What you won’t like
When you’re dealing with an alternate 1960 in which Nazis have conquered the planet with their mad science and cold, unfeeling panzerhunde, it’s probably a good idea to figure out how you’re going to tell that story and then commit to it. The New Order can’t decide if it’s a pulp-horror/sci-fi yarn or a serious contemplation on the terrors of war, regret, and loss.
Blazkowicz doesn’t help at all. In one scene, he’ll be cracking his knuckles and lifting weights like famed sociopathic meathead Duke Nukem and muttering to himself about how much he hates Nazis and what a weird word “buoy” is. And then, moments later, he’ll be talking about how far humanity has fallen and telling a traumatic story about a time when he was a kid, and he went swimming in a pond and came out covered in leeches.
It’s really weird. I don’t get that guy at all.
Surely, it’s a bad thing when evil people force their will on the world and rule over everyone with cold and ruthless cruelty. But when a significant part of their method involves robotic dogs and a research base on the goddamned moon, you might have to sacrifice gravitas because that stuff is just straight-up ridiculous.
But I was never sure if this was supposed to be a fun, Inglourious Basterds-style Nazi-shooting romp or a more meditative story of a broken man following the only course he’s ever known. By the end, I felt like the developers were trying for something like 2011’s superior Resistance 3, but it was too late. I’d shot too many robots to death with my ridiculously oversized shotguns.
The dead spots
The New Order contains a vehicle level that is to frantic, fast-paced action what my roommate’s dog is to not being a snuggly little bear. It contains no combat, some minor puzzle-solving, and in the end, I’m not really sure what it did for the story other than giving Blazkowicz ample time to mutter to himself about all the terrible things that have happened to him in and around water.
The home base sections are similarly drab, filler-y, and too numerous. I assume they’re supposed to be a little respite and an opportunity for character development, and they are, but they’re also a repository for tedious fetch quests and wandering around a map that’s just a little bit too big for its content.
I just wanted to shoot more Nazis.
The fine print
I’m not one of those anti-tutorial people; I actually appreciate it when the thing I’m playing tells me what all the buttons do. It’s just a nice service.
But all of that goodwill vanishes faster than the fine, red mist that was, just moments before, some soldat or another when I can’t read the help text.
It kept showing up in the corner, and then I’d squint a lot, and then it would disappear. I’d have to go into the tutorials section of the pause menu for the non-Superman version. And that was after I figured out on my own which button opened that screen because the game had told me that in the same tiny print.
It’s a small problem in the long run, but it caused a needless interruption.
While shooting fascists in video games will likely always be fun, The New Order falters when it’s trying to decide how you should feel about it. Its options and ridiculously sized weapons provide a lot of enjoyment, but the story tries so hard to be serious that it forgets that this is a game that includes Moon Nazis.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is out May 20 for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a free PlayStation 4 retail copy for this review.