The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Wolfenstein: The New Order, Review and Reflection At the halfway point

“Okay, okay. So you put a Nazi on the Moon. Fuck you, Moon.” —William “B.J.” Blazkowicz

At the halfway point in Wolfenstein: The New Order, I’ve seen Blazkowicz reawaken after fourteen years of inactivity, learn of the Third Reich’s victory in the Second World War. He learns that the resistance has been captured, and sets about freeing their members; since I picked the Wyatt timeline, I ended up liberating Wyatt. Joining up with the Resistance, Blazkowicz then blasts his way through the London Nautica to steal stealth helicopters, and also learns about the Da’at Yichud, an ancient secret society that constructed incomprehensibly advanced technology. This technology was later reverse-engineered by Nazi scientists and used to win the Second World War, accounting for how they beat everyone to the bomb and created a nigh-unstoppable war machine. However, Blazkowicz’s efforts revitalise the Resistance, and they also learn that a living member of Da’at Yichud, Set Roth, was responsible for sabotaging the Nazi’s super concrete and is incarcerated at a prison camp in Croatia. Infiltrating the camp, Blazkowicz liberates him and other prisoners, as well; keeping his word, Set Roth agrees to help the Resistance fighters undermine the Third Reich.

Wolfenstein: The New Order has proven itself to be anything but a dull shooter; seven chapters after the prologue mission, I’ve experienced seven different environments that demand different tactics. Stealth is a hugely viable option for most of the game, and players can avoid unnecessary confrontations through caution and well-placed headshots using the silenced pistol in conjunction a bit of skill with thrown knives. At Eisenwald Prison in Berlin, weapons aren’t even an option for much of the mission, forcing players to think creatively to get past the guards or find new paths with the laser cutter. Upon visiting the home of the Resistance, the game’s dynamic shifts again, feeling like a town hub in a RPG. These elements, combined together with the various news paper clippings in the environment and idle dialogue between the enemy soldiers, solidly provide the sense that Machine Games have taken the time to craft an incredibly detailed, and dark world. Instead of just shooting Nazi soldiers, the players have a chance to really immerse themselves in an alternate history where the Allies never won. The resulting world is an extension of the horrors the Third Reich committed, made possible by the technology reverse-engineered from the Da’at Yichud: this can be seen in both Eisenwald Prison and the labour camp, where prisoners undergo horrors that mirrors those committed in the Second World War, and even ordinary citizens live in a bleak, totalitarian world. This sort of environment adds an additional dimensional to Wolfenstein: The New Order, giving weight and reason for Blazkowicz to continue his fight against the Nazis. However, players with a penchant for stealth may also listen in on conversations between some of the Nazi soldiers, and contrasting the game’s villains like General Deathshead and Frau Engel, everyone else seems to be ordinary people doing their jobs. Yes, it’s the game’s objectives to kill them and advance, and yes, they’re merely a collection of mesh data and components governing their behaviour, but the fact that Wolfenstein: The New Order is able to get players to pause for a moment and think about things before plunging a knife into a Nazi’s skull attests to the game’s uniqueness compared to other titles.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Fourteen years after the prologue, Blazkowicz mentions that his legs are like jelly, and that he’s got the mother of all headaches, but that doesn’t stop him from taking down Nazis as easily as he did previously. After brutally knifing an officer, the mission profile says that the objective is to rescue Anya. As I make my way through the institution, blood and bodies are everywhere. The scenes of carnage stand in contrast to the vivid colours, suggesting that the institution is a fairly humane place for its patients.

  • Watching the Nazis systemically murder the patients and Anya’s parents is enough to get Blazkowicz back on his feet, and after spending several moments just watching the chaos unfold, it feels good to take control of Blazkowicz and lay down some old-fashioned fisticuffs. I spent most of the first section of the mission sneaking around with a pair of knives, performing takedowns. Eventually, I found a double-barrel shotgun,  and proceeded to blow limbs and heads off all opposition encountered.

