Friday, September 4, 2015


It's time to Re-Return to Castle Wolfenstein!! Muhahahaha!!

Hell awaits your soul, will you dare face more id Software reviews through the following links?

VGR: WOLFENSTEIN (2009) also known as Wolf2009 or simply Wolfenstein (since it's actually the only game to be only titled Wolfenstein)
From Raven Software/Endrant Studios (multiplayer)/id Software/Activision
Played on Xbox 360 
Also available on PC and PS3

Type Scifi FPS
Year 2009

After a triumphant return in 2001, the Wolfenstein series appeared to be back as one of id Software's prominent franchises. It was only natural to see another installment after id launched a new game engine.

Wolfenstein (2009) was co-developed by Raven Software, long time partners of id, responsible for the Hexen/Heretic series having already handed several of id's titles including 2005 Quake 4, while the main team at id was otherwise busy developing what would become id Tech 5 (which would be first used in the Mad Max-inspired title RAGE).

"Return" was powered by the Quake 3 engine. This 2009 Wolfenstein runs on an heavily modified  id Tech 4, an improved version of the Doom 3 engine which Raven already used before on Quake 4. They added a lot of new specialized effects such as a new better shadowing process, implemented Havok physics which mean Doom 3's engine could now finally properly rivalize with Valve's Source engine (albeit too late...). They dedicated all these efforts to showcase the supernatural dimension element of the game.

The game was released in 2009 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in that order. It was actually one of the first id games to have been specifically developed with home console systems in mind first (which is why I went with the 360 release personally) unlike all their past titles - including the platformer Keen games!

To accompany the game's release, Activision released what they called visual "graphic novels", more precisely several motion comics episodes online. (I would have preferred an actual graphic novel comic book personally..)

Short "episodes retelling the summarized plot of all previous Wolfenstein games, retconning all the past games into one continuous continuity even though the last game worked as a clear reboot of the franchise (despite the title).

These web motion comics were released in anticipation of the new game's release, each episode dedicated to another game. From the original prequel expansion Spear of Destiny to our hero's escape from Castle Wolfenstein in Wolfenstein 3D‍, his face off against  Hans Grosse during their first confrontation in that game, killing Adolf Hitler, then seamlessly tyng into Return to Castle Wolfenstein and retelling the battle with Heinrich I until reaching Wolfenstein 2009's own cinematic introduction during an infiltration of a Nazi battleship...

Say what you want about the game itself, I liked to see all the four main Wolfenstein games now tied into a single timeline, which I still think was a great idea as a long time fan of the series.

The game itself contains a ton of references to all the previous games (mostly to Return). How Hans Grosse failed to kill our protagonist back in the very first game. There are even some reference to the least known entry in the series, Spear of Destiny (mentioned directly on screen).

The story is now taking place in 1945, as Wolfenstein's version of WWII started to drag way over how the war really happened (the game began showing signs of an "alternate history" taking place, after all in this version of WWII Hitler was killed several years earlier in his mech suit!). The Nazis are now trying to get back on their feet, organized as the "Fourth Reich" after being close to defeat...

Our story begins with a cutscene. The story picks up some time after Return, our hero B.J. Blazkowicz is now working as a special agent for the Allies. BJ picks up some kind of amulet, the "Thule medallion". BJ is captured, as it always happens in most Wolfenstein installments. Once more they could have killed and get rid of him forever, but he's able to escape. He's able to tap into some kind of mystical power with the medallion and finds out it uses the very same crystals the Nazis have been digging around town lately, the "Nachtsonne" crystals.

Also like the other entries in the series, you see very little of actual castles in this game (you don't even get to Castle Wolfenstein this time), the game is instead set mostly around the fictional town of Isenstadt. The Nazis are digging these crystals for some general named Zetta, they want to grab all this power to access something they call the "Black Sun" dimension, a sort of parallel dimension that was recently discovered by Himmler's Paranormal Division.

BJ meets with the German resistance group the Kreisau Circle. They take him to Isenstadt. He's introduced to this whole resistance circle.

The occult forces believe they can channel the true power of this medallion to control the "Veil", a thin "barrier" our world and the dark dimension of the Black Sun. 

Thanks to his medallion Blazkowicz possesses new abilities. He can run faster, jump higher and see how things really look from the other side and even walks through doors and walls in some places. BJ finds out General Zetta's really a monster from the Veil. But he's also greeted by a familiar face from the past, in the form of Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse (the main bad guy in Return). Strasse can't wait to have his revenge on our hero after BJ destroyed his occult division in Return to Castle Wolfenstein. And even a boss from the original Wolfenstein 3D is back, Hans Grosse, Strasse's number one!

In the end, the Nazis are able to open up and enter this Black Sun, B.J. Blazkowicz is forced to jump after them to stop the portal from blowing up on time! One final boss, Hans Grosse equipped with a huge mecha suit armed with chainguns once more (as a throwback to his first appearance in Wolf3D), now powered with by the Black Sun!!

Unlike past games, this new Wolfenstein was specifically designed as a console game. As such the gameplay is kind of a hybrid system combining both the modern 2-weapon system everybody has been copying since Halo came out (which kind of annoyed me back then actually) and the usual retro-style unlimited inventory. You can simply assign two main guns through a weapon wheel select screen. 

