Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wolfenstein The New Order Review: Hail to the Lord

First Person Shooters has been around since decades, it is one of oldest gaming genres that hasn't much evolved since it first came out.  The foundation of it was so solid that despite with relatively minor tweaks here and there, the genre still sells millions and millions of copies annually with likes of Call of Duty and it provided one of the key platforms for competitive gaming through the likes of Counter Strike for example.

Leading up to the release, I thought it was going to be just another shooter trying to market itself using the franchise's legacy. For the case of Wolfenstein, the legacy of being the first one there - thats right, the original Wolfenstein from id software is pretty much the first game that let you see through the eyes of the protagonist as you go from room to room, clearing enemies while wielding a gun on the bottom of the screen. Yep, it was the very 1st FPS in history.

The story takes place during the high point of World War 2 in Europe, you crash land into a Nazi occupied castle, accompanied by a small group of soldiers scattered from various regiments, you have a clear task of cutting the head of the snake and end this war. The game captures the agony of defeat at your most vulnerable time -  just when you thought you had it won. It carries a very powerful and emotional punch to the gut itself, but what transpires during those darkest hours will haunt you throughout the rest of the game. It further connects you to the game on a very personal level. The characters that you meet to help you fight against the Nazis aren't just there to move the story forward, they aren't your typical forgettable characters you find in most shooters, oh no, they feel like real people going through real hell thanks to the New World Order of the Nazis. Everyone here lost something dear and precious in the 'Old World' to the Nazis and hence have very personal vendetta against them. While on the other side of the fence the cruel and horror nature of the Nazi is brought to life through very well written, well designed and I can confidently say, well hated antagonists in the game. You just don't want to save the people around you, but you also really want to hurt the Nazis and give them no mercy of a quick death.

First impressions are always going to be the visuals, and this game looks good, very good. Not just id tech 5 looks amazing here, from ultra crisp textures, great attention to detail in every corner to bring the world to life. What really caught my attention was the cinematography and the art style of the game: The game uses colors and their contrast to great effect, combined with the sheer attention to detail I mentioned before, it creates a visually orgasmic experience! The environments are very distinct and crafted with a lot of care and thought just like the rest of the game, no two places ever feels the same. Another thing to note, not only the game takes you to a wide variety of places across the world, but across the time as well. The art style, the condition of the world and it's inhabitants reflect this brilliantly.

The level design also gives the player a lot of options in dealing with situations and change tactics on the fly, which the game actually forces you to do so when playing in harder difficulty modes, which I suggest. The weapons are mostly standard you would expect from a sci-fi shooter with some cooling alternate firing modes and there is something incredibly satisfying when you can dual wield weapons like assault rifles, shotgun and even...rocket launchers..thats right..dual wield rocket launchers.

What really stood out for me is also the main reason I will continue to come back to this game long after I finished it is how precise and satisfying the shooting mechanics felt. It is just pure joy to point your gun and just shoot. Further, the weapons feel solid, distinct and carry satisfying feedback all of which combine to make one of the best shooting experience possible . It is the most basic mechanic for a shooter, but you would be surprised that most fail to deliver here. Modern shooters have made great strides in graphics and other enhancements through this medium, but it also came at a price of deteriorating the key functionalities which made this genre timeless. A lot of the essence of the genre is getting lost with modern 'refinements' being made into the genre. It is very pleasant to discover that Wolfenstein have gone back to basics with their approach to shooting. I found the firefights challenging without being frustrating most the time on the 2nd highest difficulty mode I played. The AI was definitely smart to box me in, flank and even find higher ground to get a upper hand during combat situations.Oh yeah one more thing, the game doesn't even have regenerating health, Win!

There really isn't much negative I can think off to be honest, I guess I have to really nitpick and can I fine just one - some of the textures are oddly of low resolution which really catches the eye because they are at times placed right next to the usual high resolution textures of the game, making it a bit distracting. Also I am not sure why, but the game doesn't have proper anti-aliasing support on the PC, kinda shocking really as it is a standard feature of PC Gaming. Not that the aliasing is too distracting or anything, but it is always nice to clean those jaggies when you have the power at your disposal.

Wolfenstein is very likely not just my game of the year, but it is one of the most important games to come around in my opinion with a clear message: sometimes you have to embrace the past to guide you a better future.

Editor's note: Since Bethesda also acquired the rights to another legendary shooter, DOOM. If they give that game the same level of treatment they gave to Wolfenstein, we can safely anticipate for another solid good comeback!

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