  • After a bit more destruction, I finally reach outside; having found the 1960 Assault Rifle, it became vastly easier to clear out more distant foes. This rifle is an improvement over the 1946 version, featuring a larger magazine size and more manageable recoil. The Tesla grenades also make an appearance here; they’re a direct upgrade of the stick grenades seen in 1946 and add EMP capabilities, making them great for anti-mecha engagements.

  • While it’s amusing to gouge holes in, or blow off pieces of the Nazi soldiers with the double-barrel shotgun, this weapon is more appropriate for the drones owing to its high stopping power and spread. The whole colour palette in this scene is unreal: it almost feels like BioShock: Infinite, where beautiful skies and colours are offset by the bloody carnage that the player character will wrought within their environment.

  • Wolfenstein: The New Order is a mix between the serious and comical; after capturing Friedrich Keller, the game prompts players to find “splatter protection”. Moments of humour are infrequent, but their presence suggests that even in a world that has gone down this direction, there are still moments where humour can be applicable.

  • The third mission takes place under rainy skies, as Blazkowicz, Anya and her grandparents make their way to a checkpoint in Szczecin after learning that the captured resistance fighters are held at Eisenwald Prison. Contrary to Keller’s claims about the German forces bringing Blazkowicz and the others to their knees, the checkpoint is passed through smoothly. This mission reminds me somewhat of Metro: Last Light owing to its atmospherics.

  • The “signal detected” indicators on the HUD indicate the presence of enemy commanders: these are the enemies that can summon reinforcements onto the battlefield and make for more frenzied combat. At the higher levels, making use of stealth to approach them and take them out quickly can reduce the probability of death. The id Tech 5 engine is put to excellent use in The New Order, and destruction furthers the weapons’ powerful feel; while I wouldn’t do that here, I’m fairly certain those watermelons can be destroyed.

  • The architecture of interiors in The New Order is one of the reasons I soon came around and began wishing to try the game out; while there are no flak towers to explore like the mission in Sniper Elite 2, the vast concrete structures of the Third Reich nonetheless evoke the architectural style of the flak towers.

  • The New Order may reward players graciously for maintaining a stealthy approach, but like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there are moments where the only option is firepower. Such moments are rare, pitting Blazkowicz against mechanised weapons, and while there are strategies to beating said robots more quickly, the easiest way is to dual-wield weapons and unload on them until they explode.

  • I was not expecting Frau Engel’s pulling Blazkowicz aside to be as suspenseful as it was; on board a train for Berlin, Blazkowicz is asked to perform a “purity test” involving the selection of seemingly random images, and because I was quite unaware that choice makes little impact here, the moments were quite tense, attesting to the amount of effort that went into making these scenes. Regardless of the choices Blazkowicz makes, Frau Engel will note that this was just a game (unless one goes for the gun, which will result in immediate death) and lets him go.

  • Machine Games’ vision of a world where the Third Reich had won is a compelling one; consistent with Nazi architecture, Berlin is a city filled with vast buildings and dreary concrete apartment blocks. Such buildings were supposed to be modeled after the Roman Empire, taking on a style that fuses elements from Neoclassical and Art Deco. Their military installations have a much more utilitarian look to them, and from a personal perspective, I find these buildings to be rather more interesting than the grander structures.

  • The laser cutter adds a new dimension to gameplay: certain areas of the game are blocked off by chain link fences or aluminium gratings and can only be accessed by making use of the laser cutter to clear a path. Battery-operated, the laser cutter must be recharged after usage lest its power runs out, and players must make certain that the openings they cut are large enough to be moved through: there have been some occasions where I created too small of an opening to fit through and ran out of power.

  • Eisenwald Prison is where the captured resistance fighters are kept, and has the highest degree of backtracking in any of the levels in The New Order. I remarked that each level in The New Order is unique, and this refers to the fact that each mission is memorable for its gameplay and setup; this mission is characterised by a relative lack of weapons, and increased emphasis on sneaking around.

