Reviewed: August 28, 2009
Released: August 18, 2009
First person shooters have had a substantial role in my playing of video games for most of my life. When shareware giant, Apogee, teamed up with id Software in 1992 they would create Wolfenstein 3D, the grandfather of all FPS titles. Wolfenstein 3D featured the rugged face of one Polish-American B.J. Blazkowicz at the bottom of the screen. Now 17 years later we are given a third chance to gun down Nazis with the release of Wolfenstein for the PC.
This time around id Software teams up with Raven Software to deliver the next title in the Wolfenstein legacy. Our Nazi-besting hero Blazkowicz returns in an adventure that will have him trudging through sewers, war-torn streets and yes, even a castle. Only this time, B.J. has an added weapon to his arsenal, the power of the Black Sun, which allows him to travel into an alternate dimension. Only problem is, so do the Nazis, and they always seem one step ahead.
The story is fairly solid and plays on all the current media where the Nazis are basically trying to destroy their enemies, i.e. Hellboy. The Nazis, with the aid of scientists and forced participation of a few scholars are trying to harness the seemingly limitless power of the Black Sun Dimension into their Supernatural weaponry. B.J. is sent into enemy territory to put a stop to one General Zetta.
Wolfenstein offers a rather unique mission selector. Traditionally most shooters go through the usual linear mission select via a menu. In Wolfenstein, you gain missions through contacts via the two resistance factions. One of the resistances is the soldier force and the other is a scholarly organization that has vast knowledge of the Black Sun Dimension. The two factions will send you on story missions as well as several side missions through a massive city. The city itself is broken into 4 separate locations. You will spend hours searching making your way from mission to mission while you take out an ever increasingly dangerous group of Nazi soldiers. But while taking out Nazis is enjoyable, the true fun is finding all the hidden tomes, intel and gold strewn across the city. The intel itself serves to drive the story, the gold rewards you with cash and the tomes allow you access to additional upgrades to your Veil Powers.
All of your weapons can be upgraded via the black markets available throughout the town. Though your first instinct is to max out all of your weapons and veil powers as you gain them that is not possible within the constraints of the game. You need to strategically choose which upgrades will suit your playing style. For me, I preferred upgrading long range weapons like the KAR98 and the MP43 as well as the Panzershchrek. Among the more traditional weaponry you also gain access to some supernatural weaponry like the Leichenfaust 44, which is my favorite among them. You can choose to ďtest driveĒ the upgrades and sell them back, but at half the cost that you paid for them.
One of the coolest features of Wolfenstein is the Veil Powers that you gain access to early on in the game via the Dig Site mission. The first power is the ability to slip in and out of the Veil which allows you to pass through certain walls, find hidden ladders and objects. As you play you will unlock additional powers via future missions. By the end you will be able to shield yourself, slow time (very useful), and use an Empower Mode that lets you shoot through pretty much everything.
While the Veil modes are cool they cannot really be used as weapons themselves, at least in single player. Sure, like many other players the urge to run into a room with your shield active is enticing; it is not always the best tactic. The Veil mode is intended as a support system alongside your conventional and unconventional weaponry. I also like how the Mire mode isnít exactly like the Slo-Mo in F.E.A.R. which basically stops time and allows you to kill every one in a room with ease. You have just enough time to do some serious damage before your Veil energy runs out.
Wolfenstein is a title that ultimately is best played on a PC. I did have the opportunity to play the 360 version but nothing replaces a keyboard and mouse. The main reason is nothing beats mouse look. I found it a lot easier to aim scoped KAR98 with a mouse than an analog stick. The only thing that I found a little annoying at first is the fact that the Veil powers are assigned to the fist four number keys, traditionally used for weapons. I finally got used to it, since I found myself using them a lot, and you can alter the configuration if you want as the veil powers are also set to the arrow keys as well.
There are a couple things that bugged me one more than others. First off, you canít go back to previous missions that you have completed within the exploration interface of the game. You have to go into the actual pause menu and select the mission. The entry points that you use are blocked. The other thing that really bugs me has to do with the pick up structure of the game. Most games that Iíve played that have defined the FPS genre with titles like Bioshock; keep track of the items that you pick up. In Wolfenstein, if you die your level and personal status are set back to the last checkpoint. So basically if you die, you have to collect all that stuff again. Itís somewhat annoying.
The multiplayer of Wolfenstein on PC is actually not bad at all and certainly more stable than the console versions. Massive level designs are nicely done with all the different elevations. The traditional DM and Team DM are pretty straight forward. The two other modes, Stopwatch and Objective, are the best modes to play though. Stopwatch is a variation of King of the Hill, while Objective reminds me heavily of ET: QW. There are three types of classes that you can play through all MP modes Ė Soldier, Engineer or Medic. Each has their own specific Veil skill and overall skill. After patches you can buy upgrades that stay with your player permanently.
Graphically I love, Wolfenstein. Whens you start the environments are a bit bland but things quickly change as you continue through your adventure. The Castle and the Airfield are my favorite locales, but the outward mission locations are well designed and beautifully textured sometimes even creepily so. Even in video games, hospitals are undesirable.
I found great joy watching the animations of the Nazis as they meet their grisly ends. Using a scoped KAR98 with the big bore upgrade is a little overkill but watching Nazis body parts blow off and see them topple over is priceless. The first time I bayoneted an enemy in the throat as he came running around a corner and watched him gargling in his own blood was enough to make me stop playing for a second.
I also loved the Veil effect which turns the real world into a bluish-green monochromatic world with subtle enhancements like glowing enemies and the sudden appearance of Geists, floating creatures that are best left alone. Subtle touches like having ammo, Intel, and gold sacks sparkle, and Veil openings marked with a starburst logo in the real world make the extensive exploration of Wolfenstein tolerable.
The audio mix is outstanding with exciting music and score that matches the action on the screen but knows when to back off so you can immerse yourself in the powerful sounds of battle. All the guns have great sounds and the explosions are deafening. One part of the city is under random airstrikes and trying to dash across the fountain square between explosions is like something out of Saving Private Ryan. If you have a good subwoofer this game is going to rock your world. I also loved all the speech and semi-authentic accents. Even the Intel reports are narrated for you.
Wolfenstein does offer a lot for the $55 dollar price tag. The multiplayer is decent but doesnít really break any new ground. The addition of Veil powers is perhaps the only cool thing about the multiplayer. For me the real fun is with the single player campaign. The missions are intense, the story is good and the classic boss fights are excellent. One of the bosses, which isnít even the final boss, is probably one of the hardest bosses Iíve ever fought against in a game.
Wolfenstein brought back memories of years past and renewed them with a new and supernaturally charged adventure. If you are a fan of the franchise that started the genre of FPS then you have to play Wolfenstein. The MP is not perfect but the SP is well worth it. Pick this title up while you can. You wonít regret it.