key review info
- Game: Wolfenstein
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: N/a
- Reviewed on:
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Video games aren't exactly very innovative sometimes as, when they find a theme they can exploit, developers usually try to run it dry then abuse it some more before migrating to the next “cash cow.” Such is the case with World War II titles, which have appeared ever since the invention of fairly complicated games. It seems that most shooter fans have shot more Nazis than all of the soldiers who participated in that historic conflict.
Among the franchises that made WWII their home is id Software's Wolfenstein. After achieving cult-like status thanks to various titles made for the PC, running on DOS and other older systems, the series is back with the simply titled Wolfenstein, which was released as a joint effort between multiple studios including id or Raven Software and published by Activision. Main character B.J. Blazkowicz is back once more in this game that acts as a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and he needs to kill some more Nazi soldiers in order to stop their nefarious plans.
But while this title is one of the first to break the summer drought in terms of games, has it lost its shine after so many other iterations abused World War II? Has the big number of studios involved ruined the whole concoction or has B.J. reached his physical prime? Read on to see our review of Wolfenstein for the PC.
In terms of story, you can't really ask a lot from a franchise that made you go up against a mechanized version of Hitler or against various monsters created from former soldiers of the Nazi war machine. This means that, while there is something that you can call a plot filled with quite a few interesting characters, it is so over the top that it might as well be considered an array of random levels brought forth to you for your shooting pleasure.
B.J., after discovering a mysterious artifact on board of a German ship, is tasked to infiltrate the town of Isenstadt, located deep in the country, where the Nazi army is conducting a series of experiments that focus on the occult and paranormal activities. Of course, you won't stay undercover for long – actually, for just a few seconds, as a mole from inside the resistance tipped off the Germans and they are placing you on top of their To-Kill lists as you step foot in the train station.
After that you will go on different missions, given by the various resistance factions located inside the city. From each and every one of them you will find out precious information that will help you ruin the plans of the Nazis with the small town.
While the story won't leave you with a lasting impact, Wolfenstein shines when it comes to mechanics, especially the shooter ones, because, as you know, both id and Raven Software are extremely adept in this genre of games. From the way the guns feel to the great perspective and well thought of levels, it is definitely great for any fan of first person shooters.
While the game may not look like many current-generation titles, the physics and the way everything feels is great and doesn't let you take a breath of relief not even when you are strolling through the streets of the small town.
Of course, another important gameplay aspect is the Thule medallion, which gives you access, via the use of special crystals, to supernatural powers like the ability to enter the veil, which allows you to see secret passages, your enemies and their weak spots as well as some peculiar creatures from time to time. The second option you unlock is the Mire, which slows down time and is great when it comes to escaping large numbers of enemies. It is also upgradeable, rendering a huge shockwave every time you activate it. Another power is a shield-type one, which can withstand many hits from your enemies. The last one is a power-augmenter, which makes your bullets and projectiles travel through many obstacles before stopping in your Nazi friends.
Of course, all of these powers come at a cost as they will draw out a special type of energy, which you can refill from the various pools scattered throughout the levels. Upgrades to these powers can be obtained by finding pieces of intelligence as well as hidden tomes of power, but don't forget that you will also need to find bags of gold in order to be able to buy all of these upgrades from the black market dealers in Isenstadt.
While the game shines in terms of shooting mechanics, I can't help but feel that the paranormal powers are a bit too much. Sure they are a lot of fun sometimes, and Wolfenstein never took pride in following historical reports, but I usually prefer regular bullets from machine guns or occasionally the rays from Particle cannons or the bolts from Tesla guns, not to mention the energy blasts from one of the best weapons in the game, the Leichenfaust 44.
When you go up against bosses at the end of various levels, the fights are pretty much standard and filled with cliché elements for anyone who is even remotely familiar with shooters. Your powers will sometimes be used during the battles or their aftermath, but there isn't anything you can't handle.
In terms of concept, Wolfenstein uses the same basic formula for first person shooters but adds in a few elements that bring in a small dose of innovation. The most apparent are the powers that you can use thanks to the Thule medallion, powers that were usually present in hack and slash titles like Devil May Cry for example.
Another interesting thing present in this title is actually the town of Isenstadt, which acts as a glorified mission hub from which you can choose particular quests and explore it to find pieces of intelligence and gold. While this may seem like an interesting idea, the fact that the Nazis are expecting you in all of the classic places and that they get tougher and bigger in number as you progress isn't really something elaborate. Plus, the fact that your compass will guide you around every corner pretty much eliminates the need of the town and its map.
Visuals and Audio
In terms of visuals, the game is running on the old id Tech 4 engine, albeit a modified version, which means that, while graphics aren't up to par with Gears of War or Fallout 3 for example, they get the job done and provide a pretty picture during the gun fights present in the game. The visuals used when accessing the veil are pretty interesting and provide a change of pace as opposed to the shades of gray and brown that are prevalent in many shooters these days.
The physics and the textures look pretty reasonable and the feel of seeing bodies fly through the air, get carbonized due to your flamethrower and even vaporized when using the particle cannon never gets old. It won't wow any experienced gamer, but it gets the job done.
In terms of sound, the game is pretty standard. Its orchestral score is subtle but intense and will definitely get your heart racing when confronting the legions of Nazis. Also, the taunts of your enemies are always nice to hear as nothing beats hearing them curse at you in the classic German voices.
This is usually where any id Software game would have shined and raised the bar to a whole new level. Sadly, this isn't the case, as not only do the three multiplayer modes, Deathmatch, Objective and Stopwatch, feel very procedural, but the fact that the graphics are actually worse than in the single player mode makes the whole experience seem a bit awkward.
You can play as one of three classes, Medic, which of course heals people, Soldier, which of course kills people, and Engineer, which provides close support for said healing and killing at the same time. While it won't offer any decent thrills and experiences, the multiplayer mode is still a plausible way of killing a bit of time after finishing the single player campaign.
Overall, Wolfenstein wasn't exactly what I was expecting from studios like id Software and Raven, but it is still better than nothing. B.J. Blazkowicz still is the best weapon for killing Nazis that the United States has ever had and will definitely stay in the service for a long time.
While the singleplayer portion is something that any shooter fan might want to try, the multiplayer is by far the biggest letdown from the whole title. Hopefully it will be fixed in the future and people will have more modes to choose from.