With a sequel planned to launch this October, Screen Critic Joe has jumped into the start of the rebooted franchise to familiarize himself with the series. Here’s what he thought of Wolfenstein: The New Order.
MachineGames was given a monumental task when they were charged with reinventing the long dormant, much-loved franchise that is Wolfenstein. In this task, MachineGames largely succeeds at bringing Wolfenstein to the modern era with empowering gameplay and an action movie story. The New Order comes with its own set of hiccups when story and gameplay start to clash, but Wolfenstein returns with a competent, contemporary take in a vivid world filled with dynamic characters and downright awesome gameplay.
The New Order’s story takes place in an alternate timeline where the Nazi’s won World War II thanks to superior technological advances. As iconic Captain BJ Blazkowicz, the story begins in the 1940’s where the war still rages on. The war-time prologue sets a clunky and uninspired tone out of the gate, but thankfully is an outlier when compared to game’s overall level designs. Fast forward 20 years when Blazkowicz awakes from a persistent vegetative state to find the Nazis have not only won the war, but achieved world-domination. From that point on, levels are set in interesting, well-crafted locales which greatly ramps up the pacing and tells a more energetic story.
Not everything about the story is immersive though. Where The New Order truly fails is when tight and entertaining gameplay is sacrificed in an attempt to provide a more immersive narrative. Particularly, the hideout levels, which boil down to little more than fetch quests, attempt to build a more expansive understanding of your rebel comrades while breaking up the repetition of fighting Nazis. The fault in the logic though, is that MachineGames isn’t trying to tell a story with a significant message.
Thematically, The New Order is as shallow as a B-tier action movie, so motivation to perform extra fetch quests with the reward of character development is sparse to say the least. When The New Order accepts the action move role, the experience maintains a pleasant level of cohesion, but the moments it pulls back, even slightly, throw the entire experience off kilter. MachineGames should be applauded for their attempt to diversify the FPS genre, but the additional creative effort reaps few benefits.
As alluded to earlier, gameplay shines as the highlight of The New Order. Minus a few bumps (that damn weapon wheel), gun play consistently delivers a satisfying and balanced sensation. All weapons feel viable in most situations, so the choice of how to tackle any given scenario comes down more to preference instead of technical planning. The perk system keeps upgrades simple and easily achievable while still feeling rewarding. Perks open up the experience to better accommodate players’ individual style, further instilling the sense that this game is supposed to be a power trip. The overall experience was crafted to empower, rather than to appear as a fight for survival. At no point did I not feel like a badass, even in situations that were likely supposed to make me feel weak and defeated.
Avoiding spoilers, The New Order ends in a way that doesn’t quite match up with what information can be discerned from the reveal trailer for the sequel: The New Colossus. Moving forward, I’m incredibly interested to see how MachineGames bridges the gap between the two titles and continues the narrative in a new setting with increasingly eclectic characters.
The New Order falters in plenty of places, mainly because of an imbalance between the story and the gameplay and how the two facets collide. Separately, both experiences bring a level of polish and entertainment well worth the ride and set an excellent foundation for The New Colossus this October.