Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4) Review

My first foray into the impressively large Wolfenstein universe was the utterly fantastic Return to Castle Wolfenstein. At that time, though, I was solely devoted to multiplayer games, brushing aside included campaigns as most current Call of Duty players do. So, while I endlessly played online and adored the Enemy Territories expansion, I never completed the campaign.

That’s the main difference with The New Order: there is no multiplayer. The developer put all their time and effort into the campaign, and that dedication paid off: The New Order is a return to form for the series that merges old-school shooter mechanics with modern-day storytelling.

The Good

When I say modern-day, of course that means beautifully-rendered cutscenes, of which there are plenty. While only a handful ever truly inspire a drawn breath, they’re well done, with some top-notch voice work working through the meandering plot that nonetheless proves memorable from start to finish. Some of the narrative monologues are a bit overwritten and opt to overload players with internal snippets of thought (think captions in any recent Batman-like comic), but combined with the gruesome nature of the plot, are effective in conveying the sheer horrors of this technological war.

The AI, particularly on Uber difficulty, is some of the best I’ve played against in recent memory, its aggression and insight into ambushing perfectly balanced. I would compare it to the Uncharted series, except these seemed more likely to break from their designated paths to attack your last known position. It was possible to sneak away and hide, but once agitated, even the slightest sound would give me away.

A perfect example of the balance comes toward the end. After crashing through a window and gutting a poorly placed officer, I was forced to tackle a room full of armed men including one super soldier with a shotgun. On Uber difficulty, it took me near twenty tries to get the rhythm correct and take them all down before the buckshot tore through me. In some games, that would feel tedious, but here, it felt a massive challenge to overcome and I breathed a huge sigh of relieved accomplishment when I bested it. Several other moments proved similar.

Level design was in keeping with the series’ tone, despite the bulk of the storyline taking place in a more modern setting. Though it could have grown stale, instead the evolution seems natural and the environments fun to explore. Two levels in particular break the mold, especially one toward the end I’d rather not ruin here, and show the developers could have far more up their sleeves than they let slip here. The world is vibrant and itching for a grand sequel.

The Not So Much

Of most importance outside AI and level design, though, is the combat. Cover works well, especially with the ability to lean and fire, but the lack of blindfire was aggravating at times. The option to throw back grenades was nice, as well, though it never really worked for me and players who pick off enemies quickly may never even notice that ability is available. A few other tricks, like leaning back to shoot beneath doors and sliding across the ground, are also nice but never prove terribly useful.

There’s a variety of weapons, but it’s easy to fall into a few favorites. Mine proved to be the submachine gun, as ammo was plentiful and the eventual rocket attachment could take down most enemies with ease. The laser, which is integral to the plot and progression, was also extremely useful and had near-unlimited ammo after a few upgrades given recharge stations are seemingly everywhere in every level. The sniper, handguns and shotguns never quite gelled with me, unfortunately, though the silenced handgun saved me in a pinch more than once.

The Bad

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the one-hit knife KO. Sticking someone in the foot or another limb only to see them stumble to the floor in agony was more than a tad ridiculous, but I imagined every throwing knife I picked up was coated in some terrible Nazi poison and felt better about it. Really, the knives were only ever helpful when sneaking, the AI easily avoiding any efforts during a firefight. That, coupled with their absence or scarcity in several key levels, made them a non-issue for me as I never grew overly dependent upon them.

There are some problems and glitches in the game, unfortunately, though nothing I found that was exactly game-breaking. One I stumbled across was terribly annoying, however. In a certain level about halfway through, you need to abandon a submersible you’ve been riding through the level and raise the water level to progress further. While it’s going up, you can exit and return to the level. Thinking the developers wouldn’t put that in unless there was something to be gained from it, I stopped the water at about three-quarters height and jumped back down to look for treasure, only to find later I couldn’t return to the switch. Sadly, after restarting the checkpoint, I found my submersible was all the way back at the start of the level. Thinking I would still need it, I tried going back for it, only to drown in the attempt. I was forced to restart the level from the very beginning.

Nothing so egregious popped up elsewhere, though I did note some dropped sound, minor lag and clipping at a few points, none of which proved overly distracting.

The Verdict

If you like shooting Nazis and robots in the face with a laser, this game is for you. It’s well balanced, fun, surprising at times and backed by a pretty dang good story to boot. But if you just have a thing for multiplayer, look elsewhere.

Hobby Hole score: 8.3/Great