Since the original Wolfenstein 3D debuted and pioneered the First Person Shooter genre, I’ve been a fan of the franchise and have enjoyed playing through each installment to date. The last Wolfenstein game came out nearly a decade ago in 2001, and it has been a long overdue wait to jump back into the shoes of B.J. Blazkowicz and take down a supernatural Nazi conspiracy. The allied Nazi exterminator finds himself in the possession of a Nazi device that utilizes black sun energy. His superiors ship him off to the German town of Eisenstaedt where he must meet up with the local resistance movement to foil the Nazi’s latest plan for world domination.
The game departs from the traditional linear gameplay experienced in past Wolfenstein games by using the city of Eisenstaedt as a hub to gain and launch missions. Eisenstaedt has several alley ways and streets that you must navigate in order to meet with your resistance contacts or to reach the truck leaving for your latest mission. While I welcome the change to the gameplay, I didn’t find the use of Eisenstaedt to be well executed. If you are not pursuing the collectible achievements, there is no reason to explore the city itself other than to satisfy your own curiosity. The streets of Eisenstaedt are constantly patrolled by the Nazis which became increasing annoying as I progressed through the game. Sure it makes complete sense, Nazis patrolling the streets of a German town during the middle of World War II. For example, after completing a mission you will be in a small truck depot inside of Eisenstaedt and your objective will be to go to the headquarters of one of the resistance factions to get your next mission.
On your way to their headquarters you will have to face Nazis perhaps even directly outside of their base. Once you have killed them all you can proceed inside and get your next mission from the resistance, which usually makes you sit through about thirty second of dialogue explaining the significance of your last mission and the importance of the next one. Upon leaving the headquarters to reach your next mission, you will find that the street you just cleared is crawling with Nazis again. I can understand that maybe since you just wiped out an entire squad of Nazis that another would come and investigate but continually beating them back seemed repetitive and only served as an obstacle between you and your destination. I didn’t feel that beating them would serve any purpose other than they are an obstacle and are Nazis. Compared to playing through a mission where you’re constantly trying to achieve an objective.
This complaint probably wouldn’t have made its way into the review but you are constantly covering the same streets between missions. Going up the same street 10 times and taking out different assortments of Nazis just got boring. To the game’s credit there are alternative pathways like the rooftops or sewers than can break up the monotony of treading through the same areas. The Nazis that you face usually aren’t too difficult to dispose but do prove to be an annoying obstacle. I really did enjoy the fact that as progressed through the game, your exploits would become well known causing more people to join the resistance movements. This would be reflected in Eisenstaedt by more people fighting the Nazis in the streets. I thought this was an interesting way to mirror your progress foiling the Nazi’s plans in each level.
The factions that you encounter in Eisenstaedt really just serve as a way to facilitate mission giving. Initially I thought that having two resistance factions may require me to make choices about which ally myself with. I thought that the actions of one may have adverse consequences for another. This was not the case and I believe that the only purpose of having two factions was to –Spoiler Alert- allow the twist in the third act without diminishing the credibility of one of the resistance factions.
Where Wolfenstein really shines, is not just in the graphics department but with the levels that actually make up most of the game. Apart from the running around in Eisenstaedt I found the gameplay to be quite enjoyable. The levels are well imagined each having a decent amount of length to them. My favorite level was the Farm which is actually a front for a cavern of the Nazi War machine. Each mission feels different from the one before it, so you never feel like you are treading through the same thing over and over again. Each level usually has a boss fight either mid mission or near the end of each mission. The boss fights are all unique and will require you to figure out a new strategy for each boss. Many of the bosses will show up during regular gameplay segments or during other boss battles later on which can really cause some tense near death moments.
There are eight different weapons that you can gain access to while progressing through the main missions. They range from your traditional Nazi weaponry to the more extraordinary, like the particle beam which basically vaporizes your enemies. You also have access to the German grenades which makes me beg the question, why is the grenade indicator an allied grenade when you don’t have access to them? Yes, there are no allied weapons, which I presume is because you are based in Germany and ammo for allied weapons would be scarce. While the Thompson machine gun is M.I.A you will be able to upgrade your entire arsenal, including your grenades with gold found throughout the missions and Eisenstaedt. This doesn’t mean that you will have gold plated guns, instead you’ll be able to use gold to buy upgrades to each weapon in the black market. The upgrades are pretty standard, more damage, reduce recoil, add a scope, etc. The higher the difficulty the more reason to keep on top of upgrading your weapons, though there is not enough gold in the game to upgrade every weapon fully. You will also be able to upgrade your veil powers.
