There's an abundance of WWII shooters out there, and they just seem to keep on coming. There’s most of the Call of Duty series, the entire Medal of Honour series and we can’t forget about the granddaddy of First Person Shooters, the Wolfenstein series. But with so many of these commonly set shooting games, what do they have to do to stand out form the crowd? A few different weapons here and there or maybe a new look at a different historical battle? Sure, they all feature small changes like this, but what sets Wolfenstein apart from the rest is its take on the infamous Nazi occult and biological research and the resulting effects. Since 1992, Wolfenstein has always set the bar for a generation of FPS's. Is the most recent addition to the famed series enough to keep the bar raised for future shooters? Read on to find out.
As usual, Wolfenstein puts players in the position of William 'B.J' Blazkowicz, an American soldier stationed in a Nazi occupied Europe during World War II. This time around, B.J is stationed in the fictional town of Isenstadt, where he must thwart the SS and their plans to harvest the occult force known only as the 'Black Sun'. The Black Sun would make the Nazi army an unstoppable force with untold amounts of unnatural power.
But the games story is just as blunt as that paragraph was. Games these days are becoming more and more story driven, and while it’s good that the developers didn't put all their efforts into the story and skip on the gameplay, it really does make the game feel lacking and a bit dull. You find yourself running around this beautiful town doing mission after mission in these beautiful landscapes, and while it may be beautiful as I just mentioned, it just doesn't suck you in and make you really care, or even know, about what's going on. The game is broken into two parts, each of which features very large sections of Isenstadt, which the player must explore and fight across to gain access to the few different hideouts and thus, missions. You get a brief talking to by your supposedly superior ally then get sent on your way to go kill some Nazi's, blow up some stuff and earn a little dough, all to just get sent back to town for another mission. It all becomes a little much for continuous play but the gracious action will always have you coming back for more fun.
The action in Wolfenstein is what makes the title worth playing. The Wolfenstein game released back in 2001, titled Return To Castle Wolfenstein was praised for its genre defining action surpassing most shooters for years to come. Its sequel, the game in question does for this generation what its predecessor did for the last. Wolfenstein features what is arguably the most unique and involving action in any WWII shooter, and apart from the lack of a cover system, is unflawed. Throughout the game, you will be faced with brilliant boss battles, a thing which is often horribly done in first person shooters. All of the levels in Wolfenstein feature amazingly memorable set pieces perfectly developed for the games explosive action gameplay, and with the addition of the Veil powers, can be played however you please.
It’s these Veil powers that really make Wolfenstein stand out. During the course of the story, you will acquire 4 occult powers likened to the overall power of the Black Sun. You will be required to utilize these powers in order to conquer the Nazi Reich, and when fused with the dramatic gun play make for truly unique and explosive action. These powers send B.J to what can only be described as another realm, and rightfully so. When activated, the world you see around you will change before your very eyes. You will also be granted a certain special ability depending on which of the 4 powers you're using. All of the powers help B.J find secret doors and items and all increase his gun wielding abilities. But each has a unique power, from a Bullet Time comparable mode to a very useful Damage Upgrade power. But you will need not just one, but all too over power some of the more extreme opposition, and of course, you will need the help of your arsenal of upgradable weapons.
All of the weapons you come across in Wolfenstein can be upgraded to your liking, and while this may cost quite a bit of you hard earned cash, it will be needed if you hope of coming out victorious in the game boss and larger scale battles. Upgrades are purchased through the few Black Market hideouts and range from damage upgrades to sniper scopes and even a bayonet to increase your melee damage.
Wolfenstein also features a multiplayer mode which, although good on paper, doesn't work so well in practice. Similar to every other first person shooter's multiplayer modes, Wolfenstein has your classic team deathmatch game types and a couple of objective type games. These objective games see one team trying to accomplish a certain objective, which varies from level to level, while the other team tries to stop them. And while a game type like this may seem like a bit of fun, it really isn't. In fact, the whole Wolfenstein multiplayer concept seems like fun, what with the Veil powers and distinguished classes and all, but it really does lack good execution and thought. The multiplayer loading times are painfully slow and the matchmaking system fails to arouse any sort of interest. It really does fail to stand up against any other highly regarded FPS's multiplayer mode.
Ah, this is where Wolfenstein makes its stand. The game features a constant stream of stunning graphics which combined with the enjoyable action, make the extremely well laid out set pieces look and play brilliantly. The graphics really do go hand in hand with the games settings. And even when in Veil, actually more like especially when in Veil, the graphics will have you gasping in astonishment. The detail of all of your surroundings is paid extra special attention to when you enter the Veil, as the buildings walls will tear and wither and the pools of Veil power will glow proudly their distinguished blue glaze as the sky itself will take on a very gloomy and mysterious shade of green. The detail of the Nazi opposition is also amazing, and when in Veil, you will notice the changes they take, from the veined skin to the undead like glowing eyes. It really must be seen to be properly experienced.
The game features the work of Bill Brown, the composer for the original score in 2001's Return To Castle Wolfenstein. And as with the original title, Wolfenstein's score fits magnificently in with the games action, suspense, supernatural elements and intense action. It fits in with whatever scenario you’re currently experiencing and seamlessly interchanges along with the gameplay. To top off its fitting, it gives players the feel of orchestral music composed in the 1940's, really setting the scene and feel of the game. Wolfensteins score really increases all that is great with the game.
And while the script isn't particularly great, helping the dull story line fall even further, it is still acted out wonderfully. All of the actors chosen to do the voices pull of the games many nationalities and accents flawlessly. They speak with haste and emotion that sounds like it could have only been executed in a feature movie.
Well, when any full-priced retail game is released, people want to know what they are getting for so much money. They don't just want a fun experience that will last them a few hours before getting bored. They want replay value. They want depth. And they especially want a great multiplayer mode to keep them involved for weeks and months. Wolfenstein simply doesn't provide this kind of experience. Players will get a few hours max out of the multiplayer modes before getting bored with the similar feeling shooting and extremely slow loading and searching times. And as for the games single-player mode, it really must be taken slowly to get a decent amount of hours out of it. Players can rush the story in under 10 hours very easily, even on the most difficult difficulty setting, 'Uber'. Playing on this setting feels like playing Call Of Duty on normal. It just isn't a challenge, meaning no point in replaying on harder difficulties. The only incentive Wolfenstein gives for players to replay it is to collect all of the games hidden collectibles, which can provide fun for a few hours before getting frustrating. This is one game that isn't worth its price tag, no matter how pretty it looks.
From the longest running First Person Shooter series around, Wolfenstein really does disappoint. Maybe it was the series high-profile back catalogue that gave off such high hopes for this game, and such expectations that led to its disappointing release. It provides us some lovely scenery, some great set pieces and some awesome weaponry which all look rather impressive, but it fails to keep players intrigued with its dull story, failed multiplayer modes and over worked mission structure. In short, it’s a short, unsatisfying game, which gave only a handful of good points of which fail to outweigh the flaws of the game. A rental perhaps.
AAG Score: 6/10
1. Impressive Graphics
2. Well developed map
3. Great weaponry
1. Far too easy
2. Little too short
3. Horrendous multiplayer
4. Boring story
5. Lacks replay value
Reviewed and Written by John Elliott