Wolfenstein: The New Order PS4 review – Nazi blaster gets it all Reich on the night

 

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler? If you think we’re on the run. We are the boys who will stop your little gam… AHHH! STOP SICCING YOUR MASSIVE ROBO DOG ON US!

Wolfenstein: The New Order PS4 review

Clearly, Wolfenstein has always seen WWII a little differently. From Mecha Nazis to guns that look like they’ve been nicked from the set of Flash Gordon, the series generally views Earth’s last global conflict through a left field, futurist prism. And that’s a quality that remains in this utterly esoteric, completely memorable shooter that surprisingly manages to outgun every other FPS on PS4 by quite some distance. Well played, Führer.

I’ll share a dirty little secret with you – ewww, not that dirty, you filthy letch. I had Wolfenstein: The New Order pegged for the 18:00 to 6/10-ville all day long. After the series’ last uninspiring effort on PS3 back in 2009, I fully expected another overly brown military shooter with a few kooky sci-fi pistols, maybe with a castle along the way, powered by a decent engine courtesy of id Software. Oh how happy am I to be 16 different shades of wrong.

Actually, I did Mystic Meg the tech prediction. The Doom studio once again assists Wolfey, with id Tech 5 providing an almightily assured platform to BJ Blazkowicz’s latest fascismstomping adventure. The result is a handsomely slippery shooter set in the Rage mould, where combat confidently hurtles along at a nearconstant 60fps with nary a sliver of screen tear and only the most occasional dropped frame.

Yet far more impressive than any speedily delivered numbers (and this is the part I didn’t count on), is the frankly brilliant input of MachineGames. Formed from key members of Starbreeze Studios, the core of the The New Order’s team cut their chompers on evocative fair such as The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and The Darkness.

“The series views WW2 through a left field, futurist prism. And that’s a quality that remains”

It shows, too. Blazko’s journey is thoughtfully paced, brimming with the sort of welcome reflection that made Jackie and Jenny’s couch cuddle such a tender surprise. Hey, if you just want to dual-wield shotguns, that’s in here, too. But for most, retooled Wolfenstein leaves a lasting impression through a sharpness of script and a level of rounded characterisation that somehow makes you emotionally invest in a game about space Nazis and brainwashed Doberman wearing tin helmets.

Predominantly set in an alternate 1960, one in which the Nazis not only won the war but have gone on to conquer the globe, MachineGames mixes the melancholy with the murderous. Firefights that wallow in an almost slapstick amount of gore are sharply contrasted by scenes where your Office Of Secret Actions agent and his off-colour band of resistance acolytes ruminate on the human cost of war.

It should lead to a massive tonal mishmash, yet the story is always played with just the right amount of brevity and knowing absurdity to meld the comically barbaric action with a plot that takes in Moon landings, blowing up bridges in Gibraltar and a War Of The Worlds-esque sentinel patrolling over London.

One of the biggest compliments I can pay BJ focuses on the pacing of his journey. In many ways, the flow of the game reminds me of Half-Life 2. Locations never linger too long and there’s always just the right amount of scenery changes and nonshooty bits to keep your brain as engaged as your i-prodding trigger finger. An elaborate infiltration of a concentration camp around the midway point is especially well judged, mixing oppressive imagery with Great Escape camaraderie.

But enough of the fingers-inbeard pondering. You came here for a dirty great feast of guns, explosions and the sweet little dessert of walking metal shark/rhino thingies called Panzerhund. Mmmm, shark/rhino thingies. In which case, you’ll be chuffed to know The New Order is capable of huge bombast to cradle up to the Call Of Duty crowd.

I’m talking scenes where you triumphantly stomp through a compound in a rocket-spewing mech or man the turret of a plummeting RAF craft and play out your warmest Millennium Falcon fantasies. There’s spectacle on show here that occasionally feels out of place with the sombre undertones of the story, granted. But then again – Star Wars fantasies. Yeah, I can live with that trade.

Battles are also tailored to suit particular playstyles. Thanks to the game’s perk system, you’re encouraged to approach encounters in distinct ways. Opting for Demolition rewards consistently accurate grenade throws with greater splash damage, for example, while Tactical and Assault styles pay out with quicker weapon draws or increased clip sizes for dual-wielding. Stealth is easily the most satisfying of the four. Though rudimentary in nature (guards love to turn their backs on you), there’s something profoundly satisfying about eliminating every Nazi in an area through carefully timed, exceedingly stabby takedowns. Take that, German windpipe!

“The New Order is capable of huge bombast to cradle up to the Call Of Duty crowd”

Seeing as the last eight paragraphs have been so positive, why is that big round number two pages back not higher? Frankly, I was very close to awarding Wolfenstein 9/10. Next to Killzone Shadow Fall, this is a slicker, more imaginative experience that packs in bags of character and knows how to vary its thrills.

Even so, The New Order fails to quite rank with the great shooters of the past.Boss fights seriously overstay their welcome, while a criminal lack of ammo throughout makes too many fights a molar-gnashing grind. But while Blazko may lose the odd battle along the way, he most definitely wins this particular war on PS4. The most subversive and suprising new-gen shooter so far, Wolfenstein delivers heart (and a load of entrails) in a gory FPS that should stay with you for years.

Our Score

Score: 8
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