“I know you tried,
I tried too,
Sometimes all our dreams just don’t come true.”
—Melissa Hollick, I Believe
After returning to the Resistance headquarters with Set Roth, Blazkowicz sets about helping carry out a plan to eliminate Deathshead for good. The idea is to steal a German U-Boat armed with a nuclear cannon, and use said nuclear warhead to destroy Deathshead’s compound. Simple in theory, things become more complicated when it turns out the launch codes are located on the Nazi’s Lunar base. To reach said base, Blazkowicz must find a Nazi scientist and assume his identity, then fight his way through the Lunar base to get the codes, and return to Earth. Things hardly ever proceed smoothly, and Blazkowicz finds himself crash-landing back at the London Nautica. Even after escaping the building, he must fight off the colossal London Monitor, and upon defeating it, learns that the Resistance headquarters was raided by Frau Engel and key members were captured. The final mission takes on a new dimension, as Blazkowicz fights through Deathshead’s compound to free them before the Resistance can fire on it with the U-Boat’s nuclear cannon. After a gruelling struggle against a robot powered with Fergus’ brain, and the Deathshead himself in an exo-suit, Blazkowicz is heavily injured, but nonetheless clears the Resistance to fire their nuclear cannon. Thus ends eleven hours of what has been one of the titles that exceeded expectations back in 2014, and with The New Order now complete, I can begin Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.
Wolfenstein: The New Order has been praised for its gameplay, mechanics, world-building and characterisation. In particular, Blazkowicz’s characterisation, and his dynamics with Anya made the game particularly enjoyable. Rather than being painted as the epitomisation of manliness as in previous Wolfenstein titles, the Blazkowicz of The New Order is presented as a multi-faceted human being whose single desire in life is to live a normal life. His remarks throughout the game suggest that he grows weary of this conflict, and coupled with dialogue with other characters (such as Wyatt), he feels the strain of constant warfare on his psyche, as it would appear that his decisions ultimately have a minimal impact on the bigger picture. On my first playthrough, Wyatt berates Blazkowicz as having chosen him to be the survivor, feeling that letting Fergus, a veteran, live might’ve given the Resistance a better fighting chance. Conversely, Fergus will tell off Blazkowicz if he lives, wondering if someone younger, like Wyatt, would have been able to continue the Resistance for longer owing to their youth. All of these things, the consequence of a harsh world where the Third Reich has won, lead Blazkowicz to yearn for a world where there was no need for such a conflict, and fuels his efforts to create such a world, even if he knows that such an outcome may not be possible within his lifetime. The ending song, Melissa Hollick’s I Believe, is a hugely emotional reminder of this: there is a better future, and while one might not live to see its fruition, this is still something that’s worth fighting for.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The last time I played a game with massive sewer spaces was Enter The Matrix, which featured a lengthy level set in the Matrix’s sewer system. After a meeting with the other Rebels concludes, Agents show up, and the player (either as Ghost or Niobe) must move through the sewers to help various Rebels. Several interesting locations, such as Breathing Room and Malachi and Bane, are visited, featuring vast caverns filled with water-moving machinery.
- Unlike Enter the Matrix, the sewers in The New Order don’t take more than fifteen minutes to traverse. After exiting the sewers, Blazkowicz reaches the subterranean rail system; the Tesla upgrade can be found for the Laserkraftwerk. This upgrade allows shots to disable electronic enemies for a short period of time. For this section, I elected to go with stealth, using a combination of throwing knives and silenced pistols to take the commanders out.
- A super-soldier shows up after Blazkowicz attempts to open the door to the next area: at this point, the Laserkraftwerk isn’t sufficiently upgraded to take them out in one shot, so I depleted the battery on mine, then switched to dual assault rifles to finish him off. Once the area is clear, the Resistance will show up and help smuggle Blazkowicz onto a U-Boat.
