It makes perfect sense that Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in an alternate reality.
I’m not saying this due to the fact that the game’s setting is a 1960s Nazi occupied world. In fact, I’m not referring to any of the game’s “what if the Nazi’s won” narrative. Instead, I’m talking about the gameplay.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a throwback to 1990s first person shooters but also embraces modern game-play. It makes no attempts to hide the franchise roots of navigating labyrinths of levels as you shoot first and ask questions second. Yet it doesn’t abandon the notion that it needs to adopt from its colleagues. The result is an enjoyable experience when you’re playing the game, yet a flawed one when watching the story unfold.
Seeing as how the Wolfenstein franchise has always dealt with the “untold side” of World War II, the notion of the Nazi’s winning the war thanks to their supernatural experimentation isn’t as far fetched as it seems. In addition, the sci-fi elements the series is known for help make a return to the European front an enjoyable one. Granted, most European fronts don’t include a trip to the bloody moon. Don’t think that we’re questioning the validity of The New Order‘s plot, though; remember, past Wolfenstein games featured a Mecha-Hitler as a boss.
That being said, it’s a bit odd to see developer MachineGames attempt to bring seriousness to its characters. Familiar protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz has meaning to his actions that aren’t just “they are Nazi’s and I don’t like them; they must die.” We’re given glimpses into his mind and purpose. Sadly, I’m not sure I liked what I saw. Heck, I’m not even sure what I saw half of the time. The voice over volume is incredibly low, often being drowned out by the action occurring on screen. While some may appreciate the characters being more than just MacGuffins between shooting, they really didn’t do it for me.
Maybe it’s because I’m so used to expecting characters to die for the sake of an emotional response. It could be that I awaited a “clever plot twist” that reveals one of my closest friends as a traitor. Instead, the game kept going, and going, and ultimately it ended. No traitors, no cheap shot at my feelings. Just the depressing reminder that war sucks. Despite the fact that I’m not 100% invested in these characters, I certainly understand where they’re coming from. Deep down, they know that this isn’t how things were supposed to turn out. This is not their beautiful house. This is not their beautiful wife.
I should probably stop the charade, though; while I enjoyed playing a campaign that didn’t involve walking down corridors and required using a map to properly navigate a level, I am absolutely disheartened that Wolfenstein: The New Order does not contain multiplayer of any kind.
You heard that right; I’m upset that a game doesn’t contain multiplayer. I can certainly see why MachineGames opted to focus their efforts on a campaign. It’s surprisingly lengthy, avoids the common tropes of shooter narratives, and is pleasantly challenging. Yet I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing from the package.
Honestly, my bias may be showing here. Both Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory are games I hold near and dear to my heart due to their enjoyable and addictive multiplayer. Given the incredibly well done job of MachineGames constructing a shooter experience that meshes old school and modern mechanics so well, being able to play them in an objective based multiplayer affair would have been a dream come true. Alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.
There’s something else though that bothers me. I wanted more Wolfenstein: The New Order. Once the game gets going, it really gets going. It presents an experience that can’t be found elsewhere. Shooters don’t typically involve exploration, stealth, and rampant gunning all within a span of sixty seconds. For one to do that, in 2014 no less, is a very pleasant surprise.
I just wish it had more legs. I wish it had multiplayer.
To each their own.