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The Wolfenstein first-person-shooter franchise returns this week to put the Third Reich on the business end of freedom on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. This entry has series hero William “B.J.” Blazkowicz Rip van Winkled 14 years to a 1960 in which the Nazis won World War II and covered the globe with swastikas and really efficient cars.
And since Nazis are still one of two groups that it will always be alright to kill in media (the other is zombies; way to be human, Nazis), Wolfenstein: The New Order promised me a good time of conscience-free slaughter when I jammed it into my PlayStation 4.
It delivered. But its story aspirations often get in the way of the action.
What you’ll like
Freedom and meaningful choices
The Nazi regime is all about straight lines. It’s about roads, bridges, and concrete buildings extending into the sky like giant middle fingers at the way things used to be. Everything is ordered, measured, and accounted for. And also, everything sucks, but here’s how you deal with that.
I can’t tell if this was a conscious artistic decision from the developers or if it’s just good level design, but in The New Order, the openness and variety in how to go about your mission presents an interesting counterpoint to the enemy’s straight-edge, calculating approach to everything. It isn’t about marching your Kill Sticks down a series of narrow hallways and Blazkowiczing everything you see (although that is an option available to you), but you have a few options that keep things interesting.
While The New Order definitely pushes you in a certain direction because that’s how levels work, you can choose how you want to get there. This can be something as basic as choosing your weapons, but you can also clear entire rooms stealthily or just bust in and shoot everything that moves. And while it does offer some benefits for stealth, like marking collectibles on the map, either will get you through.
Later on, you have a few more tricks available. At one point, I had a big, open room full of fascist robots in front of me. Sure, I could have just run in there, and that would have been fine, but I took a moment to look around and found a couple hatches where I could move around quietly and take up a more strategic position before I started shooting things. Alternate paths are everywhere, and it just makes for more fun and better stories to tell your friends.
More obviously, however, you reach a point earlier The New Order where you have to choose between two options, and your decision affects everything afterward, including characters and the routes available to you in later levels. It effectively splits the game in two and adds some replay value, which is nice.
It’s pretty f***ing crazy
Maybe you’ve heard about the Nazi moon base or the giant robot dogs or the enormous walking tank thing, and maybe you haven’t, in which case the first part of this sentence contains some spoilers.
But here’s basically all you need to know other than that: You can dual-wield in The New Order.
By which I mean you can dual-wield everything. Except for your laser cutter, but that doesn’t matter because you’ll be too busy lumbering around with a pair of the biggest shotguns I’ve ever seen in a game turning everything into Nazi Soup.
You can also fire two sniper rifles simultaneously, and that makes absolutely no sense from either a physical or practical point of view, but it’s in there because why the hell not.