In Wolfenstein: The New Order the developers, MachineGames, have dared to ask just what sort of man would single-handedly take on Hitler's most nefarious legions? What would drive such a man?
In the past this guilt-free splatter-fest has been a bit of a mindless affair, with the player - the all-American one-man army, William Joseph "B.J." Blazkowicz - just a hollow killing machine, fighting for good.
No longer your generic silent protagonist B.J. is fleshed out, through his thoughts and daydreams, as a man on a mission to finish the war so that he can go home and live out the American Dream. And for the first hour of the game his motivation is clear and his goal in sight.
The game starts with a sequence that wouldn’t look out of place in an early Call of Duty game with B.J. storming evil Nazis scientist, Deathhead's fortress lair. But the plan goes south and during the escape B.J. gets a bit of shrapnel embedded in his head.
Cue the opening credits. The first hour of the game is really only a prologue, setting up a very different chain of events from the previous games.
B.J. awakes in a hospital- aware of his surroundings, but unable to move. Time passes; years. Nazis come and go - taking other patients, until one day they come and massacre the staff. The staff that have been kindly caring for B.J. This action is enough to snap him back into full-on Nazi killing mode.
It’s the 1960s and the Nazis won the war. B.J.’s hopes of the victory that was almost in his grasp are crushed. What follows is a trail of dead Nazis as B.J. finds the resistance and takes the war to Deadshead himself.
Wolfenstein: The New Order pulls no punches, visually or narratively. This is not a game that will make you sympathetic to Germans. The scenes in the labour camp are harrowing, not just because of the game, because things like this actually happened during WWII.
It’s amazing that a game franchise like Wolfenstein can evoke this sort of emotional response and a testament to how far the medium has matured.
On the flip side, however, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a modern take on a very old school shooter. The upgraded visuals have allowed the game to display a level of gore that pushes the game firmly into R18 territory. Heads burst, and red clunks get blown from bone as Blazkowicz minces up Nazi scum into bloody piles of giblets.
The gameplay is basically the same run and gun mechanic as it was back in the day. B.J. has an arsenal of weapons as his disposal. He can also duel-wield for extra, but less-precise, effect.
There’s also novel new cover system this time out enabling B.J. to easily duck, peak up, left and right. It takes some getting used to but really proves useful in a room full of enemies.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fresh take on an old genre. It’s unashamedly gory and an absolute pleasure to play. On PS4 it looks great and hopefully represents the shape of things to come.
Verdict: 9 out of 10