Falling in Love With Wolfenstein

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been quite a selective gamer. I know what I like and I get after it. For the most part, I have pursued open world games, RPG’s, and open world RPG’s. I’ve often flinched at multiplayer games like the discs are linked to Yellow Fever. As you can imagine I’ve been criticized for dismissing games on the basis of genre, but in recent years I have opened up to new kinds of games at a steady pace. I’ve learned that I can even have fun with multiplayer shooters. In the past two or three years I’ve been enjoying games like Overwatch and Battlefield 4 with my roommate Aaron. When he and I met in the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire five winters ago, he practically introduced me to the genre, and we had a lot of fun with the Zombies mode of the Call of Duty: Black Ops games. Playing online together was a great way to stay in touch whilst I was back in the UK and he in the US, and for the past couple of years we’ve been able to play together at least once a week, sometimes several times. And yet still, I told him- with an air of shame- I would still not be seen dead playing any of these games if I were not playing them with him. Every time I tried to play Battlefield 4’s online multiplayer- or even Overwatch– without him on the other side of the mic, I would get bored within a half hour and switch off. Okay, I guess I’m wired differently, and that’s fine. To each their own and all that. As soon as he would sign off the PSN to go to work, eat lunch, or be with his fiancée Anne-Marie, I would swap the disc in the console for something like The Witcher 3. I’m a sucker for a good narrative. But quality storytelling is by no means exclusive to the RPG’s I worshipped during my teenage years…

Which brings us to Wolfenstein: The New Order. I decided it was time to blog about Wolfenstein now, since there’s a new one coming out in October- TWO DAYS BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY- and I couldn’t be more excited. This game, much like Bioshock, was a departure for me. To look at the screenshots, or even a few Let’s Play videos, I would have been pretty sure the game was not for me. But I discovered it- I’m not sure how- last winter, and I knew it had a good reputation. I was in dire need of a new game, as I was thoroughly disenfranchised with what 2016 had to offer, and the whole alternate history scenario in which the Nazis win the war and create a futuristic, fascist utopia was very much in vogue with me at the time. You see, I was watching the Amazon Prime drama series The Man in the High Castle and getting seriously addicted to it with each passing episode. If only there was a game to explore that stylish dystopian setting. O wait! What’s this? There’s this Wolfenstein game raking in the 10/10 review scores like a working girl’s tongue collects returning sea men. Good glob- that was terrible, wasn’t it? Anyway, it seemed that I had found a first person shooter that was strictly a single player, story-driven game. I played it tentatively, but as soon as one of the giant mechanical Dobermans burst onto the scene bearing their steel fangs, I was quickly hooked. For lack of a better word, The New Order had sucked me in too.

The basic premise of the story concerns a failed attempt by the allies to defeat Nazi Germany who for some reason in this timeline have access to futuristic tech that borders on straight up wizardry. You play as BJ Blazkowicz- an All-American soldier boy with a fetish for wielding two machine guns at once. After missing out on assassinating his nemesis, the deranged Nazi scientist Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, BJ wakes up from a coma just in time to save his curvaceous nurse in the 1960s and go about seeking out the local resistance. I like that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst still providing a nuanced story that actually surprises you with its emotional depth. The game does a great job of building the oppressive atmosphere of a good dystopia and does an excellent job of capturing the desperation of a resistance movement in which hope is in short supply. I felt like I cared about the characters in this game and was interested in all their cutscene interactions- which is more than I can say for the vat of cold piss that was Mass Effect: Andromeda (#StillJaded). The kind of dystopia they create is intriguing and feels fresh. The best word I would use to describe it would be nightmarish. At the same time I was getting curious about the Wolfenstein games, I was watching a documentary series with my father called The Nazis: A Warning from History, complete with Brahm’s utterly chilling Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras. It’s hard to believe the bizarre, surreal happenings that went on during the Second World War, especially in Poland. The only thing you can compare it to is a horror movie. I feel like Wolfenstein: The New Order captures the real life horror of Nazi rule very well- it’s cartoonish and creepy.

And how do I like the game, you might ask? The gameplay is a lot of fun. It’s what you might call a meat-head shooter in the style of Doom and all that, but I don’t want to make it sound cheap. It’s a bunch of fun actually. What stood out most to me were the open-ended level design and the incorporation of stealth gameplay. I once played through the campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 with Aaron and we were laughing at how bad it was. It was actually painful to play. It seemed like every minute was a massive, chaotic warzone without context. There was no pace whatsoever and we were given no clear reason why we should care about what we were doing. As for The New Order on the other hand, the missions were paced perfectly, like the chapters of a fine French novel- only one with horrific violence and Nazi lunar colonies. Often times you can choose whether to go in guns blazing or use alternate routes- crouching through vents and all that- before picking off the officers one by one by stabbing them up the anus.

I love stealth gameplay, so that was a big plus for me. There are also hidden collectibles and interesting little story-driven missions; the two that stand out to me being the train ride where you go undercover and chat it up with the taint-hair-straighteningly-frightening Frau Engel and the prison break in Croatia. It’s great stuff. And did I mention the Nazi moon colony? There are little puzzles and things like lock-picking mini games. There’s also a bunch of lore, so that if you want more story, you can access it at your leisure. There’s a plethora of little texts that help flesh out the world of this dark dystopia- its culture, its technology, its struggles, as well as a series of audio logs that provide interesting subplots for some of the fringe characters. It’s kind of like Bioshock, and like Bioshock it helps to add a human element to a world that seems so alien from our own.

If you haven’t played Wolfenstein: The New Order yet, I hope I have made you consider it. This game will appeal to lovers of old school shooters as well as those of complex storytelling. Lastly, I just wanted to say how hyped I am for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus! It comes out October 27th of this year and by the looks of things, this time around we will get to ride one of the fire-belching Panzerhunds! The game looks beautiful and I was enthralled by the announcement trailer that Bethesda showed us at e3. Who else is looking forward to this puppy? Comment below what you would like to see!

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About mjvowles2014