An undeniable elder statesman of the First Person Shooter family tree and ancestor to every one of the shooters to be birthed from the games industry since. Its very own beginnings as a champion and founder of the genre with ID's Wolfenstein 3D back in 1992, the Wolfenstein series has broght a fusion of guns and gore to multiple generations of gamers. Having been on an extended eight year hiatus, the series' protagonist, B.J. Blaskowicz is once again locked and loaded for action in ID's new game, Wolfenstein.
With the series having slowly drifted into the lofty status of "one of the classics" in the absence of any sounds of life from the Wolfenstein camp, revivifying the series was always going to run the risk of tarnishing the bloody, nazi icon-emblazoned gleam of a true great in the FPS universe. Thankfully, however, I can report, through my network of underground spies and saboteurs, that Blaskowicz is having a roaring time with the Nazis and also, happily, that the title is definitely bringing the fight to the beaches of any doubters.
The graphics are difficult to describe. Wondrously mixed would be an apt term, for where in some circumstances the textures are low-res and very old school (to be generous) in others the physics, gore and water effects are often brilliant enough to draw an "Oooh!" or even a gasp.
In the current FPS climate, the gameplay style is a refreshing dip in a river filled with human carcasses and round casings, with ID employing a more clenched fisted brute style which made the old games so appealing. Where most modern FPSs have turned to realism, Wolfenstein has turned every one of its many unnatural, glowing-blue eyes upon barbarism by the bucketload. If there was one word for it, it would be "unrestrained". From the off, the game seems to be yelling the following spittle-packed words right into your face; "GO NUTS.". As soon as you step your leather boot into the virtual landscape, you are free to paint the streets red with the blood and various butched body parts of any enemies foolish enough to stand in your way. And of course all of this is portrayed as okay, as the enemy are Nazis after all.
So far what was preventing me from what should have been a gloriously violent voyage atop a red ocean of haemoglobin and plasma in my juicy boat of game-love was the story, which unlike said ocean, was as smooth flowing as a gnaw-ended bone falling through a series of blenders. I hope that my confusing simile was representative of how utterly tangled and contrived the plotline is. When the gasp-worthy gore-porn visuals and the lofty heritage that the game has to its name are stripped away, what is left is a bunch of clichéd story arcs hackneyed together in a Frankenstein-esque convolution of Nazi-bashing bloodlust. This is what stands in the way of Wolfenstein's monstrous, pointy frame; it's just so shallow.
The sound is nothing really special, though the obligatory Nazi-isms offer a comedic slant on the doctrine just prior to my delivery of a magazine into their evil, anti-semantic face. The generic gun sounds offer a nicely-atmospheric and hefty whoomph to every gunshot, but it could never be argued that anything groundbreaking can be found here.
When, early in the story, you the player are gifted with an artifact offering supernatural powers, the game goes from a promising shooter into jamboree of death and wanton destruction. The problem with superpower features in games is that it takes away the challenge. Being able to slow down time, conjure a forcefield and make my enemies ridiculously visible at the press of a button takes away the FPS magic that sparks whenever you find that perfect spot from which to pop some heads. While it does in some elements take away from the experience, the features offered are fairly novel allowing for some innovative, while over powered tactics.
Having enjoyed the core shooter workings of the game, I was looking into the distance at a fun-filled horizon with fluid multiplayer deathmatch action. I then realised that that must be further in the distance, perhaps as far as Modern Warfare 2, because the action offered in Wolfie's three multiplayer modes is a rubberband fest with players springing around the map like a clown on ecstasy in a bouncy castle. In an equally magnanimous developmental misjudgement, the loadout screen is fiddly and cumbersome, so getting into a game takes more effort than it’s worth. I'll be blunt; there are MUCH, MUCH better shooters out there.
It is deeply upsetting that Wolfenstein has ended up as it is when it could have been a hell of a lot more. The story is underwhelming, but this is mildly compensated for by the satisfying gun-fun. The special powers are innovative but essentially overpowered and the MP is a gigantic mess. With this sad-looking list of my judgements about the game, one might expect it to be slapped with a terrible score. That however will not be the case. While the game is certainly not a glittering title to be had by every gamer the world over, the concepts looked into in the game are of some worth. Another factor to consider is the expectations I had for the game, considering its ancestry. Perhaps if it were not part of a classic series, I would have looked upon it more fondly.
When all's said and done, I can recommend this to someone looking for a blast-and-bash, more light-hearted take on a WWII shooter. The single player experience is most definitely a positive one and while the multiplayer is best avoided, the unit as a whole gives little reason for it not to be played. It might be worth giving it a miss until the second had prices show their cheap, dirty, industry-killing faces though. Just to be on the safe side.
Sam has been unable to peel his bloodshot eyes and RSI-ridden wrists from the world of gaming since he was first introduced to it, like all good junkies, by his Grandad. From those early days of MegaDrive sweetness, bashing through the throngs of enemies on Shining Force II, his love of all things games has extended upwards and outwards onto a variety of platforms. You can either believe that spiel, or get the real scoop and know that his spaceship actually crashed here some years ago and he is currently incognito as a games writer for Console Monster.