by Quinn Levandoski, reviewed on
A Tale of Two Decades
To those unfamiliar with the franchise, the Wolfenstein series focuses on rough-and-tumble commando William “B. J.” Blazkowicz, a Jewish American soldier tasked with taking on the Nazis. The kicker is, in the world of Wolfenstein, the Nazis have a penchant for the paranormal and scientifically fictitious. Along with standard soldiers, Blazkowics has also taken down robotic animals, mechs, ghosts, zombies, and more in his decades-old quest against the Third Reich. The New Order largely leaves the paranormal side of that behind, instead playing much more as a science fiction adventure. Though there have been quite a few games already released in the series, the story being told here is very self-contained. MachineGames has done an excellent job crafting a story that both honors the themes of games past and acts as a fantastic entry point for newcomers.
The story in Wolfenstein: The New Order starts off like a fairly standard Wolfenstein adventure in its prologue mission. BJ and his squad of fighters are tasked with infiltrating a Nazi stronghold towards the end of WWII. A few robotic dogs and evil psychopaths later, and Blazkowicz gets put in a vegetative state. Fifteen years later, B.J. wakes up and the story proper begins. Save for a little bit in the late-middle where I felt things dragged a bit, the campaign was consistently entertaining and kept me wanting more. It's set pieces are fantastic, delivering proper spectacle while remaining grounded enough that it didn't feel like the game was just trying to one-up itself at every turn.
The 1960s are very different than the one we all know. In this timeline, the Nazis won WWII and continued their campaign to turn Europe (and most of the rest of the world) into an Orwellian dystopia filled with giant machines, concentration camps, mechs, cyborgs, and more. The time-jump aspect could have come across as gimmicky and dull, but it's one of the game's biggest strengths. Even after taking liberties with history, keeping the game in WWII can only bend things so much. By entering a new time period fully disconnected from real events, the game is able to flex its creative muscle even more. It's cool to travel between rural countryside and sprawling modern cityscapes, and I constantly wanted to explore.
Great voice acting and character animations; solid core gameplay; fresh alternate-history setting; and an occasionally emotional story.
Some story vs gameplay dissonance and occasionally cheesy dialogue.