The videogame industry’s unwillingness to let a franchise fade into obscurity is a dual edged blade. To the cynical eye, a brand name is there to sell copies, but some franchises carry a legacy that deserves to be remembered.
The granddaddy of the modern first person shooter, Wolfenstein’s last outing was the decidedly mediocre 2009 reboot which leaves Wolfenstein: The New Order the task of reigniting interest in the venerable series.
Set in an alternate version of the 1960s where the Nazi war machine has gained victory over the allied forces by harnessing impossibly advanced technological and scientific power, the series’ stalwart hero B. J. Blazkowicz fights alongside a dwindling resistance faction in a final counter-offensive against the Third Reich.
With hackneyed mysticism, space travel and a penchant for sudden appearances of clanking robot dogs, on the surface, Wolfenstein: The New Order has all the B-movie trappings of a silly, carefree romp, however it suffers from a wildly inconsistent tone.
The chapters set between combat excursions are excruciatingly dull, as stereotype characters offer mundane fetch-quests and attempt to forge an incongruous emotional narrative. Thankfully, these sections – as well as the infrequent moments of grindhouse-horror gore and Blazkowicz’s irritatingly nihilistic, portentous voice over – fail to derail an otherwise entertaining and generous campaign.
When The New Order reaches its stride the non-intrusive cover system, unexpectedly enjoyable stealth mechanics and satisfying gunplay coalesce with smart level design that eschews the restrictive corridor shootouts and scripted set-pieces of its peers in favour of connected, open-plan battle zones in a variety of extraordinary environments.
While some may bemoan the lack of multiplayer, this is a bold, accomplished debut from Swedish developer MachineGames that proves you can still teach an old wolf new tricks.