by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Lots of Heart
While the setting and general story concept are cool, it's the quality with which the narrative actually unfolds that makes it such a pleasure to experience. Actually, that's probably the wrong word. The New Order is no pleasure, it's actually pretty heart-wrenching and stomach churning at times. First of all, the Nazis are really evil. I'm not talking “twirling their mustaches” evil, I mean doing really, really bad things to people that legitimately made me upset and want to kill them. One scene in particular early in the game had me paused for about 5 minutes hoping that I wouldn't really have to make a decision, which made taking a double barrel shotgun to their faces later all the more satisfying. I think the reason that the events hit so hard is that the voice acting and animations are absolutely top notch. Sure there are a few cheesy bits of monologue here and there, but overall every single character, especially Blazkowics, speaks with the subtlety of voice that really makes them seem human.
Unfortunately, the quality with which the occasional tenderness of the story is delivered almost hurts the game sometimes as it creates a deal of dissonance with the waves and waves of enemies you're mowing down. Don't get me wrong, I love turning armies of baddies into tomato soup as much as the next guy, but it seems a little out of place sometimes after I'd just get done reading a letter hidden in the map from a German soldier to one of his family members about how horrible the war is, or after Blazkowicz is emotionally destroyed by the loss of someone. Some games do this on purpose, like Spec Ops: The Line in order to send a message about the nature of war and violence, but I never got the feeling that that was the goal here.
Brains or Brawn
Besides the great story telling in Wolfenstein: The New Order, the other element that surprised me was how well the game balances stealth play and bullet-hosing. You'll have to do at least a little bit of both no matter what, but It's possible to play through most the game guns blazing, or enter new areas undetected. Both have their advantages due to the game's alarm system. Many of the arena's will notify you of alarms near by. If someone sees you while the alarms are still up a (u)boat load of extra enemies will show up to stop you until you find the area's commander. Conversely, stealth may take longer, but if you can sneak around and kill the commanders before being noticed, you'll prevent any reinforcements from coming by.
The good thing is even if you try stealth and botch it, the gunplay is extremely fun, so I never minded having to shoot more baddies. Controls are tight, weapons have satisfying weight, and the enemy AI was never frustrating. Both styles play well, and the limited perk ladder and unlocks support your play style. I, for example, love crippling the enemies with stealth before going full-on Rambo, so by taking out a certain amount of enemies with silent kills my Blazkowicz unlocked throwing knives, a pistol silencer, quiet sprinting, and more. Players who prefer other playstyles can unlock bonus dual-wielding damage, high damage explosives, and more. It's just broad enough to support making combat your own without feeling tedious or taking away from the core feel of the game.
Some players may be nervous about dropping their cash on a single-player only FPS – a rarity in this multiplayer-dominated time, but I urge you to give it a shot if you have even a passing interest in what you've read and seen about The New Order. The game took me a little over 11 hours to beat, and that was moving at a pretty quick pace. Add in that you'll probably want to play through at least twice to experience different decisions and play-styles and content shouldn't be an issue. While the story never reaches the level of Bioshock or Portal 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great experience both narratively and gameplay-wise, and has way more heart than it has any right to.
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.