- The New Order picks up upon reaching the U-boat mission; starting with a pistol and shrapnel shells for the shotgun, players have the option of going silent or going Rambo; the option is usually the better option until at least all of the commanders have been taken out.
- I absolutely love the level of details in the environment within the U-boat. Through the Da’at Yichud’s technology, the Third Reich has reached a sufficiently advanced level of technology such that their constructs are quite familiar to that of the modern day, and their submarines feel roomy as do modern nuclear submarines. The primary difference is that the Nazi U-boats of the 1960s use a nuclear cannon rather than ballistic missiles to deliver their nuclear payloads.
- Access to the Da’at Yichud technologies means that the U-boat here, dubbed “Eva’s Hammer”, might be powered by sources that are more advanced than the nuclear reactors of modern submarines. The narrow confines of the U-boat make it an ideal place for using the shotgun, and the shrapnel ammunition upgrade, automatically unlocked at this mission’s beginning, is superbly useful, being able to take out enemies from behind cover or around corners.
- One of the best features in The New Order is the ability to peek around corners and fire. Against tougher enemies, this method allows for quick retreats behind the safety of cover. It took me a little less than a month to beat The New Order, but in that time, muscle memory has led me to try and use the cover system in titles like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3.
- The Laserkraftwerk is a beastly weapon once the targeting scope is found, allowing for opponents to be destroyed in a single shot by firing multiple shots at once: this mode of fire will drain out the device’s entire battery, but can also defeat a super-soldier in one shot. On average, it takes two to three shots to take down the ordinary opponent, but this is hugely satisfying when the shot finishes them off; the death animation is the target exploding in a shower of blood into chunks of meat.
- Once the Resistance has control of the U-boat, Set Roth takes Wyatt and Blazkowicz to a hidden Da’at Yichud facility, one of many hidden caches of their wondrous technologies. Those who are familiar with Hebrew will translate Da’at Yichud as either “secluded knowledge” or “seclusion knowing”, reflecting on the organisation’s secrecy. While here to pick up some tools to help the Resistance, it’s also possible for the Laserkraftwerk to be given a portable reactor, allowing it to slowly regenerate its power supply.
- After making use of the spindly torque to wreck absolute havoc on the Gibraltar Bridge, Blazkowicz is tasked with finding the chief Nazi scientist and steal his identity such that he may enter the lunar base and access the launch codes for the nuclear cannon. Shortly after this mission starts, the assault rifle can be upgraded with an under-barrel rocket launcher. While the rockets are rare, they deal massive damage and have surprisingly low recoil, making them quite useful against tougher opponents.
- This mission is actually quite similar to the Half-Life 2 mission where Freeman has to carefully make his way under a bridge to reach a power station and disable a force-field blocking his progress. That mission will seem quite easy compared to this: the bridge in The New Order is much larger, and the clever use of destruction to produce a path that weaves up and down is quite disorienting; this does much to give the sense of chaos caused by the spindly torque and also results in some interesting combat sequences.
- The train car dangling from the rails by a thread is where Blazkowicz needs to go. I believe there was a AR Marksman somewhere on the map, and while it would’ve made taking out distant enemies far easier, I managed to get by okay without it. From the U-boat onwards, every mission is characterised by a highly unique setting that makes them memorable.
- Here are a handful of screenshots from the Lunar Base: this mission alone made The New Order an order of magnitude more impressive than I had originally expected. It’s been quite some time since I’ve played any games set in space, with the last one being 007: Nightfire, and I was tempted to pick up Call of Duty: Ghosts for the space missions at one point. While there are no extended combat sequences in the vacuum of space, the Lunar base mission represented a different style of gameplay that was superbly enjoyable.
- While dual-wielding AR marksmans in their semi-automatic configuration is not a good use of ammunition, the weapon also has an alternate, automatic firing mode that fires plasma rounds. This turns the AR marksman into a reasonably effective assault rifle, and while the weapon can run out of energy quickly, charging stations are also reasonably abundant. By the time I reached this point in the game, it was mid-May, and I’d just returned home from dim sum.
