First Person Shooters – A genre of games dominated by the triple-A giants of Call of Duty, Halo, and more recently, Titanfall. But as a gaming community, we tend to forget about one title that many regard as the grandfather of all modern shooters: Wolfenstein 3D.
It was way back in 1992 that we had our first experience running through Castle Wolfenstein, shooting-up Nazis as ‘William ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz.’ The game was undeniably nuts, with enemies ranging from undead mutants to a Mecha-Hitler (yes, that’s Hitler in a robotic suit with quad-chain-guns.) Fast-forward to 2014 and the latest iteration of the Nazi-blasting ‘shmup’ is here to grace our next-gen screens: Wolfenstein: The New Order.
The bonkers, ‘New Order’ story is set in 1946 (just 3 years after 2009’s ‘Wolfenstein.’) As returning protagonist ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz, you’re immediately tasked with storming Castle Wolfenstein and taking out ‘Deathshead’. But it’s not long before you’re captured, and on making your escape, you’re plunged into darkness and spend the next 14 years in a vegetative state.
You don’t awake again until 1960, and while you were out, the Nazis made some serious progress. They won the war in fact, and now rule the entire planet. From here, the game begins proper, and Blazkowicz begins his fight to topple the Nazi regime.
As I said before, the game is nuts, and draws heavily on the ‘crazy Nazi experiments’ theme seen in so much popular culture. But it’s a theme that at least makes for some brilliant enemy design. The ‘Kampfhund’ is a particular highlight; an armoured German Shepard pumped full of chemicals to make it mercilessly violent and lethal. And it’s big brother, the ‘Panzerhund’, a giant hulking metal dog that’s nigh on impossible to kill (unless you happen to have an anti-aircraft gun handy.) I could go on, but that would spoil the multitude of other twisted surprises Wolfenstein has to offer.
Weapon-wise, there’s a decent arsenal to choose from, providing a number of different ways to navigate the game’s various levels. For those who prefer a ‘sneaky sneaky’ approach; you can opt for stealth kills – with knife takedowns and silenced pistols. Or if you prefer something louder, then you needn’t look further than the devastatingly powerful, duel-wieldable, automatic shotguns. And whilst there isn’t quite the same volume of weapons you might find in a Call of Duty, there’s still enough to offer some variety in how you dispatch your foes.
The game itself handles excellently and doesn’t feel clunky when compared to the bigger-budget shooters. The controls are mapped just as you’d expect for an FPS and feel instantly familiar. But a nice little added mechanic is the ‘slide’ function. Whilst sprinting, a tap of the B-button sends ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz sliding in whatever direction you’re moving in. (I sometimes found myself feeling like I was playing Metal Gear Rising, shouting “Rules of Nature!” as I slid around firing duel-wielded machine guns at the hordes of Nazis.)
There’s a simple map system in place that helps to navigate levels and ensures you’re never left feeling lost or clueless. Additionally, landing a stealth kill on a Commander reveals the locations of all the area’s collectables – making them a pleasure (rather than a chore) to find.
Unlike certain other titles with hundreds of pointless pickups (yes GTAV I’m looking at you), the collectables in Wolfenstein are actually pretty useful. Ranging from Enigma Codes (which unlock new game modes), to health upgrades for ‘BJ’ and fun items that fill you in on the game’s alternate, Nazi-ruled history.
The game’s levels are generally short and sweet, but there are more than enough of them for you to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth. The characters you come across in these levels are (as you might expect from a game set in the 60’s about Nazis) your typical, exaggerated stereotypes. The enemies are comical to say the least, laying on thick, German accents and screaming about world domination, and the Brits are either well spoken and middle-class or born-and-bred cockneys. It’s ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz himself, who is exaggerated the most, however. Who as well as looking unerringly like John Cena, is the definitive, clichéd, ‘murican’ protagonist.
Conspicuous by its absence is any sort of multiplayer (although fans of the original games are unlikely to feel put out by this.) And whist New Order is a good-looking game; it’s still clearly a cross-generational title, and (the Xbox One version, at least) doesn’t stand up visually to the likes of Ryse or Forza.
In short though, Wolfenstein is an entertaining, solid shooter, which isn’t trying to take itself too seriously. There are too many FPS’ released these days that are so serious and self indulgent; that after a few minutes they simply stop being fun. Wolfenstein: The New Order offers an old-school reminder of what gaming should be about: escaping into another world and enjoying the experience.
Plus…. Who doesn’t like fighting Nazis?