Review: Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)

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Title: Wolfenstein: The New Order
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (43.7 GB)
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: id Software / MachineGames
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Wolfenstein: The New Order is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review. (A 5 GB Day One update must be downloaded and installed to be able to get past the prologue)
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 373 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Wolfenstein 3D (1992) essentially defined the First Person Shooter genre and is a game that I am quite fond of even to this day. There have been a few others in the series with varying degrees of success at capturing that magic, and with Wolfenstein: The New Order, developer MachineGames (comprised of a subset of the team that built the popular Riddick games) has done a pretty fantastic job at staying true to some of the original concepts while redefining the character of BJ Blazkowicz in a pretty interesting way. It’s 1960, and BJ has been out of commission since being incapacitated in a battle during WWII that actually takes place three years after the events of Wolfenstein 3D. But in this alternate reality story, the Nazis actually won the war.

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As usual, I won’t spoil any of the actual story details, but know that you are definitely the underdog in a Nazi-controlled 1960. The story will take you through many areas of Europe, with some smile inducing twists and turns that may even have you say “no way” a few times. Controls are incredibly responsive and configurable via a few presets. The folks at MachineGames have obviously played the previous titles in the series, and they’ve gone to great lengths to include elements from the past, including eating dog food to increase a couple of health points (I laughed the first time I noticed this.) One thing not included though, is that even though you have an “action button” you won’t be sliding past the walls in an attempt to open secret doors. Instead, you’ll be mashing the Square button to pick up armor, ammo, and health items. This action gets pretty repetitive, but when you think of how much you did it in the original, it quickly feels nostalgic more than annoying. For me though, I would have loved to see some secret doors in the walls occasionally.

Combat is pretty dynamic and well-paced for the most part. The areas have been devised to allow playing using stealth or brute force depending on how the individual gamer tends to play. I tried stealth, but as an old-school FPS gamer, that never really worked out for me. Refreshingly, the perks available in the game are actually tailored toward the individual play style. So if you take a set number of enemies down using a knife, you’ll earn the ability to use a throwing knife, which helps immensely later in the story. Better though is that you won’t be tied to the perks in a particular category, so you’re not hamstrung to playing in a specific way throughout.

A new addition too is the earned ability to dual-wield almost every weapon in your arsenal, and you’re not limited to one or two weapons at a time. By holding R1, you’ll be able to quickly choose from weapons such as a shotgun, marksman-style rifle, silenced pistol, and the Kraftwerk gun. The Kraftwerk is a new piece of technology that you will rely very heavily on as you progress through BJ’s missions. It has the ability to cut through metal plates and fences but will also earn features that allow it to be used as a weapon as well. The Kraftwerk, unlike traditional weapons, is reloaded by recharging at outlets throughout the environments that you’ll traverse, so you need to be careful in how much you use it in certain circumstances. One last and very cool option is the ability to not only use a mounted machine gun at times, but also the ability to rip the gun from that mount and mow your enemies down on the go. You’ll tear through ammo pretty quickly, but these behemoths are essential at times when you’re being flanked by a plethora of baddies.

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Weapons feel great in Wolfenstein, from hip-firing to down the sights, they really nailed how they feel and control. After playing some of the newest Call of Duty lately, it’s easy to feel the difference and to know how the weapons in an FPS should handle. The action is frantic at times and methodical at others, but you’re always given time to “catch your breath” after some of the larger skirmishes. They’ve also broken some of the gameplay elements up, which help break the monotony that can normally be experienced in your standard “kill, replenish, kill, replenish, repeat” FPS style. Luckily, I never had an instance during one of these detours that made me feel like I was being forced to do something that I didn’t want to do.

The story, again, is pretty great. Characters are fleshed-out very well, and the main baddies are truly terrifying at times. Dialogue too is well-written and drives the story quite well, with not many red herrings along the way. I was pretty surprised where the story took me at times, but it never felt rushed or out of place.

Lastly, there are a good amount of boss battles, some of which are truly epic. I did have a problem figuring out how to actually defeat them though. This is mainly because you’re frantically running away from the boss while trying to stay healthy, and it’s just tough to get the time to look around and assess your surroundings or the boss’ weak points. I finally figured everything out, but one boss in particular took me a good 20 minutes before I finally realized that I had to shoot him an in additional spot to where I had been doing it.

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Visuals:
Using id Tech 5, Wolfenstein: The New Order looks fantastic, running at a solid and consistent 60 frames in full 1080p. Textures are detailed with environments ranging from cramped to gigantic. Great visual effects all around and wonderful lighting all adding to a truly fantastic visual presentation. New to the series are destructible environments (to a point) and boxes. Cover will be chipped-away if you hide there too long, so you’ll need to move around as much as possible in certain areas. The destructible boxes are a cool touch, and most hold ammo or health packs. You don’t need to shoot them either, so instead of wasting ammo, simply cut them open with your knife.

As in some of the more recent entries in the series, developers have played on the Nazi’s penchant for performing weird and gruesome medical experiments on unwilling victims, and this one is no different. From a visual standpoint, this horror has never looked quite as disgusting, so make sure that any kids in the house are far away from the screen while you’re playing. Not only this, but the Nazis have also developed some technological terrors such as mechanical dogs and even larger mechanized weapons, all built in wonderful detail and with great animation. Lastly, and most terrifying to me, are the genetically modified dogs covered in armor. I freaked every time that one was bearing-down on me. That’s just wrong!

Audio:
First, the good. Sound effects, environmental sounds, voices and especially the guns all sound great. Guns sound weighty and have a nice audio punch and you’ll even hear shell casings hit the ground. Everything in the environments seem to have their own sound profile and all seem to react the way they should depending on the surroundings.

Unfortunately though, the main audio mix seems to be messed-up a bit. I had a tough time hearing dialogue especially and had to resort to turning-on subtitles for everything. There’s no option to adjust the audio levels between dialogue, sound effects and music either, so there wasn’t much I could do to attempt to remedy the issue.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
I’ve been pretty excited for this since I was able to play it at E3 last year (and then at PAX Prime as well,) and it didn’t disappoint in the least. The AI at times can be a bit cheap, but the game itself is fantastic. The lack of multiplayer doesn’t bother me in the least and the unique collectibles system they’ve implemented assures more than one playthrough for those completionists, especially trying to find all of the pieces to the Enigma codes that are scattered throughout the game. I’m not usually one to care about something like this, but oddly enough, I’m considering another try so I can see what these codes are all about.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is now my second-favorite entry in the series (only behind the original Wolfenstein 3D for completely nostalgic reasons), with fantastic gameplay, visuals, and audio, with a compelling story that captures that Wolfenstein feel, which at times can be absurd, but in a totally awesome manner. BJ Blazkowicz has always been a total badass, and that trend continues in this game as well.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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