- The corridors of the Lunar Base accommodate some interesting firefights, with plentiful cover and recharging stations to ensure that Blazkowicz is not torn about by laser fire inside the base. After much travelling through the base and shooting to the section where the nuclear decryption keys are held, there’s a bit of backtracking to return to the shuttle bay, and a fight with two super-soldiers will end the level.
- I’ll do an extended talk on the Lunar Base mission at another time, similar to the mission talk I did for Metro: Last Light‘s swamp mission, so for now, I’ll return to the point where Blazkowicz has crash-landed back at the London Nautica and is forced to make his way back to the ground. I know that this is just a skybox with meshes placed here and there to give the impression that the buildings are three-dimensional, but that doesn’t stop the scenery from looking any less impressive.
- The interior of the London Nautica seems to be falling apart. This mission was comparatively short, but it’s still quite well done because this time, Blazkowicz gets to explore a different area in the London Nautica, and the mission’s ending is a fight with one of the most visually impressive bosses in living memory. For this section of the game, the assault rifle and shotgun are the best weapons for dealing with any threats: as with the Gibraltar Bridge, stealth is less effective here.
- The London Monitor is probably the second largest boss I’ve ever engaged on foot in any first person shooter (Crysis‘ Alien Warship takes the title there), and facing it for the first time, I managed to beat it in one attempt. This robot was so massive, I wondered if any of my weapons would do anything to it, but like games from an older era, the London Monitor follows a deterministic pattern: shooting the eye to stun it, followed by destroying its missile launchers, and repeatedly shooting its eye to stun it further will open up a component that leads to the reactor. Firing on this will destroy it, and perhaps unsurprisingly, this component is protected by machine guns.
- The Resistance’s headquarters is ransacked by Frau Engel’s forces, and one of the songs on the soundtrack seems to excel at conveying Blazkowicz’s desire to get even right to the players. During this section of the game, with the guitar blasting away in the background, I opted to dual-wield the assault rifles and shotguns to stop everything that moved in the headquarters. This has been The New Order‘s equivalent of a home base, so it was sad to see the place up in flames.
- After a panzerhund caves the main door in, an alternative passage can be found into the hanger bay. Here, notice the sort of damage the MG60 can do; entire chunks are gouged from the enemies, and their rib bones can be seen. Once Blazkowicz returns to the hanger, a fight with the panzerhund awaits. This is the only instance where players must fight one on foot, although a fully upgraded Laserkraftwerk and Tesla Grenades, plus a lot of back-pedalling, will be sufficient to destroy this monstrosity.
- The last ten images to this post will deal with storming Deathshead’s compound: it’s the final mission, and is one of the longer sections in the game. Through it all, all of the different pieces in the game come back together in this level, which begins with Blazkowicz single-handedly storming the compound with the intent of rescuing Anya and the other Resistance members before they give Deathshead a thank you gift…in the form of a nuclear cannon’s deadly blast.
- In the tight confines of the lower halls, dual-shotguns can wreck havoc on even the tougher mechanical enemies. While The New Order is not strictly a horror game, use of implied imagery, dialogue, sounds and lighting, as well as the occasional, well-placed jump-scare, The New Order can evoke fear and surprise in its players, although hardened veterans of the FPS genre will often take things in stride and quickly dispose of enemies before things get too hectic.
- I mentioned somewhere that dual AR marksman in their semi-automatic firing mode is impractical, but for completeness’ sake, here I am, dual-wielding them. I absolutely love the amount of detail on these weapons, whether it be the weapon’s construction, or the reflections of the scope. Despite fighting in close quarters for the most part, the AR marksman are quite useful in some sections where there are great halls.
