Everyone who knows me knows I like my first person shooters old-school. Newer shooters are fine and dandy, but they lack flair. Old-school shooters have interesting weapons that can shoot everything from bullets to lightning. There's interesting weapons to use, and usually interesting enemies to use those weapons on. Newer shooters have... assault rifles that you use to shoot brown people. Okay okay, that's a generalization. But that's certainly what it feels like, especially when you're used to a game like Quake, which features the aforementioned lightning gun, and has an enemy that shoots grenades and has a chainsaw. I must not be the only one who thinks so, since classic FPS style games have seen a resurgence lately, what with the reboots of Rise of the Triad and Shadow Warrior. However, classic FPS' didn't do everything right, certainly not, so perhaps a combination of new and old shooters would be a good idea. To that end, we have Wolfenstein: The New Order.
First of all, the story takes a much more modern approach than that of its predecessor's. For instance, Wolfenstein 3D's story was presented as text-screens before each episode, and could be summed up to this: You're trapped in a Nazi castle, you escape, and eventually kill Hitler. Wolfenstein: The New Order (WolfTNO) conversely, has fully voiced cutscenes that are literally movie quality. This game is very cinematic, and even has a love story that doesn't feel quite as shoehorned in as most games that try to do that. Most of the story takes place after the Nazis have taken over the world, and follows the struggle of the resistance. The supporting characters are very sympathetic, they each have a back story, and you actually care about them. Even the main character, William "B.J." Blazkowicz, who seems like a generic action hero at first, is an interesting and well-rounded character. You could argue that there's some immersion disconnect that way, but I don't mind it. The main antagonist is a Nazi named Wilhelm Strasse, a.k.a. "General Deathshead". They go out the way to make you hate this character, instead of just going "he's a Nazi, go get 'em!" I can appreciate that. Early in the story, Deathshead makes you choose between two members of your team (a new rookie, or an experienced veteran). The one you choose gets spared, and the other gets to be Deathshead's experiment, which leads to a divergant path in the story. There will be differences in story depending on who you spared. This game gets pretty darn brutal sometimes; definitely don't play WolfTNO around your kids.
The gameplay is a mixed bag, and whether that's a good or bad thing is up to interpretation. As hinted at before, the game plays like a cross between new and old first person shooters, taking good points from both. In terms of level design, WolfTNO combines the aggressive linearity of something like Call of Duty Modern Warfare with the absolute maze-like levels of Doom. The result is levels that follow a linear path, but feature differing pathways to take and explore, and even feature hidden items to be found. In addition, this game features a cross between the regenerating health of modern shooters with the med kit system from old-school ones. Your health will only regenerate to a point, afterwards you need health packs to regenerate it back to full. In fact, you can even get your health above maximum by way of health kits, but it will slowly tick back down to the maximum in that case.
Especially worth mentioning is the stealth system. This is very interesting, because the game presents stealth as a very viable option quite often. Okay, it does have a couple parts where it forces you to use stealth, but I didn't mind them. Most of the time, even if you do get caught while going stealthy, you can just switch over to full-Rambo mode and do just fine. Most of my experience was getting caught while trying to sneaking, and just opting to straight up shoot everyone. I'm not terribly good at stealth though. The game certainly helps you in Rambo mode too -- you can "dual wield" weapons! Meaning you can hold two guns at once. This is one of my favorite features in FPS games, going back to GoldenEye and Halo 2. There's also a mechanic where you gain new abilities, but getting them isn't based on leveling up or anything. New abilities are based on actions performed to get them. So for instance, if you play mostly stealthy, you're going to get stealth abilities. Basically, WolfTNO loves to give people choices and play the game their way, and I love it.
The graphics and aesthetics to this game are fairly impressive to me. This game managed to not only squeeze in a lot of tiny detail, but also push some serious polys and have some huge open areas and giant bosses. There is some muddy textures here and there thanks to the quirks of the id Tech 5 engine, but I never found it distracting. As said before, the cutscenes in this game are down right movie quality, and this is helped in large part to the excellent facial animation; I've seen very few games with this quality of facial animation. This game takes you around a variety of locations, as you try to destoy the Nazis. Everything from ancient ruins, to war-torn bridges, to the moon. It's all pretty amazing and constantly giving you something new to look at.
Audio wise, this game is servicable. I don't really recall any in-game songs that really caught my ear, however, you can find records of alternate history versions of 1960's songs. A great example of this is a take on The Beatles. I seriously cannot even believe that they went out of their way to do stuff like that. Think about it, this game's world is so fleshed out they even made the pop music you'd be listening to! The voice acting is pretty good too. BJ himself has a generic gravily video game protagonist voice, but the actor delivers a fine performance. I honestly prefer it to the more cocky sort of BJ we got in Wolfenstein (2009). Everyone else gives a great performance, and nails the accents required. At least, the accents were convincing to this ignorant American. When the in-game characters deliver emotions, you believe them, and you believe they're real people. It's amazing to see how far video games have come from "you were almost a Jill sandwich!" and "What is a man?!" Most of the guns have a satisfying hefty punch, except for maybe the laser weapon. I especially love the daka daka daka of the minigun. This game is pretty decent for your ears.
If it isn't obvious already, I cannot recommend WolfTNO enough if you enjoy first person shooters. Seriously go play this game.