Veil powers are B.J. Blazkowicz’s supernatural powers he obtains through black sun powered crystals found during the main story missions. Veil Sight is reminiscent of night vision, changing the color of the screen, highlighting enemies and those classic red exploding barrels. Veil Sight is also used to see and pass through veil doors, which would not be accessible without engaging the power. Veil doors are passages that you would not normally be able to detect without Veil sight being activated. The other powers are pretty standard for first person shooter games, Mire which is essentially bullet time, a shield, and a damage boost. The damage boost will be used often; it can shoot through enemies veil shields and is required to solve some “puzzle” elements later in the game.
The enemies you will encounter are straight out of the Wolfenstein playbook. The enemies range for your traditional Nazi grunts and SS soldiers, to the black sun enhanced soldiers who have different abilities. Some of these enemies can be rather difficult to deal with depending on where you are in the game, particularly the invisible assassin who strikes at your with his blades. Certain weapons are better equipped to dealing with different enemies so experimentation is key.
I really enjoyed the single player game, playing through it twice to try to capture as many achievements as I could. The” I AM THE DEATH INCARNATE (UBER)” difficulty is not nearly has difficult as Halo’s legendary or Call of Duty’s veteran. I even found the Return to Castle Wolfenstein Uber difficulty much more challenging, but the final boss is much more difficult this time around. The game will take around 6-8 hours to beat depending on the amount of side missions and collectibles you choose to pursue.
Once you have completed the single player you can move on to the multiplayer which has 8 maps, three game modes, and supports up to twelve players. I found it very confusing that the Return to Castle Wolfenstein on the original Xbox allowed up to 16 players while this installment only supported 12. The three game modes are team death match, objective, and stopwatch. Objective has one team on offensive while the other is on defense, the offense is trying to steal documents or complete an objective while the defense has to stop them. Stopwatch is almost identically to objective but each team has to beat the previous team’s time in completing their objectives.
The graphics that appear in multiplayer do not look as polished as the single player. There are three classes to choose from online, engineer, medic and solider. The engineer will accomplish many of the objectives such as arming bombs or building turrets. He has access to the veil speed ability which allows him to move and work fast. The engineer replaces the lieutenant from RTCW by being able to drop ammo. The medic is able to drop health and revive fallen soldiers and has the health aura ability which heals himself and teammates around him. The solider has access to all the game’s weapons, satchel charges, and veil strikes. The veil strike is an area effect which is very similar to the air strike from RTCW though not covering as large of an area. Players will earn gold for completing objectives, getting kills, dispersing ammo, reviving teammates, etc. Just like in single player the gold can be used to buy upgrades for your class but you will not be able to upgrade your weapon to the length you could in the single player. There is also a level up system similar to the one found in Call of Duty.
Overall I didn’t find the multiplayer to be as enjoyable as past Wolfenstein games and it doesn’t offer as much in terms of maps, game modes, player support, and even replay ability as the online offerings of other shooters released this year.
The achievements that accompany Wolfenstein seem to compliment the game quite well. They will reward you for dedicating time to both the single player and multiplayer. There are your traditional beat the game achievements, rewarding those who choose to play it on a higher difficulty. There is also several collectible achievements (which I hate the most), which will reward those players looking to explore through all the levels in the game. The collectible achievements may take quite awhile since there are well over one hundred things to find.
In order to obtain all of the multiplayer achievements you will need to play using every class. The hardest online achievement to get legitimately will be obtaining a rank of 50 in multiplayer. Reviving 250 people will also take quite awhile to accomplish. I wouldn’t rate the difficulty of obtaining these achievements as being hard but more time consuming. Beating the game on Uber may prove difficult to those not adept at playing shooters but even the most experienced FPS player will have a difficult time with the final boss.
Wolfenstein delivers a solid single player game, which offers a scalable amount of depth depending on how much time a player wants to invest into it. You can run quickly through the main missions or opt to take every side mission available and explore each level for all the collectibles. The single player has good graphics and audio and a fan of the shooter genre should definitely try it out to get over the lack of shooters released this summer. My final recommendation for this game is rent it, because of the lackluster multiplayer offering. Wolfenstein is a franchise with long ties to the online gaming community and the multiplayer that this game offers is just not up to par with what I was expecting or what is currently offered by other games.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 360 version of Wolfenstein.