It's A Good Time To Replay Wolfenstein: The New Order

It's the winter of 2017. The flood of autumn games has abated, and spring is still a ways away. The days are short, the nights are cold, and it's a good time to replay Wolfenstein: The New Order.

In truth, it is always a good time to replay Wolfenstein: The New Order. It's also a good time to play it for the first time, if you haven't. But having restarted the game last weekend, I can confidently say that now is a particularly good time to replay it. No small number of people I work with and follow on social media seem to feel similarly. I'm sure it's partly because of the sequel.

Last week during their E3 press conference, Bethesda concluded an otherwise disappointing show with an arresting trailer for this spring's sequel, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. All our favourite characters are back, and the Nazis are more powerful than ever. The story looks like it will pick up right after the end of The New Order. Time for a replay.

In case you missed it, The New Order was one of 2014's best surprises. Internally at Kotaku, our collective esteem for the game has risen to a level reserved for only a few other games -- The Witcher 3, Persona 5, and the like. (I can't speak for all of my colleagues, of course; I'm sure there are those of us who dislike it or find it overrated.) It made it onto our list of the best games of 2014, and since then our institutional admiration for it has only increased.

There had been several Wolfenstein games before The New Order, but most were mid-tier shooters content to ride the momentum of a beloved gaming brand name without adding many new ideas of their own. The New Order was more ambitious.

For starters, the story was unexpectedly well-done, mostly told during clever, well-directed cutscenes. It had a cast of characters I still think about fairly regularly -- the gentle giant Max Hass, the scatterbrained genius Tekla, even the doomed Bobby Bram, in his small but memorable role. Most impressively, it managed to turn B.J. Blazkowicz, the grimacing face on the Wolfenstein 3D status bar, into a fully realised character with whom I regularly empathized. He even got his own matter-of-fact, believable love story.

I've long argued that games are better the second time around, and so far that's been true of The New Order. I'm able to pay closer attention to the craft on display. How well-directed those cutscenes are; how much detail exists at the margins, and how well they use framing and dramatic lighting. How Mick Gordon's slow-burn, soulful soundtrack gives everything a distinct musical identity. How good the animations are, and how much care has been put into writing even the smallest characters.

The New Order's story is fun to re-experience purely as a matter of craft, but it's also fun because of how effectively it sets up the at-times unbelievably violent gameplay. The defining mood of this game would almost be melancholy, were it not for a pulsing undercurrent of tightly coiled rage. This isn't fair. This world sucks. B.J. has woken up from a 14-year coma to find an unrecognisable world paved over by the machine of Nazi global domination. Almost all resistance has been suppressed. Death camps cover the planet. All art and culture has been appropriated and transformed into propaganda. The bad guys have won so definitively that they have erased all hope, and they're being such dicks about it.

Over and over again, that rage uncoils into violence. You will kill so many Nazis in this game, and it is worryingly satisfying. If a game must be about killing people, let it first do this much work establishing that those people deserve killing.

Let it also have such well-designed, fast-moving gunplay, which speeds along at a snappy frame-rate equal to its pace. The New Order was one of the first modern games to reconsider some of the late-90s FPS design ideas that had been abandoned in the mid-aughts. Regenerating health was out; armour and health kits were in. Corridor-like levels were out; sprawling maps with hidden secrets and flanking routes were in. Shoot-cutscene-shoot pacing was out; puzzles, secrets, and environmental manipulation were back in. It worked beautifully, and the trend would continue with Id's smart reworking of Doom, published by Bethesda two years later in 2016.

There's also a surprisingly good leaning/cover mechanic.

You don't need me to go on for another 500 words about this. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a good game with a good story, good characters, good music, good gunplay, and a good-looking sequel coming this spring. For those reasons and doubtless many more, it's a good time to replay Wolfenstein: The New Order.


Comments

    I just started playing it again a few days ago :D

      Just a word of caution if you have an AMD and Radeon card setup: Game crashes. A lot.

    I started it many, many years ago, but only got about 1/4 of the way in before something else distracted me (not the first time that's happened...)

    Picked it up again this week, and I'm past some pretty big plot points, in the midst of Chapter 10 I believe, so not too far off finishing it.

    Might tackle Arkham Knight finally after this (I need to give PUBG a rest for a bit I think)

      Lol chapter 10 is about half way... Or thereabouts ;)

      It's a big game!!!

        Yeah, there's 16 chapters altogether I think.

          Sounds about right... I remember on my first playthrough thinking it was surely near the end multiple times due to all the short arse COD FPS campaigns we've all been used to!

    This game reminded me of the last Rambo movie in its ridiculously tone-deaf attempt to find a balance between legitimately horrifying events, stereotypical characters and comically over the top action violence.

    I still enjoyed it, but it always strikes me as strange whenever someone suggests the story or writing were smart or well considered.

    You crew has the angry untrusting guy, the lovably brain damaged big-guy… the black guy who dresses like Jimmy Hendricks ….. It’s all f*cking ridiculous.

    BJ: “I just escaped a concentration camp”
    Lady friend: “I was raped by Nazis”
    Token Black guy in a tie-dye shirt holding an electric guitar: “Wanna take some shroooooms maaaaaaannnnnn? *plays hard-rock electric guitar riff that he assumedly invented on his own in a bunker sometime after WW2*

      That's why I prefer the Tekla/Fergus storyline as they are more interesting characters. The upgrades are more usefull as well.

      Its not that the story or writing were smart in an arthouse movie way. they are great in a dumb action movie kind of way. It isn't a bland action movie game, it is a fun one with a great action movie story. The characters are ridiculous in pretty much the way you hope and expect characters in an action movie will be ridiculous. I definitely found this game more interesting and fun from a plot and character perspective than many other action games around.

      Last edited 20/06/17 1:39 pm

      Funny thing about the forth Rambo movie.. the Violence was not over the top but fucking dead on accurate on what a fucking 50cal does to the human body

    Has anyone played "The Old Blood" expansion? Is it worth playing?

      For the price you can get it now, most definitely.

      If you enjoyed the second half of the 1st level in New Order where you are wandering around a castle like structure killing Nazi super soldiers, then by all means this is the game for you.

      Yes - story maybe isn't quite as good, but the level design & gameplay are on target. The feel of it is close to the older Wolfenstein games as well.

    Everyone must be thinking the same thing, I restarted this morning before I had a chance to see this article.

      Yeah, I think the announcement of the sequel has provoked a bunch of people to play it. I just finished the game again a couple of days ago, and I've got another friend replaying it too!

    And you can drown a nazi in his own piss.

      Can you throw him off the zeppelin because he has no ticket?

    I bought it yonks ago and haven't played it yet. Must get on the train.

    I'm going to start tonight to refresh myself on the story and close out some achievements.

    I got this on PS4 just before June for $5!!! can't complain with that!! I will start playing it once I get through the fun of Just Cause 3

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