Review / Wolfenstein (Xbox 360)

First, let me get all my cards on the table. This review is late, way late, and that is because my Xbox 360 gave me the RROD when I was halfway done with the game. My options at that point were to review the game with the information I had, or to wait. Seeing as the game got better as I went, I did not feel it was fair to try to assess it without finishing the whole thing. In addition, let me say about Wolfenstein that it is a first-person shooter that brings nothing new to the table in the genre, and in fact is not only a franchise, but operates mainly around a gimmick. These are harsh obstacles to overcome, and at first I didn’t think the game was that great. But the game gets better as you go, and in the end I thought it was pretty fun. I will now try to explain how these things work in the same game.

You play as BJ Blazkowicz, hero from Wolfenstein 3D, and your mission is the same: stop those infernal Nazi’s from messing around where they don’t belong. BJ finds himself in Isenstadt, where two underground groups secure his help in stopping the Nazi threat, in exchange for giving you information. Soon after the game begins, and it has a decently climactic opening with lots of shooting, you acquire the first of your occult abilities which are the framework for the gameplay, and also a bit of a gimmick at first.

The game sees you navigating around a hub, which comes in the form of two sections of Isenstadt, and some missions see you traveling outside that hub and loading a new area. This is certainly not a new concept in games, and in Wolfenstein it is not handled in the best way. The hub world is not terribly interesting, and you see yourself going through the same areas over and over again as you progress through the game, and each time the Nazi’s are there with a firefight. God forbid you load to the other side of town, and realize you need to go back the way you came, because sure enough, those Nazi’s will have spawned again at the same choke point. However, the outer areas are all much more interesting and fun.

The characters and story elements in Wolfenstein really are not terribly memorable other than the game’s main villain and the enemy types themselves (you will certainly remember them), but I suppose there has to be some type of frame for the game. The missions are fairly linear, which honestly is welcome after all the trekking through the main hub, and the environments (with the exception of the home-base areas) are nice, detailed and varied. I don’t really have a ton to say about the multiplayer. It features standard game modes like team deathmatch, and other objective team battle modes. The one problem is that the experienced players will be upgraded, allowing them an advantage over new ones.

The game features eight different weapons, which can be selected on a HUD wheel by holding down a button, and you can assign a favorite weapon, which will always be switched to with the quick press of that same button, and back to the gun you were holding with another click. The weapons can all be upgraded with money you collect in the game (collectibles, not given automatically), and you unlock access to those upgrades as you progress in the story. There is not enough gold scattered through the world to get them all, so pick your favorite weapons, and hope they are the ones for which ammo drops.

Three of the weapons are not of this world, and they are all pretty cool. The particle cannon, which has been shown in many trailers, shoots a beam which disintegrates your foes, a tesla gun that shocks the enemy to death, and a crazy cannon that essentially fires shells of exploding nazi magic. The upgrades are good, and the effect on your guns is extremely noticeable, such as taking the shield off your rocket launcher so you can aim it better, or adding a bayonet to your rifle that makes melee a 1-hit-kill. Your occult powers are also unlocked, and upgradable. When activated, you move into The Veil, the world behind our own. Everything turns green, enemies glow, and you can run faster. Eventually new powers like slowing time, a shield, and extra damage are obtained and can be upgraded in some interesting ways like being able to see enemies through their cover.

Wolfenstein has some problems as a piece of software. Here are a couple examples that irked me: There are walls that become invisible if you are in The Veil, which works well as a gameplay tool (secret passages), but if you move in and out of the Veil when you are too close to these walls, you are instantly killed. I would understand this mechanic, if you are physically inside the wall, because what other choice would there be, but the “hitbox” if you will, is far too large and the player suffers as a result. Additionally, sometimes when you start a conversation with a minor NPC, and then decide that you don’t want to hear what they have to say and leave, one of a two things can happen. First, you move away, they stop talking (a good start). Two, you move away and they keep talking even if you start a second conversation (not good).

Having said all of that, let’s get down to it. Is Wolfenstein a game you should play? Well here is my honest opinion of my experience. At first, the game feels like Call of Duty 2, only much prettier. Nothing about the gameplay brings anything terribly new to the FPS table, but there may be nothing wrong with that. Everyone likes to shoot some evil Nazis without the morality of those murders being in question. At the start of the game, the Veil power feels like a gimmick, and I was more worried about having my “Veil-Juice” filled up, than I was about anything else because when you first get access to your powers, you pretty much have to have them to succeed. I was worried at this point….it seemed like a mediocre game. However, after Wolfenstein gets going you find out that it is a lot of fun. Once your weapons become varied, so do the enemy types, missions and your Veil powers, and the story starts to kick up. Finally, the game found its legs. The cut-scenes are good, and in fact the final scene of the game is pretty goddamn epic if you ask me. The final boss had me dying more times than any other part of the game (the way it should be), and when I finished it, I found that I really enjoyed the ride for the most part.

If you like single-player FPS shooters that are just plain fun with not too much to worry about, you hate Nazis, or you like Wolfenstein, you will probably enjoy the game. I’m not sure it warrants 60 dollars, as the replay value pretty much stops at trying the game again on a harder difficulty with different upgrades or using the cheat mode unlocked after you beat the game once, and for the hardcore completionist, Wolfenstein features 3 kinds of collectibles. At a slightly reduced price, or a couple weeks of rental, you will really enjoy yourself. As someone you traditionally plays more complex titles, I found the run-and-gun of Wolfenstein a surprisingly refreshing, violent, good time.

+shooter without too much in the way of your fun
+nice cutscenes and decently epic bosses.
+Nazi’s die, all the time
+sweet weapons to upgrade

-some minor bugs
-a slow starter
-feels like a last generation FPS sometimes
-hub city doesn’t give you the non-linear options it was intended to

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