Prepare for some contradictions. Wolfenstein : The New Order is one of the best FPS titles I’ve played in a long time and a strong contender for best game of last year. However I cannot wait to be done with it. That’s right, it’s a near perfect FPS which is one of my favourite genres, yet I am at this stage just running my way to the end game.
I may be wrong but as far as I can see I’m about an hour off the end of the game. For a quick recap, TNO sees you once again take on the mantle of BJ Blazkowicz who it seems has been taking on the dawned Nazis all his life. The game opens in 1946, some years after the events of the 2009’s Wolfenstein title which I’ll admit I never completed. Seemingly though the ending wasn’t all that happy because it’s 1946 and World War II is still raging on. Enter Blazkowicz and his crew are on a mission to eliminate General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, his nemesis of course.
Things don’t go entirely to plan and BJ ends up in a Polish asylum for 14 years, coming to from a catatonic state to find it is 1960 and the Nazis won. Nobody likes alternate history as much as this guy right here so from a plot perspective TNO was well and truly my cup of tea. The work put in by MachineGames is deserving of immense praise as the best comparison I can make for how much work and effort they have put into their game’s universe is to suggest they are on a par with what Irrational Games managed on Bioshock Infinite. No small praise by any means.
The plot and performances are more than acceptable too, particularly the subtleties of some secondary characters be it during a cut scene or outside of it, no NPC is just a soulless bystander with all of them tasked to look active in this vibrant universe. Visually the game is pretty snazzy too, if not too spectacular. With production beginning in 2010, all focus would have been on the previous generation and any tweaking for the PS4 and Xbox One would have been very late in the production. So it looks good, if not great.
So where are the problems? Why am I gagging to get this traded? The game play is where we’ll find the answers to those questions and more. FPS is a pretty straightforward genre and screwing up the basic mechanics would be an achievement of its own. For the most part MachineGames have done absolutely fine by the genre, except for item pickups. In a bygone era the notion of walking over the likes of ammunition we pick it up would have been considered absurd. Jump forward to today and it’s commonplace. Why then did MachineGames feel it necessary to regress with TNO and subject us all to “Press X to..”. Before this gets mistaken as nitpicking from a lazy gamer let me point out that if this was a slice of nostalgia being thrown in by the developer I could dig it. What I can’t stand is that it doesn’t work. A small number of other recent shooters have featured this trait but it could be ignored by simply hammering away on the X button while walking, simples. In TNO however this just doesn’t work. You have to look at an item, buy it dinner, promise it marriage and then ask politely and then your interaction will cause it to be picked up. It can be excruciating at times.
So why is it such a big deal that it would take away from the game as a whole? The knock on effect. I can’t count how many bosses/mini-bosses I have reached in this game where the only way to best them has been unload all my ammo, die, repeat only to discover on my fourth or fifth attempt that there’s an extra ammo pouch sitting off in the corner that I didn’t don’t and didn’t walk over to stare at and press X. 50/50 split whether that’s my fault or the game’s but I ask you – how can it be considered logical to make a FPS then make you spend most of your time staring at the ground looking for ammo? Further still I can’t count the amount of times I’ve finally spotted this and in my efforts to look at the ammo precisely right and press X whilst not moving I’ve been taken out by the big bad I’m fighting. It’s a frustration and it raises its head so many times in the game that in the home stretch now I’m infuriated.
In all, Wolfenstein : The New Order is a FPS that is absolutely worth your time and I will go along with the calls for it to be declared one of the best games of 2014, but it has that one gnawing, irritating and above all else unnecessary design trait that just sticks out too much to be ignored. Prepare to be impressed and infuriated all at once.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org