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SummaryWelcome in The New Order!
- Fast paced, gory & satisfying combat
- Surprisingly good story
- Stylish art direction
- Deathshead & Frau Engel are awesome villains
- Can look really nice sometimes
- Plenty of weapons with fun alternate modes
- Old school health/armor model
- Stealth can be satisfying
- Great level design
- Replay value
- Great cinematics & voice work
- Buggy engine and mixed performance
- A.I. can be exceptionally stupid
- Awkward enemy animation
- Dual-wielding can be a hindrance
- Forced laser-cutter usage gets old fast
- Should be longer than it is
- No multiplayer
- Visuals can change from nice to awful at the drop of a hat
- Doesn't make full use of its premise
- Weak and underwhelming bosses
- The moon level is really disappointing
- Perk tree doesn't make that big a difference
The Bottom LineWell, I'll be damned. This one is good people, real good. If there was any issue that has plagued the Wolfenstein series as of late, it would be that the games often struggled to feel relevant in the modern age - Return to Castle Wolfenstein was probably the better of the recent games but even it had a campaign that could sometimes drag and was ultimately a middling experience (Save for its superb multiplayer) and the same was true of its 2009 sequel, Wolfenstein: The Black Sun (Yes, I know they just called it "Wolfenstein" for some stupid reason, but admit it - "The Black Sun" is an awesome subtitle for it and it is relevant!) which had a lot of really fun moments, but was hampered by trying to incorporate modern elements in a game with old school ambitions. Yet where those games fail, The New Order succeeds in finally creating the perfect blend of Old School and New School.
One of the first of many pleasant surprises in The New Order is the fact that it actually has a fairly good story! Wolfenstein isn't really known for its story, and at first I balked at the idea of them creating a primarily story focused Wolfenstein game - and yet MachineGames (A company formed by several refugees from the teams that developed "Chronicles of Riddick" and The Darkness manage to spin a pretty good yarn. The game is set in the year 1960, after series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz fails miserably to kill his old fiend, General (now Führer) Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse in 1946 which led to him being in a coma for 14 years. The world is, quite literally, now entirely dominated by The Nazis, who were led to victory by Deathshead's machines which granted the Nazis technological superiority over The Allies.
It follows B.J. as he tries to restart the Kreisau Circle resistance and overthrow Deathshead, with him is a woman named Anya Oliwa - a Polish nurse that took care of B.J. in the asylum where he spent his vegetative years whom have begin to share a bond. B.J. finds out that Caroline Becker somehow survived the events of the last game, and that she and what remains of the Kreisau Circle are hiding right in the middle of Berlin but are too weak to fight a global power.
The game's plot mainly focuses on the various adventures to overthrow The Nazis, but it goes to some surprising places and you actually start to care for the characters involved - who are all well acted and portrayed, and have distinct personalities. Not only that, but there are the games villains: Deathshead and newcomer Frau Engel, who are legitimately terrifying. Deathshead especially, who has gone from a somewhat generic mad scientist to a man so fucking scary that the moment he even makes a single peep you cringe - and it doesn't help that they made his design closer to what it was in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, meaning his head looks distressingly like a skull (Hence his nickname I suppose) except now in HD. Some of the things that Deathshead does in this game are genuinely disturbing as hell. Frau Engel is memorable as well, crazy and intimidating from the get-go but she truly becomes terrifying after... erm, a certain "upgrade" by way of "downgrade" she receives midway through the game, a scene that will most likely inform you as to who is going to be visiting your nightmares sometime soon. The game has plenty of great, well directed cutscenes and the game knows how to pace itself - there are levels of downtime where you are given a chance to talk to characters and drink in the atmosphere, which is strong even if I feel like the game doesn't take its premise as far as it could as you really only ever get to see Berlin and London and a tiny bit of Poland. There's also the Moon level, and thats a bit of a wash sadly - no low-gravity Nazi fights. :(
But of course, we also have gameplay to consider. The New Order is decidedly old school here. From the get go you will notice that you actually have a health and armour bar! Yes, The New Order actually gets rid of that stupid regenerating health mechanic. Well, okay, to be fair you do regenerate a little bit of health - you regenerate 10 points if you stay out of harms way, but despite this it still means you will need to hunt down medpacks and armour kits and it makes combat more intense. This is how it should be done!
You can also arm yourself to the teeth without having to choose which gun you want to drop for the shiny new weapon you just discovered. In fact, not only that but almost every weapon in the game has a secondary fire that can make them feel like two weapons (Like the rocket launcher addon for your assault rifle or the sniper-rifle that turns into a laser gun.) and each gun can be dual wielded. Sadly, the dual wielding is a gimmick you probably won't use much - it isn't really useful in fact it can be detrimental at times due to the way it tears through your precious ammo and I've found it far more efficient to just use a single weapon with some rare exceptions. While the arsenal is sadly not as exotic as past Wolfenstein games, it makes up by ensuring each gun packs a wallop, even the basic assault rifle will sometimes pop open your enemies in wonderfully gruesome ways.
The combat is also rather flexible, you can adapt to your preferred playstyle: You can run in guns blazing and act totally crazy, you can be a little more tactical and use cover, or you can even go the stealthy route and stab every Nazi in the back if you like. One of the things I like about the way stealth is handled here is that the game never punishes you for being spotted, even in sections where you are encouraged to go stealthy and are only given a knife - in these segments the game fairly makes you face up against enemies with melee attacks,and whatever way you go the combat is quite fun.
The only real issue I can take with the combat lies in the enemy A.I.: It is stupid as hell. It's easiest to forgive when you go the "Guns Blazing" route, as they are tough and do a good job of giving you a challenge. However they do a lot of dumb things otherwise, such as failing to use cover or the fact that you can toss a knife into the back of an enemy two feet away and they won't seem to notice and bodies do not alert guards in any way. Their peripheral vision also seems limited, there was one segment I was standing right next to a Nazi and I used the games lean system to keep popping my head in front of him (but nothing more) and he just kept his post, not really being bothered by this weird guy who keeps invading his personal bubble. I can at the very least say though that this isn't a deal breaker, as the game still functions well on its own gameplay wise.
What doesn't function well on its own though is the engine. Much like RAGE the game has a problem with pop-in and ATi users are, also like RAGE upon release, currently screwed. There's also problems with artifacting, crashing, and textures going from high quality to low at the drop of a hat and some areas have this awful grain effect to them; which is a shame because when the game is running smoothly, it can be rather nice to look at even if it isn't spectacular visually.
So all in all, this is a damned fine game. There are some other issues that I noted in the bulletin I post before my reviews, but I feel I've had my say and if you are a fan of the Wolfenstein series or merely want a good game that mixes the old with the new - this is a great game to have!