- This is that same courtyard from the first mission, although in the fourteen years that’ve passed, Deathshead’s compound no longer resembles a medieval castle, and has been upgraded to look fully modern, not dissimilar to the architectural elements found in Blofeld’s lairs in the earlier 007 movies. The next instalment in the 007 francise, SPECTRE, is set for release somewhere in November, and I look forwards to seeing what it entails: the last movie, Skyfall, was released back in 2012.
- The MG60 is perhaps most useful in Deathshead’s compound, where charging stations are plentiful and the enemies are numerous. There’s no capacity to aim down sights, but as a directed energy weapon with little recoil, the MG60 is surprisingly accurate even at longer ranges when fired in bursts. Throughout most of the game, portability means that the weapon is less practical, but portability is secondary to caution and firepower in this final mission.
- Things seem a little too quite as Blazkowicz enters one of the labs; there are no enemies to shoot at here, and after encountering Bubi, Blazkowicz finally takes down one of the more unsettling secondary antagonists in The New Order. While I was given the option to perform a knife takedown, I wished to use the Laserkraftwerk on him just to see what would happen, but the weapon only fired one beam, killing him instantly. On a future playthrough of either the game, or just this mission, I’ll see if it’s possible to vapourise him with the Laserkraftwerk.
- The fight with the robot containing Fergus’ brain was one of the most clever boss fights I’ve seen in any game: immediately, Blazkowicz loses all of his weapons, and has access to only a knife and Tesla grenades scattered on the arena. A few grenades will stun the robot, allowing Blazkowicz to remove Fergus’ brain from the robot. While reminiscent of the SpongeBob episode “Welcome to the Chum Bucket”, where Plankton powers a robot using SpongeBob’s brain in a similar fashion, this moment was especially poignant in The New Order, since it’s clear that Fergus is suffering.
- After defeating the robot, Deathshead himself enters the fray in a powered suit reminiscent of Mecha-Hitler of Wolfenstein3D, complete with quad laser Gatling guns. Deathshead is protected by an impenetrable shield powered by these dirigibles, and two 88 mm flak cannons are available for use to dispose of these airships. Once they’re down, Deathshead’s shields disappear, and as per usual, the LaserKraftWerk becomes the best weapon for the job.
- Once he sustains enough damage, Deathshead disappears into a basement area for a final confrontation. This fight is grueling, and highly-paced, in the spirit of arcade-style bosses from an older era. After enough damage is done to Deathshead’s powered armour, walking up to him will trigger the final cutscene, ending the game. In the end, Wolfenstein: The New Order is able to incorporate elements from older games and pair them with the immersion of more modern titles.
- Coupled with good characterisation and a satisfactory story, The New Order is able to deliver a surprisingly moving adventure that exceeds expectations. I beat the game in the twelve hours that most players got out of it, and at some point in the future, I will probably go back and play through the Fergus timeline. For now, though, I’m going to take a short break from Wolfenstein and complete Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 before starting Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. Up next is a post on families in Girls und Panzer, as I aim to demonstrate that analysing speech patterns in an anime is a fools’ errand, and then after that will be my take on the Ano Natsu de Matteru OVA.
For all of the things Wolfenstein: The New Order does correctly as a game, the emotional impact ultimately stands out most for me. While it is a superb shooter, and carrying a full arsenal to put the Nazis at the ass-end of an ass-kicking is immensely entertaining, The New Order weaves in a story where Blazkowicz is doing the very thing he would rather not be doing with the aim of building a better world. Even though Blazkowicz does find “someone” for him, this emotionally meaningful relationship feels constraint by the fact that they can’t live a normal live with one another so as long as the Third Reich is in power. These sort of elements transforms Blazkowicz into a believable character, and in doing so, the game is able to effectively convey these feelings to the players. Immersion in the form of emotion is a hallmark of a well-designed game, and in The New Order, does much to help players really feel like they’re a part of this world. How well a game can immerse its players into their world is ultimately my benchmark for what constitutes a good game, and The New Order would, by all definitions, pass this test with flying colours.