All These Years Later, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a Blast to Play

Wolfenstein 3D is widely considered as the granddaddy of first-person shooters, and the game ended up being a runaway success on account of its innovative gameplay for the time. It’s an important piece of gaming history itself, and the franchise would go on to create new entries until games like 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 2003’s Wolfenstein Enemy Territory failed to capture much of the same magic that made us fall in love with the IP in the first place. 

After a considerable period of absence from the market and a failed reboot from developer Raven, MachineGames took the helm of redefining Wolfenstein for a brand new audience. Wolfenstein: The New Order was released in 2014 for consoles and PCs, and it immediately ended up becoming one of the best first-person shooters on the market and winning multiple awards in the process. It’s been almost 10 years since the game first came out, and it continues to be a blast even after all these years. 

A big reason behind Wolfenstein’s eventual downfall was a major disconnect between what fans wanted out of such an experience and what the developer wished to do with the franchise. You see, the essence of Wolfenstein lies in the sheer chaos and the brutality of the combat itself. The original game was very confident with its over-the-top action as BJ Blazkowicz downs entire squads without batting an eye, but later entries like Return to Castle Wolfenstein watered down that experience with its insistence to delve into the military shooter genre. 

Wolfenstein PS3

MachineGames understood that gap, and Wolfenstein: The New Order was pretty much antithetical to the principles of military shooters. Instead of hiding behind cover and waiting for opportunities to take down your targets, The New Order forces you to be aggressive in your playstyle and jaunt down the battlefield armed with heavy ammunition. However, that doesn’t mean that you could just mow down enemies without much hassle – Wolfenstein forces players to understand the intricacies behind the shooting mechanics. 

It felt like a breath of fresh air against the homogenized releases of the time, and much of that feeling remains the same even after all these years. The combat loop blends elements of stealth into the mix to create some interesting scenarios as you slowly cut down unsuspecting commanders before you mow down the remainder of the enemy opposition with nothing but raw force. There’s a very careful dance of dodges and well-placed shots that you need to master if you don’t wish to be blown into smithereens, and attaining that mastery is what makes that power fantasy of being an unstoppable force so endearing. 

In a similar vein, Wolfenstein: The New Order forgoes popular shooter trends like regenerating health bars and goes back to the old-fashioned way of using health kits to recoup lost health. These kits are spread throughout battle arenas, and smartly navigating your way through firefights to get those kits regularly becomes really important in later sections when fights start to get especially intense with multiple larger enemies grouped together with nimble foot soldiers. 

Wolfenstein The New Order

Of course, the gunplay here is the star of the show and it’s just as brutal as fans would want out of such an experience. There’s a huge selection of weapons to choose from ranging from pistols to shotguns and machine guns to sniper rifles, and each of these types of weapons feel good to play with. Pistols are better for stealth kills, machine guns work well at medium distances, and shotguns are great against certain enemy types. 

It also helps that Wolfenstein’s progression systems are closely knit to the combat loop which forces you to get good at clearing out rooms upon rooms of enemies. Instead of showering you with XP upon each kill and sending out skill points to then use for upgrades, skills in Wolfenstein are unlocked through completing challenges such as doing 50 stealth kills, 50 headshots and so on and so forth. As such, building out your character requires being adept with the mechanics themselves and there aren’t artificial skills that you can use for an easy victory.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game’s design is the ability to dual-wield weapons. You can mix and match different weapons together like a shotgun in one hand and a machine gun in another. Dual wielding does come with a caveat of reduced efficiency, but the power fantasy that you get from using this technique is unparalleled and one of the biggest drawing features of Wolfenstein’s combat loop. It was extremely fun when it first came out, and it remains such even after all these years. 

Wolfenstein The New Order Bullshot

MachineGames also does a wonderful job with The New Order’s story which manages to strike a good balance between the over-the-top nature of original games. The New Order’s BJ Blazkowicz isn’t the hot headed killer despite him being extremely efficient with firepower; he also has an emotional side which makes him likable in more ways than one.

As for the visuals, Wolfenstein: The New Order makes use of the same muted color palette that you would find in most military shooters with dull colors like brown, green, and gray dominating the presentation. It does look somewhat dated by modern standards, but it’s not too dated to come in the way of fun. The art direction here is also pretty great, and the many pieces of retro-futuristic technology like the fierce metal dogs and heavy armored units also look pretty convincing. 

All that said, Wolfenstein: The New Order is not a game without its flaws. For instance, there are issues with the pacing of it all, as there can be long stretches of doing nothing but shooting goons one after another without much in the name of interesting set pieces. 

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But then again, those flaws aren’t too substantial to come in the way of enjoyment. By and large, Wolfenstein: The New Order feels like a confident offering that not only pays due homage to the past but presents a solid foundation for its modern existence. Later entries like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus would continue to build on these foundations with more interesting set pieces and over-the-top settings like outer space levels, but there’s an undeniable charm to this entry that continues to hold its special place even after all these years. 

In conclusion, Wolfenstein: The New Order holds up surprisingly well to this date – and it’s a game that’s well worth trying out for the first time if you haven’t already. But even if you have previously completed the story of BJ Blazkowicz, it wouldn’t do you much harm to revisit the game a second or a third time while we wait for what MachineGames does with the franchise. 

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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