Wolfenstein Review

Wolfenstein 2009 box art PC DVD

Non-stop action World War II shooter that deals with occult concepts.

Story

B.J Blazkowicz, the American war veteran is again sent on a sabotage mission to thwart some Nazi plans as the World War II rages on. During his mission, he learns about a sacred medallion and mysterious crystals called Nachtsonne. It turns out that the infamous Nazi general Victor Zetta is conducting secret research of the Nachtsonne, and the crystals are only found in the Isenstadt area.
Blazkowicz is thus sent to Isenstadt to investigate Victor Zetta’s secret operations. Isenstadt, however, turns out to be heavily guarded by Nazi soldiers. Blazkowicz’s odds for survival quickly runs thin, but he has no plans to abandon his mission.

Introduction

Wolfenstein is the sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein which was released on PC back in 2001. You still play as the war hero B.J Blazkowicz as he fights the Nazi oppression through numerous mission objectives. The game is still an action filled first-person shooter, but this time around it is a little bit more story centered and isn’t quite as linear as the previous games.
So, throughout the game you’re being asked to do various missions and completing them one after another which will eventually lead you to the final confrontation with Victor Zetta.wolfenstein2009_7

The Game

When you’re in the game you’re given a map of the town Isenstadt. With the help of this map you can seek out important locations and optional missions. Navigating in the game is made extremely easy with an on-screen compass that constantly points you in the direction of the next mission objective. This compass makes the game very straightforward as you can always depend on it. With that said, you could play the whole game through by just following the given direction and kill anything that comes in your path.
You can however switch missions at any time in between missions if you have accepted optional missions. You can do missions in any order you want and the game does a nice job at keeping it all relevant to the story. It is however hard to keep track of which missions are optional and which ones are part of the main mission, especially when even the optional missions will have follow-up missions running a parallel mission line.

Controls

The controls are easy to manage and are typical to first-person shooters. Obviously using a mouse and keyboard to play a game like this is about as good as it gets. What’s more, the accuracy of the weapons are very good, so you’ll have no problems nailing some well placed headshots.
The first-person camera goes through some rough bobbing here and there, which does add a nice “realistic” touch to the game.

Content

All in all, there are eight mainline missions and five optional missions, and beating the game will take around twelve hours.

As you walk around in Isenstadt you will encounter endless amounts of Nazi patrols, which in turn can make any peaceful stroll a deadly shootout on the open streets. Luckily there are no civilians in the town, as the firefights between the Nazi soldiers and members of the resistance movement are constant. Even though you must fight numerous random encounters to make it through the game, the shootouts won’t grow old. The firefights are always loud and aggressive. The urban setting is very detailed with lots of houses, alleys and props to use as cover and hiding places. What’s more, the enemy AI soldiers can use some sophisticated tactics at times – they may surprise you by either hiding behind covers, flanking you, or bombarding with hand grenades. You’ll also hear them yell commands and communicate with each other, and on the whole it’s quite well done.
The AI does have some flaws though. They will occasionally make very stupid actions such as rushing into your gun fire, or just sitting still behind cover while you pick them off one by one.

B.J Blazkowicz can take quite some punishment before he goes down. When you get hurt, you can recover automatically by staying out of harms way. You’ll even get a warning message on the screen that reminds you about getting behind cover before you die. Basically, you’ll only die if you are unlucky or try something risky such as rushing into enemy front lines head first. As such the game is very forgiving, and because of it you will lose some respect for the Nazi soldiers.
The game can be played at four different difficulty levels, and only the hardest one can be regarded to be challenging. With that said, this game is mostly a little bit too easy.

To further make the game easy on the player, it automatically saves progress at set checkpoints. There is no other way to save your progress Checkpoints are very evenly and generously spaced out, so if you die, it’s typically only a matter of replaying the encounter in which you died. This encourages an aggressive and experimental “trial and error” play style, that arguably takes away some of the tension.