  • This scene reminds me of the tunnels in my old junior high school: they led to a vast crawlspace underneath the classrooms, which were dimly-lit and showed signs of deterioration: crumbled concrete littered the floors. We went down there to put some things in storage, but the deeper areas were not used for such owing to their inaccessibility. It’s not something I’ll forget, as it was quite the experience: I did not know that such an area had even existed until that point.

  • I missed one of the upgrades for the laser cutter, which allows it to fire beams that can damage enemies. It’s supposed to be found in this large room filled with coal-fired furnaces. After assassinating all of the soldiers in this room, it’s possible to go around and explore; this is something I’m definitely going to do on my next playthrough of the Fergus timeline.

  • In games, I’ve visited such prisons thrice now, counting The New Order: previous titles to have featured prisons with a central guard tower and a cylindrical block of cells include Metro: Last Light and Battlefield 4. The one that seems like it’s been cared after the best is in The New Order, as the other incarnations feature more run-down locales. Sneaking to the top of this block and freeing Wyatt proved to be easy enough even without the laser cutter upgrade.

  • Once Wyatt is freed, Blazkowicz will have full access to his arsenal again. With a full-scale prison break underway, there’s really no need for stealth. One moment I tried to pull off was to use a pair of Tesla grenades in the same manner as TheRadBrad on the Fire Trooper, as TheRadBrad finds, this is somewhat overkill, reducing the Fire Trooper into a puddle. Care must be taken at the end of this level, since there are auto-turrets that can quickly waste Blazkowicz.

  • While I don’t have too many photos of the Resistance’s hideout, I can say that I love these chapters because it feels like the city hub areas of Deus Ex: Human Revolutions, allowing for players to take a breather in between missions and more importantly, explore some of the history in the fourteen years that Blazkowicz was out. One of my favourite news paper clippings reads that China was able to defeat and push back the Imperial Japanese Army, although would have likely been defeated by the Nazi war machine.

  • The assault on the London Nautica follows after Caroline tasks Blazkowicz to steal a series of top-secret stealth helicopters in the so-called Project Whisper. After Bobby Bram runs an explosives-laden vehicle into the base of the building in a suicide attack, Blazkowicz must navigate the rubble to the entrance. These tactics are prima facie justified against the Third Reich, but from another perspective, what’s done is tantamount to terrorism.

  • The fight inside the London Nautica’s lunar exhibit was one of the most entertaining sections of The New Order this far into the game; under the Nazi’s rule, science and technology are apparently at the forefront of their society, sufficiently so that they’ve even put a man on the moon. The London Nautica may be a leading facility on weapons research, but there’s also a full-fledged museum similar to the Telus Spark Science Center for promoting interest in the sciences.

  • Of course, I’m not here for the learning, and I’m definitely not here to help put on a show about the intricacies of the human brain: no, I’m here to fight my way to the hangers and steal some helicopters, eliminating any opposition in my path. Here, I’m wielding the MG60, a directed energy weapon that slows Blazkowicz down but deals serious damage. Dropped by the ÜberSoldaten, this weapon is an absolute monster and can punch through the aluminium boxes.

  • The AR Marksman rifle is the only scoped weapon in the game, and ammunition for it is extremely limited, but optics, coupled with a long barrel means that this weapon is unparalleled at long range engagements. Like every other weapon save the double-barrel shotgun, the AR Marksman can be dual-wielded, although this confers no practical advantage, owing to the limited ammunition availability and the fact that the weapon is intended to be a precision tool.

  • If one has not already done so, the Da’at Yichud lab at the London Nautica’s upper floors contains numerous health packs that can overcharge Blazkowicz to 300 health, unlocking the regeneration perk, which decreases the time it takes for health to recharge to the next highest multiple of twenty. The Laserkraftwerk can be picked up here, and upon doing so, Blazkowicz will toss away the old laser cutter. The Laserkraftwerk is initially a glorified laser cutter with built-in ranged capability, but when fully upgraded, becomes the single most effective weapon in The New Order, being able to shoot down enemies from behind cover, take down multiple targets at once or even reduce a ÜberSoldaten into chunks of meat and metal in one shot.

