This started as a “Game of the Year” article. It’s a bit late for GOTY articles, and frankly, I think this deserved a better write-up than “why this game was better than everyone else’s game.”
This game is good because it delivered on a promise. And it delivered it well.
It’s been almost a full year since WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER debuted, and 2 years since the original announcement trailer went out. It had been nearly 4 years since the last WOLFENSTEIN game was released in 2009, and in many ways, the First Person Shooter genre had changed its priorities: emphasis on Multiplayer and Online Game Modes, in Modern and the Not-Too-Distant-Future genres. Your Kill-Death ratio defines you, and single player campaigns are now simply a “nice to have”. Long riding glitches and patches are expected as part of the new norm– It’s ok, they’ll fix it.
The FPS was suffering. It needed support. It needed a savior to show us how much better it really was.
It needed Captain B.J. Blazkowicz to come off the bench, and show us all how it’s supposed to be done.
In 2010, newly formed developer MachineGames acquired the blessings of id Software to build a new WOLFENSTEIN game. Their vision was simple: pay proper homage and respect to the established world that had come before, and build a next-generation title worthy of its name and legacy. The world of WOLFENSTEIN was a semi-alternate reality, where World War II’s Nazi regime was diving into the occult to extract weaponized breakthroughs that could help turn the tide of the war. You played the Third Reich’s biggest thorn in their side – B.J. Blazkowicz – as you escaped from your prison cell and proceeded to bring down the Nazi War Machine. Wolfenstein’s legacy goes as far back as 1981 with the release of CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN for Apple II/DOS/Atari/Commodore 64, and perhaps planted its stake in history in the release of WOLFENSTEIN 3D with helping to bring the FPS into existence as a genre… nearly 11 years later in 1992.
These games were, at their best, fun and violent romps in an almost laughable setting. The fact that “Mecha-Hitler” is even a google-able term is solely at the blame of this somehow cartoonish yet fun series. The ESRB could rate these games M for Mature Audiences at the mere requirement at most, and a laughable joke at the least.
Having said that, WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER pulls no punches. There’s cursing, sex, gore, and some really uncomfortable situations. This game questions your resolve. It cold-cocks you square in the face and yells at you to get back up and fight. This ain’t your daddy’s WOLF.
As the year rolled on, trailer after trailer after trailer aroused exactly what it needed to – snippets into a world that this game was going to steamroll you into. It was damn near the most inspiring trailer campaign I’ve ever seen for a game – I don’t think I ever remember getting this excited for a game before. This was and wasn’t your old WOLFENSTEIN. This was gaming CPR. MachineGames promised to hold true and keep the existing blood pumping to what made the franchise popular throughout its life, while breathing fresh air in its lungs by pushing it to a place it had never gone before. It was going to be a first person shooter that was story-driven, in an epic campaign, with no multiplayer capability – an unheard of choice in a genre so established. MachineGames went all-in.
This game, to me, wins more than Game of the Year. This game wins how titles should be developed
And boy, did this WOLF deliver.
It’s 1960 – and in spite of all your effort and service in World War II, the Nazis have won. As B.J., you wake up in the midst of this world gone wrong. There’s no fixing it, no reversing the time stream, no army at your back. This is now, and it’s very, very real. You’re one man, and you can’t change history, but you’ll be damned if you take it sitting down.
The graphics are spectacular. The combat mechanics are fun and fantastic. The boss fights are large and in charge. The music is inspiring. The voice acting is superb. The difficulty is as easy or as hard as you want it to be – the only thing overpowered is your own ego. This is the WOLFENSTEIN you remember, brought forward to today’s standards – the same way Mega Man X did for the Mega Man franchise (at least through X3. After that, I don’t know what kind of peyote they were smoking). You can go in guns blazing, or quiet and stealthy, and the game rewards you based on how you want to play. You can evolve your weapons and inventory that reflect your playstyle. This is simply a FUN game to play.
The game stands well on its own as a solo title – appreciation for the previous games come through as nostalgia, but are far from a requirement to get lost in the world of WOLFENSTEIN. But beyond any title previous, this WOLFENSTEIN gave you an immersive world where you were not only invested in the mission, but the people around you who were helping you accomplish it. You care about the state of the world, and the game does this by taking you to very, very, very dark places. Atrocities of human experimentation, modern day labor camps, real consequences of choices you make: this isn’t the WOLFENSTEIN you remember, but it’s the one we all deserve. Forced exposure to a modern Reich pushes you to drive forward and truly avenge the past and fight for the future. In all its homage to the somewhat exaggerated and larger than life aspects we’ve come to know from WOLFENSTEIN as a series, THE NEW ORDER somehow grounded itself in a truly horrifying alternate reality. If the Nazis really won the war, these are the kinds of things that wouldn’t be beyond our imagination – and that drives motivation. This is a game you WANT to play to the end.
WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER succeeds because it never claims to be what it’s not. It doesn’t ask questions about why it didn’t take this or that direction. It doesn’t make excuses, it doesn’t try to cover anything up; it doesn’t express regret. This is the game they set out to make, and this is the game they released.
This game is great because it delivered on a promise. That promise was simply to be the game they told you it was going to be, and nothing more. No apologies, no excuses, no- we’ll get it next time.
It simply was.
And sadly, I don’t know if I should feel inspired by how well it was delivered, or ashamed that we’ve come to skeptically accept anything less from a big title release.*
*EA, Ubisoft, I’m looking at you guys right now.
I saw The Empire Strikes Back before Return of the Jedi and A New Hope, and somehow managed to play Goldeneye 64 before actually watching the movie… both of which made for a much richer experience in my eyes. If you like ramblings about food, media, and a few pictures of my cats along the way, you can find or message me @crazypnut on Twitter and Instagram.