Remember that Wolfenstein reboot from quite a few years ago? Return to Castle Wolfenstein? Yeah, the one that featured undead skeletons and occult stuff? Won’t blame you if you don’t as it was pretty vanilla. I guess it’s part the reason I wasn’t expecting much from the more recent game in the Wolfenstein franchise, The New Order; it made it all more surprising when most gaming publications around the web (and Twitter folk) were singing praise for it. Couple of weeks ago I had the chance to play a copy for PS4 and… no question about it, the game’s much better than I was expecting.
*WARNING – SPOILERS ABOUND*
“Silly Saga! Spoilers? A Wolfenstein game? They’re just FPS machines!”
That was my first mistake as well, dear reader. I was fully expecting a fun yet mindless shooter like the original was back in the days. I was not expecting the entire game to be so heavily reliant on its lore and, more importantly, its characters to drive the adventure forward.
As B. J. Blazkowicz the game starts you’re aboard a WWII era plane apparently on your way to storm the evil Nazis and one of their top men, series longtime villain Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse. But the enemy ships which start surrounding (and decimating) your unit are not normal – they look far more advanced than regular Second World War stuff. Soon after crashing you’re faced with robot dogs and a gigantic tri-walker – something is not right. Eventually you find Deathshead but things do not go as planned; though you manage to escape, you are left in a coma for 14 years. When you wake up you find out things aren’t what you expect them to be: World Ward II has ended, but the Nazis won and now rule over the entire globe with an iron fist.
The entire intro sequence does a good job of presenting secondary characters and setting up the world they survive in. The brutality of the situation is soon apparent and thus begins a quest to find whatever resistance there is. The fate of the Nazi general who ends up being your first capture after awakening from the coma is unequivocally brutal, but necessary. The game makes a point in showing you that Nazis are, well, what it’s commonly know about them: plain evil and cruel – a “bad guy” you love to hate.
The world of TNO is rich with newspaper clippings that fill the history of the world during the years of Nazi rule: Countries being subdued, rebellions squashed, a new order being slowly ingrained in every aspect of society. I particularly love all “positive” press because it makes me wonder just how much is true and how much is really just Nazi-controlled media trying to brainwash people into thinking the World is better because of them – a particularly interesting thing in a world where some countries are leaded by governments that excel in making people think everything is awesome. The Berlin of this future is incredible; London is under the ever watchful eye of a huge robot that quells any insurrection; the Moon – yes, the freaking Moon – has been colonized with Venus being next. The characters themselves are very interesting, fighting the Nazi threat for their own reasons; don’t wanna spoil too much about them simply because it’s the aspect of TNO which I found most surprising.
Mechanically speaking TNO doesn’t cover any fantastically new ground: There’s standard weapons with a couple of cool things but nothing out of the ordinary, you basically go from point A to B killing whatever opposition comes in your way, though you DO have the ability to use stealth to clean up enemy forces (and stop them from calling reinforcements). Again, nothing out of the ordinary but what TNO does it does well enough. The graphics are quite good but the real stellar part is the world itself.
As I said early on, I was quite surprised with TNO. I ended the game feeling satisfied by the experience. It must have taken me over 10 hours to complete but I really wasn’t timing my playthrough. It deserves, in my opinion, whatever “game of the year” nominations/mentions/wins it may have gotten.