As any good FPS out there, the game allows you access to a ton of fun weapons, several WWII-era inspired weapons from simple guns to several types of rifles, a flammethrower  and more colorful "scifi" weapons such as the Particle Cannon, a Tesla Gun, or this game's "BFG", the "Leichenfaust 44" (or "corpse fist" in English). There's also several grenades and melee weapons you can pick up from time to time such as an axe or a sledgehammer.. BJ now has regenerating health instead of the classic health packs, divided by limited-regenerating sub-bars.

There's two major new additions to the Wolfenstein formula. First up the game takes place in a sort of "open world" city, divided into two main maps (midtown and downtown). There you can wander around and talk to NPC's and gather intel. Drawing another cue from id's then-upcoming title Rage at the time, they decided to experiment with this idea and set Wolfenstein around this fairly large town, working as a "HUB" of sorts where you can locate and access the different locations, or stages. From the town's sewers to a bar, the hospital, a whole farm out back, underground facilities, until BJ's finally able to reach the Nazi's headquarters, the dig site, tunnels leading to the paranormal base where you will finally get to yet another castle. The end of the game taking you to an epic battle on an airfield, a huge zeppelin fight and the Black Sun world. As time progresses, the Nazis' hold on Isenstadt will get increasingly worse, they will be more and more troops on the streets until the town's finally overtaken by supernatural creatures mechanical monstrosities.

In the game you can collect gold just like the original game, through secrets and looking around. Another throwback to the old school titles. That gold can be used in the town's black market to upgrade your weapons. Think of it as a light RPG-ysh system (taken from Rage as well). You can also obtain all kinds of "intelligence" around the game just like in return.

The other major new feature is the abilities you get from the medallion. The main one being the ability to switch back and forth the Veil, this parallel dimension. You can use this for the stealth element and be able to shoot unsuspecting enemies in the back. Later enemies will be able to seee through the Veil though. There's also these strange flying creature that explode, which you can make use of. The medallion has four different powers. Aside from the ability to enter the Veil you can also slow down time, you get a protective shield and a Quad damage-like multiplier that empowers your strength. All these drain your energy of course, so you need to find some invisible power spots to charge it back up.

All these abilities are actually taking some cues from Doom 3's cube, as well as blending some ideas from another id Tech 4 game, 3D Realms' Prey (more specifically, the "spirit walk").

The game is actually quite long, with a few boss fights here and there to test your abilities. Huge altered humans now transformed into beasts, some upgraded foes and a few familiar faces...

When it's all said and done, this Wolfenstein game is actually a pretty good game with some great iconic scenes (the zeppelin!) and great ideas, despite the overall product kinda feeling a bit forgettable. 

I have nothing against the game, but when you stack it against all the other Wolfenstein games, it doesn't have much standing out from the other entries. It does feature a couple of interesting features such as the use of a HUB world and the Veil does bring some interesting ideas, but it's nothing we haven't seen before in other id games (Doom 3 comes to mind).

You can almost see how there was a much better and bigger game in there, but it probably was rushed to have another id game released on time before Rage was completed. It has some great ideas taken from previous id titles and draws some concepts not fully developed from a game that wasn't released just yet. It could have offered something more...

The game also features its own new multiplayer. The multiplayer part of Wolfenstein was developed by Endrant Studios. It's a fairly basic class-based multiplayer where you can play up to twelve players, with classes like soldier, engineer, medic, etc. It offers your regular multiplayer modes such as Team Deathmatch, and some old ideas disguised as new ideas called Objective and Stopwatch. Objective simply has a team play the Allies trying to destroy something the Axis have to defend. Stopwatch is basically the same only it has you switching sides each round, against a clock. The goal being to be faster than the other team.

The music is actually pretty good and epic. Brilliantly composed by Bill Brown. It feels like something out of an epic adventure film mixed with some familiar cues from Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Great stuff.

Overall, Wolfenstein is a fairly competent sequel from a series that meant so much more to long time fans of id Software. The game is fun, mind you. And it looks great. But than a proper new installment with all-new ideas, it just feels like a best of compilation of id's last few years.

The game is pretty good and I would completely Recommend it to any fans of the genre or the series, but it doesn't offer much outside what other games out there had in store. It will probably never warrant a second playthrough.

As always, the German release was completely censored, all the Nazi reference was cut out. Instead of the Reich the villains were changed into a death "cult" called "Die Wölfe", the game was made less violent and most blood was edited out of the game.

Wolfenstein 2009 would receive a sort of continuation in the form of Wolfenstein: The New Order. This new episode in the Wolfenstein actually worked as a sort of clean reboot of the franchise, only drawing inspiration from the original Wolfenstein 3D game, avoiding any mention to the last few games. The game was developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks in 2014 for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. It took the franchise into complete alternate history route and showed a world where the Nazis won World War II, taking place in the 1960s. But a direct prequel to that game, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood released in 2015 would again tie the series back into Return to Castle Wolfenstein and thus tying all the episodes into the same continuity.
I give it:
2 / 3 Quacks!

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