Between missions you can upgrade your weapons by visiting a black market trader. They only accept gold as payment and it can be found by searching hidden areas or by completing missions.
The game has eight different weapons such as a trusty MP 40, a KAR 98 sniper rifle and hand-grenades. Each weapon has four to six possible upgrades that will alter different properties such as recoil, accuracy or damage. If you care to search for hidden gold stashes and take on optional missions you will eventually be able to buy most if not all of the upgrades that you want.
For the standard weapons, it is very easy to find ammunition so you can be very trigger happy in this game. Every killed Nazi will drop its weapon, which you can pick up for extra ammunition. The more exotic weapons such as the flamethrower, Tesla Gun and the Particle Cannon are very powerful, but it’s harder to find ammunition for them, always making them the secondary option.wolfenstein2009_2

In the beginning of the game you’ll find a sacred crystal that will allow you to use so-called Veil Powers. This is where the story delves into some esoteric occult lore, and it has quite a central focus in the plot.
The further you progress in the game the more Veil Powers will be available to you. These powers will allow you to enter an alternate dimension called The Veil, and through it pass through certain walls as well as slow down time. It will also allow you to activate a powerful shield that will protect you from any harm, and imbue your bullets with power so that they can penetrate through walls.
All this comes at the cost of Veil Energy, which is seen as a power gauge at the bottom of the screen. To refill Veil Energy you must stand next to a power source and these are found spread out where ever you go. They are so frequent that you could use Veil Energy in almost every firefight if you would want. Of course there are exceptions to this, but for the most part you can abuse this to your heart’s content.
There are only a few occasions when you actually must use Veil Powers, so for the most part it’s totally up to you whether you want to use it or not. Using these powers are helpful, and almost make the game too easy.
Furthermore, Veil Powers can also be upgraded at the black market trader if you find hidden tomes that unlock their powers. The tomes are very rare and hard to find, so you are encouraged to keep looking for them everywhere you go.

Setting

The setting in Wolfenstein is a very unique one. It builds on a well-known World War II setting, but isn’t afraid to mix in some out-of-this-world occultism. The level design is quite well done, and the whole game is very rich in details. You’ll get to explore numerous memorable locations such as sewers, underground tunnels, residential areas, an airport, a prison castle, a mining site and a hospital.
It is also remarkably well done how the NPCs of the game tell the story of the game. Rather than having cutscenes, the NPCs will take you from one mission to another. They’ll often comment on recent events and they often have new pieces of information or rumors to share. Their speech dynamically starts new quests when the story calls for it. Of course, there are cutscenes also in the game but they mostly occur at the start and end of missions.

Multiplayer

Playing in multiplayer is a completely different beast. Here you’ll be able to play as three different character classes (Soldier, Engineer and Medic), all of which have unique abilities and ways to help friendly players.
Obviously all multiplayer game modes will be based on Axis vs Allies confrontations, so the possible game modes are Team Deathmatch, Objective and Stopwatch. In Objective mode you’re given mission objectives that directly conflict with the opposing side. The side that completes the most objectives is crowned the winner. In Stopwatch mode you take turns completing objectives, and you must stop the opposing forces to complete their objectives faster than your side did.

Graphics

The graphics in Wolfenstein have a nice attention to detail. The environments that are portrayed in the game are very believable. The game has a physics engine that allows every prop to act truthfully. It’s obvious that the designers wanted to spice up the otherwise gray and brown color scheme with something out of the ordinary, and that’s what The Veil does. The Veil looks like a green hazy version of reality, and the creatures that dwell there are strange, to say the least.
The game is also filled with destructible elements, so when a firefight breaks out you’ll see pieces of wood, glass and debris scatter around. This only further makes firefights awe-inspiring and fun to watch.
There’s a considerable amount of blood and gore. People who die in explosions often lose body parts, and those blood effects look good too.

Sound

There is a whole lot of voice acting in the game. The Nazis will taunt you and communicate with each other during firefights. The NPCs all speak with their fake German accents, and it’s great for the setting.
The music sounds like it is from a World War II movie, which certainly is appropriate. It’s very cinematic and gloomy and it sits well in the background. It does change dynamically when a firefight starts to a more intense piece. The soundtrack does a great job at capturing the right theme and mood throughout the whole game.
All of the sound effects are also just about right – violent confrontations will echo in the distance in a chaotic symphony of machine-gun fire and explosions. All the weapons sound massive and loud, which only adds to the excitement of the action.

Summary

Wolfenstein is a neat first-person shooter. It does a lot of things right, and playing it is mostly fun. Its only real shortcoming is that it’s too easy. If it had more missions, it would be even better, because once you’ve beaten it you will want more of the same and the multiplayer doesn’t fill exactly that need.
However, it should be pointed out that this is a game worthy of the Wolfenstein franchise. It should sit there on your shelf beside the other Wolfenstein games and, in that case, you’ll be happy to have it there.

Developed By: Raven Software
Published By: Activision
Version Reviewed: Windows PC
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Players: 1-12
Also Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Released: 2009-08-21

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