facing the truth that all his heroism, everything he's achieved so far, in the end it was for nothing.

At least the developers have resisted the urge to make me mash the A button to eat food or whatever, so I've been spared some small degree of horror.


CHAPTER 3: A NEW WORLD.



Okay I think I've spoiled enough of the story now, so I'm going to skip ahead a level or two, where Blazkowicz is back on his feet in the strange new world of 1960's Nazi Europe. 14 years in a chair and not the slightest bit of muscle atrophy; c'mon game, I remember a Steven Seagal movie sparing a couple of minutes to deal with the comatose hero's muscle loss, so you've got no excuse. Unless it's something to do with all that supernatural bullshit he's been involved with over the years, that'd be a pretty good excuse. It'd explain why he hasn't aged a day either.

Anyway I'm on a mission to assault a checkpoint and kill every Nazi here, but now that I've got this wide open area to play with I feel like doing some sneaking! There's no radar, but the place is empty enough for me to keep track of all the guards on patrol even without memorising their patrol routes. It's like I'm playing Human Revolution again, or the good bits of No One Lives Forever 2, creeping around buildings, helping myself to supplies, and shooting bad folks in the back. There no way to drag or dispose of bodies in this though, but no security cameras to spot them either so far so it's working out fine.

Here's what the automap looks like on a level with multi-storey buildings (after I've picked up the level map), with all the rooms laid out cleanly and question marks indicating known secrets. Basically, it's awesome.

Look at all that space for me to run around and catch enemies by surprise, all those air vents and pipes I can use to get around unseen...

...or I can just get up here on top of this building and snipe at people with the new rifle I just picked up instead.

The game takes an old-school approach to weapon ownership, so I can carry pretty much everything at once, and dual wield basically ALL of them except the grenades. Because that would make no sense. I've only found a single sniper rifle so far but I've no reason to believe I won't be able to dual wield that as well when a second one shows up. Plus each gun can be switched between firing modes separately, so I can have a silenced pistol in one hand and another set for burst fire in the other.

Fortunately it's more modern when it comes to knives and grenades, with each getting their own button for instant use in combat. That's something I really miss when I'm playing older shooters. Oh, plus when I've got more than one knife on me I can start throwing them at folks for a one-shot stealth kill (and get them back afterwards).

Okay, I'm definitely starting to come around to this game a bit more now that I'm out of cockpits and trenches. It's got that early 2000s Half-Life 2-era style to the gameplay, with solid combat that reminds me of Rage. I suppose some would consider it to be a bit archaic in its design, a bit 'been there, done that', but I'm not seeing anything outdated about health kits and a good selection of guns. Just look at Duke Nukem Forever if you want an example of what happens when a developer chases current fads without considering if they fit the game they're making.


SOON.


Oh no, more robots again? Why did they have to end the level with robots? I was actually enjoying this level dammit!

It's not an unfair set up, seeing as there's two turrets here I can use to deal the appropriate amount of damage, I just don't much want to do this. Wearing down robot armour isn't a welcome change of pace for me, and it doesn't help that I feel like I'm bringing in all the frustration from having to do this a hundred times before in a hundred other games. It's a bit archaic in my opinion, a bit 'been there, done that'.

I almost wish that the game had started with a questionnaire asking things like "So, boss fights... sick of them yet?" so I could tick yes and fight an elite squad of soldiers here instead or something. Okay I admit that it does look cool when they shoot up all my cover with their sci-fi Gatling guns, but that leaves me without cover and I don't like that either!

I'll just shut up and get on with it then.


CHAPTER 4: EISENWALD PRISON.


Blimps! I should've known there would be blimps. If you ever go outside one morning and see Zeppelins patrolling the skies, that's a dead giveaway you've woken up in a parallel universe. That, and the Golden Gate Bridge being blue or something.

I'm happy to see that missions aren't split into levels on the chapter select screen, so if I ever want to carry out this daring raid on Eisenwald prison again at some point (for collectables or whatever) I'll have to start off back right back here at the start of the chapter again, standing on a hotel in some other part of the city, looking for a prison van to jump onto.


A SHORT WALK LATER.


Hey, I've just found the game's gimmick gun: a laser cutter that can slice through fences and chains.

I should've cut a dumb shape here for you, but the bloody thing recharges so slow that it's a struggle just to get a circle out of it. Oh, hang on, there's a glowing orange Half-Life 2-style charging unit on the wall to my right that I didn't notice. Well... that's cool then, though I still haven't found an actual gun on this stage. Seems that this is going to be more of a sneaky stabby level with a lot of knife kills. No complaints here.


CHAPTER 5: A NEW HOME.


I'm jumping ahead a bit again to show you guys my new crib that I hang out in between missions; home to myself, my new allies, and the world's largest collection of security monitors. I'm not going to spoil who else I found here, but I will say that a couple of the residents change depending on what timeline you're in. The timeline change also affects whether you get health or armour upgrades during the game by the way.

