Version Reviewed: Xbox One
As far as names go, ‘The New Order’ is a pretty tongue-in-cheek subtitle to slap on a new Wolfenstein. In the first person shooter market, the ‘New Order’ is, inescapably, Call of Duty, and for all that series’ successes and faults we’ve been left with a catalogue of shooters that all start to bleed together a bit. Wolfenstein: TNO is rooted in an older school of design, carrying on quite directly from 1992’s Wolfenstein 3D, but hasn’t arrived in the modern day unchanged by the popularity of Activision’s blockbuster series.
In the new Wolfenstein you’ll dual wield shotguns, fire effectively from the hip, blow up robots and stock up on depletable armour. You’ll also duck behind cover, benefit from partial health regeneration, and wander around hub areas completing meaningless busywork. The New Order is an inconsistent game, varying wildly in tone and action, scene by scene, level by level, but despite this it’s also a game with a singular sense of identity. The writing is all over the place and the story takes some weird twists, but it all feels intentional, like the developers wanted to make something a bit weird.
It feels as though the motto at MachineGames (made up of ex-Starbreeze alumni, and it shows) is that if someone thought something was cool, then it deserved to be in the game. That’s why one moment early ‘90s action throwback hero William Blazkowicz will be shredding a giant robot with assault rifles in both hands, and the next he’ll be softly monologuing in a cutscene that is a clear homage to the work of art cinema auteur Terrence Malick. The influences of a wide variety of different games – including modern classics like Half-Life 2 and Dishonored – are felt, and the gameplay changes work because everything feels fleshed out.
But beyond all the nods and winks, Wolfenstein is, at heart, a fairly simple shooter – one where you get our your most appropriate weapon for whatever job lies ahead, and then keep firing until everyone is dead. Sometimes you do this while sneaking around, a silencer on your pistol, the guards utterly oblivious (A.I. is patchy throughout, but enemies who are only armed with melee weapons, which are frequent during stealth sections, are positively brain-dead). At other times you go in all guns blazing, switching between assault rifles, snipers, shotguns, and a laser cutter device that works well against the plethora of Nazi robots the game throws at you.
Mechanically, the game mostly shines. There’s a real satisfaction in picking off enemies, and the controls – which include leaning, even on consoles, and accurate hip-firing – are a neat throwback to the shooters we were enjoying 10-15 years ago. The game doesn’t provide a huge challenge on regular difficulty, and there are occasional bland patches where you’re not given much to do, but when you’re blowing away Nazis – which will always be the main part of Wolfenstein – The New Order shines quite brightly.
That Wolfenstein: The New Order never quite coalesces into something truly excellent is perhaps immaterial when you consider just how much cool fun it throws your way. Not every game needs to be a masterpiece, and The New Order seems more concerned with the player having a good time than any awards it might pick up. It may seem an inelegant way to praise a game, but in some ways The New Order feels like a tribute to the things that the developers think are cool, with ‘videogames’ topping their list. If you enjoy games too, you’ll likely appreciate the sentiment.
- Buy it
- Wait for discount
- Don't buy