Now that our Top 100 Episodes of The Simpsons has been completed (check out 10-1 here), we can settle back into having discussions about other things, and thus, here we are with a return to "Backlogging", my occasional series where we discuss video games that were sitting in my backlog, which means that I can talk about them without all of the release hype, and swarms of reviews.
Today I'm going to talk about Wolfenstein: The New Order, from from Machine Games and Bethesda Softworks, which was released on PS4, PS3, PC, XB360 & XB1 in 2014 to fairly solid reviews--the game got a 79/100 on metacritic on both consoles. The New Order is technically the seventh game in the Wolfenstein series (which totally blew my mind: I have only played 4 of them), and was quite the breath of fresh air, both in terms of the series, and shooters in general.
Way back in the before times, in the long, long ago, I had spoken about how bored I had become with the FPS genre, especially as everything became twitchy, and future/near-future combat, and how I yearned for different games, and different, historical timelines: well Wolfenstein: The New Order has that in spades. I won't spoil much of what happens in the game, as for the first time in forever, the story of a Wolfenstein game is one of the major reasons it deserves to be played, but I am going to speak on the plot a little bit, so if you have not played the game, and want to go in completely blind, skip the next paragraph.
As is tradition, the hero of our story is B.J. Blazkowicz (the same soldier we have always been), and we open with an Allied assault on a Nazi compound helmed by General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, which...goes...poorly...leaving Blazkowicz in a vegetative state until 1960 where he reawakens to a Nazi controlled Earth (and moon), filled with scary robot dogs, supersoldaten, and waves of concrete mold. Over the course of the adventure, we actually get some insight into Blazkowicz, hearing not only some of his backstory, but a bit of his hopes, and his feelings on everything that has happened, and is happening to him. For the first time in 4 games (that I've played) I actually cared about the man I was playing as; he was not just a face at the bottom of my screen, making pained and or angry expressions. I wasn't just walking around a bunch of blue hallways, strafing Nazis--I was working with a small group of resistance fighters, building toward a big ol' final showdown with Deathshead, to try and start shaking the Nazi world apart, and that was absolutely awesome. You can also rest assured, long time, casual Wolfenstein fans, that this game obviously gets into the realms of crazy-robots, and insane (period) tech.
This is now my favorite Wolfenstein game, without question, thanks to the story alone.
The gameplay is largely what you should expect from a FPS, and from Wolfenstein: it's fast, but it is not 'hyperflying mechsuit CODroid' fast (you're still a dude with legs), and you can duel-wield everything, which I have to admit, I forgot how much I enjoyed running through a hallway, twin heavy machine guns blazing as future-Nazis went flying. Now, I have to admit that I did not do this often, largely having played the game on "I Am Death Incarnate" aka hard...until I somehow dropped it down at some point without realizing it...the amount of damage the Nazi soldiers, especially anyone with armor, could take was high enough to make me consider 'find cover, shoot, move, adapt, advance' sort of strategy to push through the tougher, multi-level monster closets. The cover-system in The New Order was really quite fantastic, utilizing the upper shoulder buttons on the dual-shock to allow me to get B.J. leaning where and when I wanted him to, which was über handy, as it became intuitive fast, especially after the first few firefights.
The variety of situations also made the game quite enjoyable--The New Order did not always feel like a straight-FPS, as there were elements of an adventure to it (brought about by the fantastic story); the pace would change, you would have frantic moments, followed by some simple exploration and/or light collectible hunting, just breaking up the frantic action enough to keep it from getting monotonous. Oh, and the addition of your "nightmare" was greatly appreciated- you dream in the original Wolfenstein.
The AI was fairly good as well, as I found that there were situations where the Nazis had me over matched, and I would have to do something crazy to try and even the odds, or they would keep their lighter-armored soldiers behind cover, move some heavy armor up and then start flanking me. It was quite fun to have to work myself through tactical situations on the fly, all the while hoping that there was some ammo and health around the next corner...
If there were any problems I have with Wolfenstein: The New Order, they are few: the game maintained the old system of needing to click in to grab ammunition, which I appreciate is the way the old games worked, now that I am a spoiled, modern gamer, left me feeling a little exhausted--there is no reason why I wouldn't pick up this ammunition at this point, I'm standing in front of a giant weapons rack, re-filling my ammo...just give it to me (or give me a "take all" option at least). This is the first game I felt I needed to play with subtitles on for the English dialogue, as it became very apparent that there was no way I would catch what was being said by any NPC in-mission without it (and occasionally, it really helped to hear them), which I found a little frustrating, but not game-breaking (I mean, it's just subtitles, but it's another thing to keep track of while I'm in the middle of a frantic fight).
I have read that there were some people who were frustrated by the opening of the game, as it takes a while to get going, but as I was just enthralled in the fact that a Wolfenstein game was delivering me a spectacular alternate-history story, it did not bother me at all.
At the end of the day, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game that deserved it's awards, and still holds up, two years later, as one of the better shooters to come out on this generation of consoles. If you are a Wolfenstein player, specifically one who, like me, got tired of the franchises' less than stellar efforts and did not really pay attention to The New Order, you owe it to yourself to play this game. It is worth it. If you are a fan of shooters, there's a lot to like here, but that is only if you are interested in a meaty, and brilliantly scored single-player campaign, for that is what this game is. If you are a casual gamer and alternate history fan, there are so many little pieces in here that are worth exploring for you, that even if you're not very good at shooters, with a ~20$ price-tag at this point, you should be giving Wolfenstein: The New Order a look.
I've been on a good run when it comes to games in my backlog of late; let's hope that continues, but I know Wolfenstein: The New Order will be a hard one to top.