Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wolfenstein: The New Order XBOX 360 review

I'm playing Wolfenstein: The New Order (XBOX 360) and listening to resistance member Anya (Alicja Bachleda) read a diary of another woman resistance fighter. It's emotional, full of anger and despair. The diary is compelling and would make a great movie. I then realize how far The New Order has come from Wolfenstein 3D. And I'm not talking about the technology but the story telling. The new game has fleshed out plot details unlike its predecessors, Escape From Castle Wolfenstein (1981), Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) and Wolfenstein. (2009)

Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place after the events in Wolfenstein. It's an alternate timeline from history. The year is 1946 and the Nazis are winning World War II due to their use of advanced weapons. In a desperate attempt to turn the tide, American agent B.J. Blazkowicz (Brian Bloom) and a team of allied soldiers attempt to storm the castle and labroatory of Nazi weapons researcher Gen. Wilhelm "Deathshead" Stasse (Dwight Schultz?!!! aka Barclay to in Star Trek: The Next Generation) By the way Schultz is excellent in the role. Anyway, the mission fails and he's captured. During an escape attempt, Blazkowicz suffers a head injury and loses his memory. He's placed in a Polish mental institution. Fifteen years pass. The Nazis have won the war and have taken over the world. As the Nazis attempt to shut down the institution by killing the patients, Blazkowicz awakens. He escapes with Anya who is a nurse at the institution. Blazkowicz vows to find the resistance and help them fight the Nazis.

There are a couple of things The New Order does very well. The gameplay is thrilling. It's relentless as you will likely have to mow down waves of Nazis. The guns make you feel like the hero of an action movie. Buildings, and outside areas feel like they could really exist, yet they are intersting. It's first person shooting at its best.

Since there is no multiplayer, you had better have a good story to keep the gamer's attention. And The New Order does. Writers Jerk Gustafsson, Tom Keegan and Jens Matthies have crafted a detailed alternate world. It looks and feels like the Nazis have taken over. And make no mistake, the game does not sugar coat what the Nazis would do if they took over. Issues of Nazi racism, inhumanity, unethical human experimentation and atrocities are all here. Even the pop music stars have Nazi flavors. I do appreciate the occasional touch of humor. I laughed out load when confronted with choosing the difficulty setting screen. Check out the easiest setting graphic.

As I have pointed out, The New Order is a different animal from all the other Wolfenstein games. Blazkowicz is now a flesh and blood character not just an avatar for your first person shooting pleasure. Yeah, I get the joke behind his name. But The New Order makes him a man we like and will root for. The members of the resistance have back stories. It will endear them to you. And the relationship between Anya and Blazkowicz is as good as any romance in film today. There will be moments were you will shed a tear. This is not your grandfather's Wolfenstein.

But there are some major problems with this game. First, the graphics are wildly inconsistent. One moment, you'll look at a wall with newspaper clippings and it looks like something Nintendo 64 would produce, then you'll get detail on a wall poster. In another example, there's a battle on a bridge. You look at the ocean and can see how the water was constructed in blocks. And before you say, I'm playing this on a XBOX 360, let me say from my research, the game was designed for these last generation systems. The New Order was delayed to be ported to the XBOX One., Making Wolfenstein: A Fight Club on Top of the World., paragraph seven. Play Grand Theft Auto V on the XBOX 360. The graphics in GTA are astounding as you can see the font on a car's license plate. So, no excuses why The New Order can look like mud. That being said, gameplay always trumps eye candy. So, the graphics didn't distract enough for me to not enjoy the game.

Second, the sound mixing is horrible. You can't lower the music volume and say keep the sound effects loud. It's all one master switch. They all go up or down. The result is that I couldn't hear dialogue. I had to turn on the subtitles for everyone. Additionally, Brian Bloom whispers his part ala Clint Eastwood. I found myself often saying, "What did you say, Blazo, buddy?"

Third, the game is very difficult. I played The New Order on the normal level, i.e. "Bring it on." From the beginning, you will find running annoying. You have to push down on the left stick all the while moving it. Not easy to keep running. Switching weapons is a drag. You have to pull up a weapon wheel, then move a stick to highlight a gun. All the while, you are getting shot at. Ammo is also sparse. Making the game more like the pioneer Escape From Castle Wofenstein. Trust me, you'll want to approach the game more from stealth than guns blazing. At least the silenced pistol can still take most enemies with one shot.

Then there are the enemies. German commanders have to be killed first or else if they spot you, they will hit the alarm. Then infinite waves of Nazi soldiers come until you whack the commanders. Often, I would finish an area, only to be confronted by more enemies. The game was relentless. It caused several "Oh come on" moments. Bosses are no fun to bring down since many times the cover is not very good. There's a moment in the game where you are asked to bring down a gigantic robot. After you've done significant damage to it, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Then you're asked to run under it and shoot it from underneath. Meanwhile the thing has machine guns and can step on you. I literally yelled, "Are you crazy?" And if you get killed, you will have to start at the last checkpoint since the game has an auto save feature. This often causes you too repeat the progress you've made. When will game developers learn? No more auto save. Let the gamer save anywhere and at anytime. The lst boss was so frustrating that I came within five minutes of turning down the difficulty. You will die in The New Order and die a lot.

The Verdict.

Wolfenstein: The New Order's predecessor Wolfenstein 3D is the grandfather of all first person shooters. Halo and Call of Duty owe much to this series. If you're a fan of the series and have just the XBOX 360 , there's no reason to wait to play it on XBOX One even with the clearer graphics. Gameplay is the thing. But there's more to this game than just blowing up stuff. It's good drama.

Wofenstein: The New Order is thrilling, touching and the action is relentless. The major problems with the hard difficulty bring down what could have been a great game. The grade is B.

No comments: