Get Psyched! Kind of…
In 1969, Roger Ebert in a review wrote, “Midnight Cowboy comes heartbreakingly close to being the movie we want it to be.” He made the point that Midnight Cowboy is a great movie trapped in the body of a good one. Wolfenstein: The New Order suffers from a similar condition.
The New Order oozes style. It has great characters, a good plot, and an excellent setting. But there are some things that will put you off as well. Its design is problematic and feels archaic. That alone doesn’t kill the title, but it will put you off. Next generation games shouldn’t feel like they’re from the past, even if they’re trying to be archetypal and true to their tradition.
Wolfenstein is a lot of fun, it’s one of the better games on the next-gen systems no matter how you spin it, and it’s a great throwback to the classic FPS titles of yesteryear. Even with all that in mind, it‘s marred by technical inefficiencies, some gameplay quirks, and a considerable lack of replay value.
What is It?
When Wolfenstein 3D came out in the early 1990s, it changed the action genre and entire gaming industry forever. While frequently iD’s Doom is considered the first ‘great’ 3D shooter, it was actually Wolfenstein 3D which introduced the genre to the market.
The franchise has been used and reused over the last twenty years but not in any excessive way. Outside of Wolfenstein 3D and The New Order, the only other major title was Return to Castle Wolfenstein. In a very real way, all three of these games are respectable in their own right. Yet the former two in the series were far more advanced and possibly even revolutionary in their own time. While The New Order succeeds in a lot of ways, it is hampered down by an inability to adapt or evolve beyond the measures set out there by other arguably better shooters on the market.
Why Should I Care?
The New Order starts off during World War II. As William “B.J.” Blazkowicz you are a well-rounded, hard-boiled bad-ass who is hunting Nazis in this ferocious and historic war. After two levels, you are knocked out cold and sent to a German or Polish hospital care center. The Nazis win the war, and you are trapped in a decrepit body unable to finish the fight. Days turn into months, months turn into years, and time passes him by without any sense of season.
Time goes on and eventually Blazkowicz regains his strength. It’s now the 1960s. The Nazis rule over Europe with an iron fist. The resistance has been squashed. They have either been captured or killed.
As you go further in the story you realize how seriously disturbed the Nazi regime was and would have been if they won World War II. This alternate history gives us a look into a borderline demonic, actually deranged worldview which thankfully was squashed in 1945 by the Ally forces. This game forces you to ask the question “what if?” constantly. That is where it succeeds at a high level.
The story, setting, and characters are outstanding. Truly, some of the best seen in a recent shooter. But that’s not going to convince many people who are used to shooters, such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, which are lighter on character exposition and heavier on gameplay consistency. It’s an unfortunate fact The New Order didn’t learn from the games which came after it in a more substantial way.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
The gameplay is generally fine in The New Order. You run and gun, pick up cool upgrades, and go through interesting scripted sequences much like you would in other shooters. Sadly, it’s marred by glitches both visually and audibly consistently. You might notice Nazis flying like ragdolls, getting trapped by invisible walls, and other things like this. The audio also might glitch and go out on you sometimes.
Realistically, these aren’t huge problems. They just take you out of the experience and may give you a chuckle but rarely will frustrate you in any major way. The problem with the gameplay isn’t necessarily that it’s glitchy, but more that it’s too basic.
The guns are nice and shoot well, the enemies are not stupid and they vary enough to stay interesting. What’s dull about the gameplay is that it feels archaic. You still have to pick up health packages and missions frequently revolve around flipping switches and crawling corridors. This, of course, is just like Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, so we get where they’re coming from.
The problem, then, isn’t that it tries to throw back to the classics. It’s that this is practically all it ever does. If, for example, there was the occasional Nazi gold chalice you took, the occasional hidden wall with secret goodies, then maybe it wouldn’t have been boring. But considering this is such a staple of the gameplay it seems that they could have been a little more creative.
This isn’t necessarily to say there’s anything wrong with The New Order. In fact, there’s really not. Generally speaking it’s a good game and is a lot of fun to play. Even considering its gameplay and technical problems, it’s got a fresh and exciting plot which takes the over-used Nazi hunting genre to a new level. That alone might make it worth your time and money.
Instead, it’s to say that The New Order is only good when it could have been great, or maybe even superb. There’s a lot to like about it as it is, but similar to Ebert’s critique of Midnight Cowboy, you can’t help but feel it’s a great game trapped in a good game’s body.
So Get Psyched! …but keep it realistic.