Monday, August 31, 2009

Wolfenstein Game Review

In 1992 Id Software released Wolfenstein 3D which is considered to be the father of all first person shooters. (Check the video below.) Many other first person shooter video games would follow. For example, there would be Halo, Half Life, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and others. In 2001, Id followed Wolfenstein with the successful Return to Castle Wolfenstein. (RTCW) Wolfenstein 3D and RTCW mixed the historical theories that Nazis were interested in the occult with science fiction to create a game in which you played U.S. Army Ranger, Captain William Joseph ("BJ") Blazkowicz with the purpose to to defeat the Nazis' plans. Recently, Id has released Wolfenstein, a sequel to RTCW, for the PC, Playstion 2 and the XBOX 360. This is a XBOX 360 review. (Trailer below.)

Again, you are Blazkowicz, secret agent for the United States. You are assigned to the German (Austrian?) city Isenstadt to discover what the Nazis are doing there. You find out that the Nazis are attempting to harness the power from an alternate dimension called the Black Sun. Lucky for you, early on you obtain one of the Thule Medallion which allows you to enter the Veil, the alternate dimension that coexists with our dimension. Entering the Veil, highlights enemies and gives you special powers. While in the city which serves as a hub, you meet up with resistance groups who will assign you tasks. This is a quasi non-linear game, allowing you to play in any order the missions.

Saving Captain Blazkowicz.

So the question becomes, "Is this game a worthy successor to the legacy of Wolfenstein 3D and RTCW?" The answer is yes and no.

The purpose of the city of Isenstadt is to give this game an open world feel. The problem is that it seems as if this is a test run for Id's future open world game Rage. The concept is half baked. There's very few things you can do in the city other than collect gold and intel. Another problem is that when you complete a mission and return to the city, there's an immediate patrol waiting to kill you. I don't mind that if I go too far away from a safe house, but you're tired after completing a mission and really want to go home and save your progress.

Saving games on Wolfenstein stinks. You would think with complaints over checkpoint autosaves that Id would not go in this direction. In fact, RTCW allowed you to save your game anywhere. Wolfenstein uses said checkpoints to autosave your game. The big problem? You have to repeat progress if you get killed before you hit a checkpoint. And you will get killed, especially at the hands of the invisible Assassins. Second, if you play offline, continuing a campaign when you reload is confusing annoyance. The program loads an earlier saved mission when you have left the game in the city. So what to do? Instead use the load a game option, and search from the list of the most recent autosaved games. If you have saved at, say Midtown West, look at the most recent Midtown West game. It should read, "Midtown West Checkpoint." Saving games was never a problem with RTCW.

Inglorious Bastards

So what's good about Wolfenstein? First, the Veil is innovative. Use the Veil. It will help you find goodies and solve problems. Controlling your character is natural and works well. One exception is running. Clicking on your left stick is a hit and miss proposition. But the controls for firing your weapons are wonderful. You feel like Indiana Jones when using the submachine gun MP40. Killing Nazis has not been more fun. The graphics are beautiful. Check out the resolution of the Nazi propaganda posters. The music works well with the action by increasing the tension and the sound effects are excellent.

If you liked Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, you'll want to return to duty. Wolfenstein is a flawed but entertaining and satisfying first person shooter. The grade is B.

UPDATE: The game froze at the "Black Sun" loading screen. This is the final mission. Mein Lieben! At the time, I had 100% of all the collectibles. I had also replayed a mission. I then tried the game on a different profile, avoided replaying a mission and kept all collectibles under 80%. It worked and I was able to complete the game. This does not change my review. Wolfenstein is still an enjoyable, at times brilliant but very flawed game. Update. Activision suggested I play another saved game and delete the rest. That also worked. I was able to have 100% by deleting older saved games. In that situation, I deleted everything except the game progress I was currently in. I then decided to play the game over again. I started a new game and deleted games as I went on. By the time I got to the last mission, I had one saved game from "Zeppelin." That worked also. I was able to complete the game with 100% in collectibles.

Double Feature

Tip for Defeating Hospital Level Boss. Spoiler Alert. At the beginning of this boss section you see the Altered, a raging Hulk like boss, kill a Nazi by smashing him into a pillar. The pillar is destroyed. That's a hint. You are then given the task to destroy the three other pillars holding the Black Sun Portal. Your fist inclination is to find a way to destroy the pillars with your guns. Don't. Neither the Altered or the pillars are vulnerable to your weapons. I found this out the hard way, folks. Three hours later, I stumbled upon the solution. Since the Altered is the only thing strong enough to destroy the pillars, I stood behind a pillar. The beast ran at me and damaged the pillar. Rinse and repeat. The pillar then falls. In no time you will destroy the other two.

One last thing to get through the level. Once you get the Empower Crystal, you'll will be able to shoot through shields. Use a weapon to fire through the shield to destroy a red barrel that will explode and take down the shield generator.

Here's my guide to beat the bosses. And here's my weapons guide and non-boss enemies list.

The final battle in Wolfenstein 3D. I wonder if Quentin Tarantino was inspired by this for his film, "Inglourious Basterds." Wolfenstein did co-sponsor the premiere.

Trailer for Wolfenstein (2009)

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