I can walk around, read the Half-Life 2-style newspaper clippings on the walls, and see what people are up to. You know, enjoy a bit of quite time and relax between shoot outs. But this isn't exactly Mass Effect, and it's rare that I'm ever allowed to chat with anyone here. There's plenty of dialogue mind you, but most of it's in conversations I overhear or mandatory third person cutscenes.
 
Blazkowicz is an endearing, down to earth, 'Captain America out of his time' type in this game, far from the cocky caricature he could've been. The rest of his crew on the other hand are a little more eccentric, bringing some black humour and weirdness for him to react to. Personally I think that the giant with the mind of a three year old who can only repeat his own name is pushing it a bit, but I have to admit he is exactly the kind of person that the Nazi's were disregarding as being sub-human back in the asylum earlier, so it makes sense to include him.

Oh, also I found a bed upstairs with a time portal to 1992.

Wolfenstein the New Order Wolfenstein 3D easter egg
It's Wolfenstein 3D all over again! An exact replica of the first level in fact, even down to the secret sliding wall panels. Poor Blazkowicz, he can't even escape the Nazis in his dreams (except for that bit in the intro when he had a barbecue).

I've brought all my advanced New Order tricks with me like iron sights, regenerating health, cover leaning and strafing, but I'm actually finding this to be harder than in the original game because the enemies take way more hits to put down (plus it's set to hard mode). It really makes me appreciate how quickly enemies usually go down in this game. Something else I like about New Order is that it doesn't have many doors around. Okay that was a lie, it has tons of doors everywhere, but most are locked and I can put them out of mind. Not like in Wolf 3D and its never-ending door mazes.

This is a cool dream, I like it. Reminds me of how Metal Gear Solid 3 had that vampire killing dream out of nowhere. I hope the next one takes me back to a Return to Castle Wolfenstein map though.


CHAPTER 7: A MYSTERY.


One more screenshot from later in the game to confirm that yes, it does have a sewer level. Of course even sewer levels can be good if you're down there for a good reasons, and if there's one thing this game does well it's justifying all the terrible things I do. This time though I'm here on a mission to retrieve a chunk of mouldy concrete. Because one of the characters nearly got a doctorate in archaeology so of course she'd be able to analyse it and discover which labour camp the limestone was mined at. The story's usually better than this.

On the plus side I've just found an upgrade to my Laserkraftwork rifle to let it ricochet off walls, so now I can practice my RoboCop rebound shots. The weapon is itself an upgrade to the laser cutter I had before, and I've been given no reason to believe this is the last add-on I'll be attaching to the thing. It's just a shame it takes so long to recharge at those Half-Life 2 stations, so I never end up using it.


CHAPTER 11: U-BOAT.


Actually there's something else I want to mention seeing as I seem to be incapable of turning the game off. Well, two things really:

First, you can click this screenshot to see a proper sized 1920x1080 image, because the game looks fantastic to me and I want to show it off. Sure the level textures look a bit on the low-res side when I get up close (and there's a bit of pop-in sometimes), but that's because the lunatics who built the level didn't wallpaper it with tiled blocks of repeated art like you're supposed to do, instead they drew up one big unique megatexture for each level! Well, probably more than one, seeing as it'd also need a normal map and probably a specular map etc... but you know what I mean. Also the subtle reflections they've put on everything are amazing. I could do a 30 screenshot article just showing off how shiny everything is.

Second, holy shit these Fire Trooper guys with the bullet-sponge body armour are annoying! When I jump out and start shooting someone with dual-wield automatic shotguns, that's their cue to flinch and stop shooting back for a moment! Or at least fall over and die, if having a reaction is too much trouble for them. But nope, they're far too busy kicking my ass for that.

It's even more annoying because they don't look all that different from the regular soldiers at first glance, so I'm trying to get headshots with my pistol like a smart ass secret agent, and they just charge up and annihilate me before I can decide what heavy weapon I want to pull out.

Okay, no more screenshots of gameplay, for real this time.

Before I turn it off though, I should mention that the collectables found in game can have a use to them. There's concept art to unlock, letters to find, and enigma codes to decipher.

The method used to decode the enigma codes is an actual legitimate puzzle to be solved, and the code can only be entered when all the pieces are found. I'm an idiot though, so I used a guide to put me on the right track to figuring out the first one and found that by solving it I'd unlocked...

...a new game mode! The hardest difficulty, a ridiculous amount of overcharged health, and unlimited ammo. Fun times if you've unlocked the rocket launcher add-on for the assault rifle, assuming it lets you use it.

There's also:
  • Walk in the Park Mode: No HUD and Death Incarnate difficulty.
  • Hardcore Mode: ÜBER difficulty, no health or armour pick ups.
  • Ironman Mode: ÜBER difficulty, with permadeath. First time you lose, it's game over.
I didn't find the game all that challenging on the normal difficulty, but you can't say it doesn't cater to the overly talented, the determined and the masochistic too. Multiplayer gamers are out of luck though, as this is a single player experience only. No deathmatch, no co-op, nothing.


