Wednesday, May 4, 2016

VGR Wolfenstein: The New Order

While I was gone, they set the world on fire. It wasn't a war anymore, it was a remaking. Some losses are inevitable. Some... unthinkable. Now they've built a new world. Armies of steel and thunder. They're rewriting history. 

But they forgot about me.

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

VGR: Wolfenstein: The New Order
From MachineGames/id Software/Bethesda Softworks/ZeniMax Media
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3, PS4, PC & Xbox One

Type Action/Science-fiction/Steampunk FPS
Year May 2014

They won. Yes, the Nazis rule the world now, they are everywhere. Everywhere. The US? The US surrendered 12 years ago when the Nazis Atom bombed their country...

Wolfenstein: The New Order marks the return of the oldest first person shooter franchise, the granddaddy of the genre reimagined for modern "next gen" systems!

Between Wolfenstein 3-D and The New Order, it's been almost 22 years to the day! I can't believe it's been that long already. Kind of like our hero waking up in this world dominator by the Nazi forces...

Wolfenstein: The New Order acts both as a reboot of sorts for series, like most new developers on Wolfenstein usually do when they get the keys to the franchise. But it can just as easily be seen as a sequel to the previous entries. (The following game would confirm the continuity.)

It also made the series transition from the WWII era setting to an alternate history where the Nazis are ruling over the world the 1960s.

Wolfenstein: The New Order was developed by MachineGames, the Swedish branch of ZeniMax. A studio founded by former members of Starbreeze Studios responsible for the The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness 2007 game.

The story opens three years U.S. special forces Captain William "B.J." Blazkowicz destroyed the Black Sun portal the Nazi General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, a familiar foe from several previous games, was threatening to open.

Despite Hitler's fall at the hands of Blazkowicz, the Axis is slowly winning the tides of a World War II that is now taking a lot long to win. The year is 1946. Blazkowicz is sent on a huge raid over a Nazi stronghold, the head power fortress where Deathshead hides his main laboratory. They must put a stop to his advanced technology. Blazkowicz is sent along pilot Fergus Reid and Private Probst Wyatt. The mission is a failure and they get captured for experimentation. BJ is forced to chose who survives this escape. The other is killed in front of them.

They escape but not without trouble, Blazkowicz receives a massive head injury and he is left comatose in a vegetative state in a Polish psychiatric asylum for the next 14 years. Unaware about the world outside. This nurse Anya Oliwa takes care of him in her parents facility. They're bullied by the Nazis forcing them to hand over patients from time to time. The day comes a Nazi squad arrives to shut the place down and execute all the patients. BJ finally wakes up, fights his way out and escapes with Anya only to find a world conquered by the Nazis. It's 1960, after winning the Second World War, USA surrendered in 1948 and the Nazis have now taken over the world.

They escape to Anya's grandparents and locate what is left of the Resistance. BJ decides to join them again to assist them fight the Nazi occupation. 

Blazkowicz breaks into a prison to find the character the player spared previously (Fergus or Wyatt). They join the Resistance movement and find some former familiar faces.  

After an attack on a Nazi research facility in London, they steal some secret plans from the Nazis and discover how their scientist have been reverse-engineering technology from an ancient lost mysterious civilization known as the Da'at Yichud, which helped them use energy-based weapons.

From there, Blazkowicz goes undercover inside a Nazi camp to free Jewish scientists, goes looking for a remaining giant Da'at Yichud cache beneath the ocean and finally go steal nuclear devices from a secret Nazi lunar research facility (hints of a future UAC in id Software's timeline?). 

Meanwhile Deathshead hunts the rebels and finds their headquarters

It all comes down to one final massive attack pretty reminiscent of how it all began, an assault on Deathshead's compount!

Gameplay is what you'd expect from a FPS, and then some.

The developers got rid of the open world-formula from the previous game (which was similar to RAGE, on a much smaller scale) where you could roam around a world to pick missions, and we're back to a more story-driven narrative over various chapter.

Blazkowicz can move around pretty quickly, run, jump and even swim at some points! You have access to a huge variety of weapons - the game even adds an ability that had been teased as early as the original Wolfenstein 3D, to dual wield weapons as seen in artworks of the original game but never in-game. Several weapons are familiar from previous games, you can use knives, handguns, rifles, an automatic shotgun or the double-barreled shotgun, grenades, etc. This game's original "gimmick weapon" comes in the form of a laser cutter that you can use on some surfaces. All weapons have access to various alternate functions. And you can melee attack with all of those equipped.

There's various types of enemies from mere soldiers to different type of SS troopers, and a bunch of different robots that come in different sizes and shapes such as the mechanical dog-robot guards. Sadly there are not a lot of boss fights and those only come in the later half of the game.

Health doesn't regenerate like in the previous Wolfenstein 2009, but it's neither like the older games. Instead it's divided into separate segments that can regenerate up to a point. You will need health packs to replenish the entire thing back to normal. 

Something that has been kept throughout the series returns in The New Order - stealth! (Dating back to the roots of the series in the DOS Castle Wolfenstein games by Muse Software.) You can perform silent takedowns and acutally avoid large-scale firefights that way! 

There's also a cover-system, allowing you to lean around a covers, not unlike some early Half-Life 1-era shooters.

