Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

Trapped in a vegetative state for 14 years, Wolfenstein hero B.J. Blazkowicz awakens to a 1960 dominated by Nazis and a life no-longer solely defined by the killing of them.

Not that killing Nazis isn't an important aspect of Wolfenstein: The New Order, the third entry in reboot of the classic first-person shooter series that began with 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein and continued in 2009's simply-titled Wolfenstein. Over the course of the 13 hour campaign I killed 795 of them -- 122 with headshots, 74 with knives, 59 with turrets. They died violently. They died screaming. One of them died dancing.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

But all of them died for a reason -- a much deeper reason than in any Wolfenstein game prior. B.J. Blazkowicz was a killing machine whose sole purpose was preventing Nazi Germany from winning World War II at any cost. At the beginning of Wolfenstein: The New Order, he fails.

What does a man driven by singular purpose do when that purpose is stripped away? He spends 14 years in a Polish insane asylum, trapped inside his own body. Along the way, he falls in love with his nurse. Her name is Sally Purpose. *checks notes* Her name is Anya Oliwa, and she's the reason the grizzled super soldier doesn't just find a nice quiet place to live out the rest of his days, which is what I would do if I woke up after a decade and a half to discover the Nazis had taken over the world.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

Well, first I'd probably undergo the months of physical therapy that would be necessary to condition myself back into fighting shape, but Wolfenstein: The New Order has no time for such frivolity. There are strong emotions to be elicited from players, and there's no time for logic when such a task is at hand.

Developer MachineGames wants to take its unique-ish alternate history setting and use it to tell a more human story than has ever been attempted in a Wolfenstein game. Based on the initial reaction of myself and fellow Kotaku writer Luke Plunkett, they're a bit too obvious about it.

Muffins Fahey: The shooting people is lovely. But the obvious attempts at injecting feelings into the story...

Luke P.: So stupid



Muffins Fahey: Shit, we forgot the feelings. Here comes last minute feelings guy!




you did it, feelings guy!



New characters introduced just in time to die tragically, old war buddies now confined to wheelchairs, a ragtag band of misfits overcoming adversity and making a stand -- many of these ham-handed attempts at injecting emotion into a game about slaughtering Nazi robot dogs are laughably clumsy.

But there's a definite spark there. B.J.'s newfound love shows us a side of the Nazi slaughterman we've never really explored. We see him filled with remorse over an early-game choice. During slower moments we're privy to his innermost thoughts -- reflections on childhood traumas and dreams for the future. He's not quite three dimensional, but he's far more than a hand holding a gun.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

That is much more than can be said for the series' returning villain, Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. Back in a starring role as the living embodiment of evil after playing second fiddle to the supernatural horror of 2009's Wolfenstein, Deathshead (voiced in English by Dwight "Reginald Barclay" Schultz of Star Trek fame) proves technology's superiority once and for all by using it to capture the hearts and minds of the people. He then used those hearts and minds to power hideous death machines, which won the war. Also, he has a thing for robot dogs.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

Deathshead's typical evil scientist shtick is particularly jarring in light of the amazing cast of characters MachineGames has assembled against him as B.J.'s backup band, the resistance movement. There's Caroline Becker, the movement's wheelchair-bound leader. Fergus Reid, wiry Scottish pilot with a penchant for colourful language. Set Roth, a Jewish scientist with a very particular area of expertise. Best of all there's Tekla -- dear, sweet Tekla -- an eccentric woman who steals every scene she participates in.

Wonderfully written and expertly voiced, these 'bit players' are some of the most interesting characters I've encountered in a video game. That so much effort was put into bringing them to life, even though some of them might not even appear in players' initial playthrough, depending on an important choice made early on in the game, is astounding.

In order to secure a future for his beloved Anya and follow the oft-moving story lines of the rest of the resistance to their satisfying conclusions, B.J. must defeat Deathshead once and for all. This involves performing completely impossible feats of shooting, stabbing and bullet absorption, bringing us back around to the reason old school fans love this series so much.

Since my attempts to capture gameplay footage accidentally resulted in the creation of nearly 5,000 screenshots, here's the official gameplay trailer.

Ah, the glorious freedom of the run-and-gun shooter. In an age where most games would rather you duck behind cover, The New Order continues the series' proud tradition of charging in, guns blazing, and worrying about health pickups later. Levels are designed with multiple routes, so if a player wanted to sneak around stabbing Nazi troops in the back they could, but where's the fun in that? (Answer: pretty much right there -- accommodating combat system is accommodating).

Whatever the play style, traditional FPS controls tuned to what I consider perfection (not too loose, not too tight) get the job done. Encounters are well-balanced and never frustrating -- if I got to the point where I asked "When are they going to run out of troops," it was right about the moment they did. Large-scale battles alternate with smaller encounters, exploration or the odd turret moment, so the game never feels like just another goddamned firefight.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

It helps that The New Order never lingers in one environment for too long, regularly switching up the scenery, offering massive boss battles and impressive set pieces as a palate cleanser between each. It also helps that the environments are pregnant with detail. Get a load of these melons.

Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Kotaku Review

Around every corner is a secret, collectible, hat tip to older games or simply something new to see. It's in these lush environments we see the pedigree of MachineGames. Formed in 2009 by key members of Starbreeze Studios, the people who made this game were the driving force behind The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and The Darkness -- two of the finer first-person games of their generation. At a time when one of the biggest buzz-terms in gaming was "online multiplayer", Starbreeze created a pair of games that succeeded on the strength of single-player alone. (The Darkness had multiplayer, but it was not good.)

And now they have created a third. Defying the nature of the industry once again, MachineGames focused on crafting a spectacular single-player story. Freed from the worries of player balance and lag, the developers were free to create an incredibly detailed alternate Earth, populate it with sinister villains and astonishingly endearing heroes, and flesh out one of gaming's most under-developed heroes just enough to make B.J. Blazkowicz into a real little boy. This isn't just a first-person shooter -- it's a character-driven work of art.

As for those "feels" that Luke and I joked about as the game began? Early this morning, shortly before the credits rolled on Wolfenstein: The New Order, I typed this into our inter-office chat.

Muffins Fahey: The dialog is great though. And the story just made my eyes wet, stupid story.

Evan N.: Wow, really?

Muffins Fahey: Yeah, one of the moments manufactured to tug at heartstrings made it through.

Go ahead and laugh, MachineGames. You've earned it.


    Yes, yes and more yes. This game is really good. Mike, the very first sentence is a minor spoiler though. ;)

    When I saw "Saddest BJ ever" I was like what..........

    Still waiting to play this game - I have it installed on my PC, but I get halfway through the intro level and it freezes.

    This game... finally I can enjoy a solo FPS again. It's taken long enough. You can tell these lads worked on Riddick and The Darkness. Detail left right and centre.

    Reading this article actually makes me want to go replay Return to Castle Wolfenstein

    Nearly finished the campaign but so far really enjoying it. Really glad they were able to capture the feeling of wolfenstein 3d while keeping it modern and in this current age.

    how long is the campaign? Roughly how many hours worth?

      i beat it in exactly 07:26:32

        The hell? Were you speedrunning it? Avg time Ive seen is 12 hours?

          something like that, the cut scenes were boring but gameplay was good so just skipped them

    Dwight Schultz of Star Trek fame........No Sir! This wont stand!

    The man played "Howlin' Mad" Murdock in The A-Team.

    pfft! Star Trek?!?

      Murdock was in Star Trek? o_0

        Yeah and he was in an ep of stargate quite early on too. I was so confused when I first saw him not being off his nut. Ahh the A-Team *reminisces*

    Been playing this for 2 days, loving it.
    2 perks to go for me, damn Nazis dont try to throw enough grenades at me for me to get them to drop them, frustrating. I'm sure they'll try to throw more on Uber.
    Still loving it though

      They sure do throw more on ├╝ber

    I'm loving the game at the moment. Who can't resist the good old fashioned nazi killing shoot em up fun time?

    Only a couple of hours in, but loving it so far. Coming from a console/modern shooter background, my first impression was something along the lines of "holy crap this Blaskowicz guy is fast!" Also, every time I pick up an item to increase my armour, I can't help imagining how the nazis feel, being charged by a huge guy covered in random bits of scrap metal, fifteen helmets stacked on his head and an assault rifle in each hand...

    "Wer ist der Wahnsinnige?"

      " I can't help imagining how the nazis feel, being charged by a huge guy covered in random bits of scrap metal, fifteen helmets stacked on his head and an assault rifle in each hand..."

      Haha, I was laughing about this too when I was playing it :)

    I feel bad for all the people having problems getting W:TNO to run smoothly. In the past that has nearly always been me with new releases. This time around my PC is loving this game, utterly maxed out video settings and high frame rates. Very happy with it so far. I think maybe Machinegames should have put a teensy bit more thought into Blaskowicz's rehabilitation though. Even a nice little montage showing a couple of months of physiotherapy and gym training would have been nice. Jumping up out of a wheelchair after 14 years in a semi-coma and instantly being a super-soldier again is... well, it's pretty stupid.

    What is it with video games (esp. FPS) and watermelons?
    Wolfenstein, COD4, Half Life 2, MGS, Shadow of the Colossus. I could go on.

      They are easy program and fun to break. Just a silly little thing normally used to show of gfx or Physx without spending to much of time on it.

    This game has really drawn me in. I don't usually play shooters because they frustrate the hell out of me, but I'm loving this game.
    I'll definitely be giving it a few more playthroughs (when I get time, damn work)

    I must be the odd one out but I found this game a little underwhelming. Was told by a few chums that is was really good, but played a couple of hours in and abandoned it (half because of the glitches as I forgot to download the 6gb patch), but also because I found I just wasn't really enjoying it.

    I am not sure what game you guys are playing but "It also helps that the environments are pregnant with detail" seems like a bit of an overstatement.

    Look at Metro Redux, fun, scary, atmospheric and a damn good looking game to boot. And, the guns are awesome! Think I'll just stick with that :)

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