CONCLUSION (Conclusion music YouTube link)

I... think I may have said 'Half-Life 2-style' a few too many times up there. I guess when a first person shooter features a hero reappearing after a decade to help a resistance group led by his old friends defeat a horrific fascist sci-fi regime there's going to be comparisons to make, and it did feel like I was returning to City 17 at times.

I'm still not really sure what I think about Wolfenstein: The New Order though, and that's weird seeing as I've finished it one and a half times over now, and it's something like 12 hours long. It doesn't help that I came into it with huge expectations after all the praise it has been getting, with some people even calling it their game of the year, so it had plenty of room to fall short. I guess I forgot that other people like scripted sequences and boss fights more than I do.

The core gameplay is rock solid, the combat is satisfying, and when it'd just let me shoot some guys I was happy enough, but when I think back at what levels I'd want to replay in their entirety I really struggle because there's something there on every one of them that puts me off. Usually a boss or a section with bullet-sponge armoured troops (or the entire bloody Gibraltar bridge stage). I mean I don't mind the challenge so much, I actually got Blazkowicz shot dead more often fighting the regular rubbish soldiers, I just found them really dull to fight. I suppose part of that is because I was playing it tactical or stealthy for the most part, keeping my head down and trying to conserve ammo, while other players have been having a better time going full Duke Nukem and running around firing off a rocket launcher in each hand like a maniac.

But for all its amped up action, laser guns shoot outs and giant robots fights, it's a surprisingly melancholy game. It quickly leaves the war a decade behind, downplays the ubiquitous super-science, and scraps the supernatural elements featured in earlier games entirely, to put more of a focus on the horrors of this Nazi regime and how it affects people. It really wants you to give a shit about how terrible it all is, to the point of taking you on a trip to an active concentration camp, complete with complimentary tattoo. Even Blazkowicz has to admit his own arrogance in believing that he was ready to face some of crap he comes across in this game. I mean it's also surprisingly funny a lot of the time too and you hang around with a likeable crew, so there is some hope and levity in there. I could've done without the errands they send you on though; things like searching for a missing file, collecting a set of misplaced toys and hunting for a lost wedding ring. I realise it's supposed to be a change of pace to help you recover between action scenes, but it turned out to be a whole different kind of horror. I still can't believe that ring was sitting inside a bloody toilet cistern (uh, forgive the spoiler).

The game does kick you out of Blazkowicz's head for a non-interactive bit of cinema each level, but the cutscenes are cinematic in the right way and the deft storytelling makes up for the daft plot. One issue I had though is that you can't skip it all on a replay. Conversations yes, sex scenes yes, 10 minutes fucking around in a cockpit, no. The game gives you all these reasons to revisit levels, but then forces you to replay entire chapters instead, and they aren't often short. If you want to storm the castle again for instance, you have to do the plane, the swimming, the trenches and the bunker first, and that's pretty excessive.

Also there's no user profiles, so if you've got other people playing on your PC you're either stuck with everyone using the same save, or messing around with save files. Very anti-social! Speaking of anti-social, the lack of multiplayer may be a bit of a disappointment for Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory fans and people who aren't me, but hey it's not like there's a shortage of multiplayer shooters right now.

Oh, I forgot to mention that there's no QTEs, no instant-fail stealth, no escort missions, no 'paint targets on a fuzzy monochrome screen' bit, and no bloody 'defend the power core' level. I still haven't forgiven BioShock Infinite for that last one. You know, I'm not even sure why I was so harsh on this earlier, it's a damn good game! (Just maybe not quite as good as everyone else is saying it is).

    

Wow, I did not expect to type so many words just then.

Anyway, leave a comment if you feel like it. You could talk about The New Order, the awesome soundtrack it has, the Wolfenstein series in general, my writing, my website, or anything halfway relevant. But not the 80s English rock band New Order, that's way off the table.

4 comments:

  1. I didn't even know you had a "not crap would play again" star xD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an upgrade to the Gold Star! Hopefully a little less misleading than the old one (but no less shiny).

      Delete
  2. Personally, i kind of skeptic with wolfenstein that isn't made by ID. It's like Final Fantasy made by not square-enix or super mario made by not nintendo. Maybe it's appropriate or very good with most modern gamer, but not me.

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  3. Not really... Wolfenstein was originally the name of two stealth games developed by Muse Software for the Apple II, released in 1981 and 1984. Id Software acquired the name after the trademark expired and made Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny ('prequel' to Wolf3d, fundamentally the same game). The rest were outsourced to other developers, TNO being the first one licensed by Bethesda instead of Id.

    Muse Software
    1981 Castle Wolfenstein
    1984 Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

    Id Software
    1992 Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of Destiny

    Gray Matter Interactive (singleplayer) and Nerve Software (multiplayer)
    2001 Return to Castle Wolfenstein

    Splash Damage
    2003 Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

    Fountainhead Entertainment
    2008 Wolfenstein RPG

    Raven Software (singleplayer) and Endrant Studios (multiplayer)
    2009 Wolfenstein

    MachineGames
    2014 Wolfenstein: The New Order
    2015 Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

    ReplyDelete

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