  • I kicked off the hanger portion of the game by making extensive use of the silenced pistol and knives to take out the commanders, then switched to more conventional weapons to take out the remaining foes. The wide open spaces in the hanger make it quite suited for the AR Marksman, and one of my favourite aspects about the rifle lies in the fact that the scope is reflective and on closer inspection, mirrors details in the environment.

  • I absolutely love the automatic shotguns and their twenty-round capacity. At close quarters, dual-wielding them is incredibly effective at downing opponents, including the heavy robot. While the Laserkraftwerk is effective at damaging it, the heavy robot possesses a powerful EMP attack that can drain out the Laserkraftwerk’s batteries. At these times, it’s prudent to backpedal and switch to the assault rifles or shotguns, while making use of the Tesla grenades to stun it.

  • After all of the enemies have been cleared out, Caroline and the others appear to help fly the helicopters back to their hideout to end this mission. I stop for one final moment to take a look at the fantastic lighting: the graphics in The New Order are crisp and modern, well-polished enough to substantially contribute to the immersion even if the textures in some places appear a little lower-resolution. I’m not playing the game on full settings because my GPU, for all its power, does not have 3 GB of VRAM.

  • After the heist on the London Nautica, the resistance sets about preparing the new helicopters for their use. Meanwhile, Anya has discovered that the super-concrete the Nazis have been using are decaying, and asks for a sample. While retrieving a saw required to obtain said sample, Blazkowicz falls into the sewers. The only enemies encountered down here are the drones, and the double-barrel shotgun is excellent for shooting them down. The reflection upgrade can be found for the Laserkraftwerk in the sewers, and realising that this is probably one of the more important weapons in the game, I made it a point to find every conceivable upgrade for it.

  • The concrete sample, coupled with information from the archives, sends Blazkowicz to a forced labour camp with the hopes of finding one Set Roth, a living Da’at Yichud member who has been altering the super-concrete’s composition so it would decay over time. The first bit of the mission is highly linear, and Blazkowicz must operate a cement machine. The machine breaks down, and after learning more about Set Roth’s whereabouts, he is captured by The Knife, tortured, and manages to escape certain death.

  • The labour camp level gives a limited insight into the sort of brutality that’s carried over from the Second World War, especially through dialogues with inmates such as Bombate and watching Frau Engel beat another inmate to death. After agreeing to help Set Roth liberate the prisoners, Blazkowicz goes in search of a battery that will give Set control over Herr Faust; the lighting in this level is filled with greys, making it even drearier than Eisenwald Prison, to emphasise the sort of atmosphere at the labour camp.

  • After Set Roth saves Blazkowicz from execution, the player has a chance to partake in some Titanfall style combat, piloting Herr Faust to create a large enough distraction for Set Roth to free the other inmates. The overwhelming firepower conferred by Herr Faust allows Blazkowicz to smash his way through the camp in style, although Frau Engel manages to survive. This is pretty much it for the game’s halfway point, and I’ll make good time towards finishing the remaining half, which I’ll naturally blog about. I’m also surprisingly on schedule right now, so I’ll strive to have the Ano Natsu de Matteru OVA out before the month is out.

I’m likely to finish Wolfenstein: The New Order quite quickly a this point; the world Machine Games has built is incredibly compelling, and the gunplay is absolutely solid: there doesn’t need to be any hit markers when I fire, because every successful hit is denoted by visual cues, whether it be the enemy soldier recoiling, bleeding, losing limbs, or in the case of the more powerful weapons, outright exploding into blood and chunks of meat. of course, I needn’t actually do this, since stealth is an equally viable option, and Wolfenstein: The New Order has a system that rewards players for following a certain style, providing perks to facilitate different approaches to the game. It’s mildly ironic, but in a game whose most famous incarnation was characterised by straight-up firefights, I’ve found that stealth is hands down, the best option in Wolfenstein: The New Order. The game’s first half was a slower-paced, modestly linear tour of the world the Nazis have created, and with Blazkowicz set to steal a Nazi U-Boat armed with a nuclear cannon, the second part is going to be a hugely cinematic experience that I cannot wait to experience.

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