There's also a whole perk tree-system to obtain upgrades.

Finally a morality choice in the prologue will alter later parts of the story as well as some plot points splitting the story into two distinct timelines.

Development on the game began as early as 2010, after Bethesda's parent company ZeniMax Media acquired id Software. MachineGames obtained the rights for the game from id and pitched several ideas for a new Wolfenstein game, to bring the franchise back into the new millennium.

They wanted to bring the focus back on stealth and story. To get the chance to finally give B.J. Blazkowicz some character development. Which was definitively a great idea since it really helped establish and sell this episode. By better involving the players in the story.

This Wolfenstein runs on the id Tech 5 engine, the same powering Rage. The game showcases some gorgeous environment filled with a ton of details. Thanks to the powerful engine gameplay is pretty fast-paced and dynamic.

Taking liberties through the story, the art of the game shows us a look at a unique dystopian reality set in the 1960s.

Blazkowicz is voiced here by Brian Bloom, whom you might recognize as Captain America in a lot of Marvel cartoons and games but also as the voice of Alex Shepherd from Silent Hill: Homecoming and Kane in the Kane & Lynch games.

More or less following up on the 2009 game, Wolfenstein: The New Order offers us a big epic alternate-story universe.

The game and the story are both a lot of fun.

The game can get pretty impressive, it's a great blend of ideas from all previous games. Like the rest of the series, the game carries this whole David vs Goliath-theme through story. With its larger-then-life imagery and technology. Finally bringing the most iconic FPS series to modern systems, as well as adding its fair share of new ideas.

Up until this point B.J. Blazkowicz was really just a guy you played, we didn't knew much about who he was aside from his job. For the first time he actually feels more like a real character, he gets to emote, have a love story and even be more than a simple mindless action hero. At first they were going to turn him into an anti-hero but id didn't like that, I'm glad we could keep him portrayed as a good heroic character.

On the other side of the spectrum, Wilhelm Strasse "aka Deathshead" gets to become the purest form of evil. He's always been the main antagonist in most Wolfenstein games, this episode brings a good closure to his story. He seems crazier than ever, no just portrayed as a simple villain but as someone who experienced several near-death experiences in the previous games and who has nothing to lose.

The game is a great return to basis for the series. Since it wasn't entirely supervised by id, the team decided to do as many throwbacks and reference to past episodes and the original as they wanted.

Secrets also make a reutrn in the forum of hidden treasures.

Finding all these collectibles unlocks concept art and more as well as some secret codes to get an extra set of difficulties.

There's a lot of nods and references to the previous older games, mostly towards the original Wolfenstein 3D. Such as Blazkowicz' appearance closely modeled after his original 2D version moreso than before to the different difficulty levels based on the original game. You even get to see an 8-bit "Get Psyched!" text on screen. Like Rage, there's also an id software easter egg in the form of an hidden secret "nightmare" sequence in the Resistance headquarters which is simply the playable first level of Wolf 3D. There's also some allusions to Return to Castle Wolfenstein and the 2009 game in documents and dialogues.

The game is a fairly long shooter, which is about 16-chapter long which can take you from 15 to 20 hours depending on your style. It's a very engaging and even emotional story (I almost cried at this death scene..).

My only actual complaint is that there is very little supernatural stuff in this Wolfenstein.

The way the game is designed and presented kind of reminded me of Half-Life 2, particularly some of the sequences and scenarios BJ finds himself in. The whole bridge destroyed-sequence was very reminiscent of HL2.

The game only has a singleplayer mode for once, the team behind the game felt making a multiplayer would have divided their focus and resources available.

Sidenote: as usual the German edition of the game was heavily censored, all the Nazi references removed.

To very little surprise, the game was met with a lot of positive reception. Critics specially praising the solid and sound perfect gameplay and the great narrative. MachineGames outdid themselves and gave great attention to the series. No wonder the game was nominated and won several awards.

Finally let's not forget to mention the gorgeous music composed by Mick Gordon with Fredrik Thorendal. They did a phenomal job, worthy of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters out there. This original score seems taken straight from an alternate world, using a lot of similar iconic sounds from the 1960s. They also used about 10 songs reworked into German versions for the game. Music seems to have been given a lot of care.

Overall, Wolfenstein: The New Order is easily my favorite game in the entire series, along the original of course.

In a way, this game kind of is to Wolfenstein what Doom 3 tried to be for Doom. A more story-driven slower-paced captivating take on the series.

Wolfenstein is one of the most memorable FPS franchises of all time, the one that started it all, it's great to see developed put so much care and love into this new episode. For once a reboot is given some special care and creativity into a fantastic and unique reimagining. This long-running series is adapted for a modern generation and long-time fans! Highly Recommended!

The first edition gives you access to a code for the upcoming Doom's beta.

The game was released alongside a special "Panzerhund Edition", which contained a statue, an artbook and more but didn't come with an actual collector copy of the game! (That's right, you had to buy a normal copy of the game to go along, this was just an "enhancement" for your own copy.)

The New Order would be followed pretty quickly by a standalone expansion, acting both as a prequels to the events of the game and to tie into previous games notably Return. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood was released in May 2015.
I give it:
3 / 3 Quacks!

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