Wolfenstein
Developer: Raven/id
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2-12 players online
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Wolfenstein is the sequel to the PC/Xbox & PS2 shooter, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. It’s an unbelievable eight years since its release and Wolfenstein is a welcome return to the series. In a market flooded with serious shooters, some supernatural Nazi action is surely what we have been waiting for.

The opening FMV sequence is graphically stunning, and is something akin to the opening scene of an Indiana Jones film. It’s rather unfortunate then that considerably less effort went into the later cut scenes using the game engine. Here we are introduced to our Bosch-bashing protagonist and agent of the Office of Secret Actions (OSA), BJ Blazkowicz. Given BJ’s proclivity for defeating the Third Reich’s paranormal minions, he is sent to the town of Isenstadt to liaise with the resistance movements there and try to uncover the Nazi’s latest supernatural plan to turn the tide against the Allies.

BJ soon discovers the Thule Medallion, which enables him to enter the supernatural Veil dimension. Once in there BJ will be able to move through portals and climb ladders that would otherwise be invisible and unavailable to use. Later, there are Veil upgrades available to the medallion (there are four in total) which will provide additional abilities; Veil Sight (enter into the Veil dimension), Mire (slows time down), Veil Shield (kinda speaks for itself!) and Empower (enhances weapon power.)

The entire game is centred around Isenstadt, which acts like a central hub and allows access to more and more locations as the game progresses. But you will always head back to this central map where you get new missions and objectives, some that are core to the story and others which are effectively side quests. Initially this feels a little odd and a structure that is more at home with an RPG. However, the levels away from Isenstadt are large and varied and the story moves at a pace which makes you keen to get the job done and get back for the next objective. Some of the levels really shine - without wishing to give anything away the last level before the big boss fight is a stand-out moment in the game and is a refreshing change to the usual bomb-levelled town we expect to negotiate in a WWII shooter.

Wolfenstein is heavily story-driven, which is no bad thing, but when you get back to the central map, you spend a while talking to NPCs as the story is moved forward and you're given new objectives. Some may argue that this slows the action down (given this is essentially a FPS), and at first it does seem that way. But as the game progresses the story draws you in and you’ll want to get every bit of information from your allies, and find all the collectible “intel”. The first impression of a dialogue-heavy game disappears and the focus remains firmly fixed on the action. BJ sounds a bit like George Clooney but it’s a pity that most of the other voice acting is so bad, whether this is deliberate or not, it’s just plain terrible, with cringeworthy German accents the order of the day.

There are a wide number of enemies, which have a reasonable level of AI. Some will be familiar, but for the most part your sights will be trained on the standard German soldier, who you’ll make you wince more than once with their particularly brutal death throes, there’s no shortage of gore and spouting blood either! (explosions will dismember enemies and leave body parts strewn around—although bodies soon vanish). There are a number of specifically paranormal German enemies to face; the assassins are particularly effective at unnerving you and the way they taunt BJ whilst remaining unseen can have you sneaking a quick look over your shoulder. The game’s great sound effects are put to good use here and you’ll always be wondering if there may be an assassin around the corner in some of the quieter moments of the game. There are some good boss battles and these are impressive to look at - however they can be completed relatively easily.

Anyone who played Return to Castle Wolfenstein in its various forms on various formats will immediately feel familiar with the weapons, which feel weighty and effective at taking down the Hun, either human or otherwise! The MP43 is especially effective and, apart from the odd long range snipe with the Kar98 or necessary use of a paranormally developed weapon, is clearly the weapon of choice and one can pretty much get through the whole game without using much else. It’s a pity, as the less conventional weapons such as the Particle Cannon are useful in their own right. However, ammo for the MP40 and MP43 is plentiful whereas ammo for the Particle Cannon, Tesla Gun etc is less so. As a result you tend to be more conservative with their use and in the main simply opt for the very effective MP43. The flamethrower is nicely implemented and is very useful at close range.

Weapons can be upgraded by visiting Black Market Arms Dealers, but only if you have enough gold to do so. This is an ‘interesting’ addition to a WWII first person shooter, albeit a paranormal one! For those who prefer to do nothing more than shoot their way through the single player campaign, it will be something of a chore searching every nook, cranny, locker and wardrobe for the gold required to pay for the upgrades. Gold is hidden on all of the levels and you’ll need to find a lot of it to pay for the enhancements, such as a sniper scope, improved rifling or additional ammo capacity. The odd collectable in a first person shooter to unlock content is one thing, but to really make the best of your weapons finding gold is a necessity, whether you like it or not.

The game itself looks terrific and sounds excellent too, both effects and the music. The overall look is suitably atmospheric (particularly the switch to the Veil dimension) and the character animations are good, with plenty of varied death animations from the numerous Nazis.

There are three online modes available and it’s all pretty standard stuff; Team Death Match, Objective and Stopwatch. Players have three character classes to choose from; Soldier (who can dish out ammo), Engineer (the only class able to complete all objectives) and Medic (heal ailing comrades). If you’re an Xbox Live veteran it’ll all sound very similar to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War online, and indeed it doesn’t feel like it’s moved on much. Given the amount of online first person shooters available, unfortunately Wolfenstein does very little to stand out against the competition. There are however, depending on your class etc, various Veil abilities available for you to exploit—but after a few hours online it seems that the majority favour the standard weapons setup..

Gripes aside, the presentation, polish, gameplay, graphics and Paranormal Nazi theme is great and we all love to make “Fritz” eat knuckle sandwich and stick another one up Hitler. But overall adding weapons upgrades and an alternate dimension does nothing to stop the game feeling just a little bit dated—the whole supernatural alternate dimension-FPS thing has been done already this generation several times with Condemned, The Darkness, F.E.A.R., Prey etc… Nonetheless, Wolfenstein is a solid and worthy addition for first person shooter fans looking for something a little different to Call of Duty.


Best Bits

- Solid weapons which feel meaty and effective
- Great music and sound effects, nicely set the atmosphere
- Story well conceived and driven at a good pace
- Nazi Zombies!
Worst Bits

- Single player campaign is over quickly
- Multiplayer doesn’t offer anything new
- Searching for gold to upgrade weapons
- Easy boss battles
- Terrible voice acting seems to have copied the accents from 'Allo 'Allo or Hogan's Heroes.

by: Indie

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