Monday, September 7, 2009

Wolfenstein Review

The latest installment of Wolfenstein has just been released. The self-titled iteration in the series brings back famed war hero B.J. Blazkowicz . After escaping a Nazi-filled tanker, he is sent back into a town called Isenstadt, as he is the only one who can put down the Nazis’ plan to use the occult power of the Black Sun to conquer the world. With the help of the resistance, does he have what it takes to succeed and stop their evil plan?

Wolfenstein starts out normal enough. You reach Isenstadt and meet up with the local resistance, who brief you on the situation and show you around town. You’ll have a buddy you can follow for this part, so you can learn your way around the main world, but after that, you can rely on both a world map in the pause menu, and a “GPS” which lets you know which direction to go towards your objective. However, after snooping around a bit, you’ll learn of the research and experiments the Nazis have been doing, and learn of the powers of the Black Sun and Veil.

Once you find a special medallion and crystal, you can use the powers of the Veil. The first power you receive is the ability to see into a new dimension. This turns the world green, and allows you to more easily see enemies, enemy weak points, and pass through hidden doorways. As you collect more crystals throughout the game, you unlock more powers. The three other powers are a shield, the ability to slow down time, and one that makes your weapons do more damage. All of these abilities will put you into the Veil dimension, where special creatures can damage you, so be careful. Also, you use up Veil energy, so you must be sure to use your powers wisely to conserve the energy when you really need it.

Aside from the Veil powers, you have a total of 8 weapons at your disposal, although you don’t have them all from the start. The first weapons you get are a standard MP40 machine gun and Kar98 rifle. However, once you’ve explored a little bit, you’ll find much more interesting weapons, like a Panzershrek rocket launcher, flame thrower, or experimental Nazi weapons, like a Tesla gun. These weapons are fairly useful from the get-go, but you can upgrade all of them at the Black Market if you have some cash. You get money from completing missions and finding gold throughout both the main world and mission levels. You’d be wise to seek out these gold pieces, because upgrades are almost essential to bringing down the Third Reich. Not only can you upgrade the standard components of weapons and increase their capacity, damage dealt, and other such things, but you can add things like scopes and silencers which are very effective. You can also upgrade your Veil powers, which are really awesome.

While the Veil powers are already cool in their own right, the upgrades are devastating. For instance, the shield power can be upgraded to not only reflect bullets back at those that shot them, but to outright destroy anyone who gets too close to you. Turning on this power and running straight into a pack of soldiers is hilariously fantastic. The upgraded bullet empowering ability can destroy tanks with ease and shoot through just about any cover the enemy may be using. And there are also handy melee weapons you can pick up. Using the axe to decapitate German soldiers: priceless.

Wolfenstein is slightly open world, but more linear when you get into a mission. When not in a mission, you are free to wonder around Isenstadt, which is pretty large. You can search for gold or intelligence, which reveals more about the story or gives you artwork, or look for people to talk to who may give you an optional mission to perform. Once you’ve talked to the right people, generally the main characters in safe houses, you can make your way to a main mission. These are in areas outside of the main world and are reached either by getting to areas which are normally blocked off, or via vehicle driven by a fellow resistance fighter.

Most of the missions are about the same, and require you to move through a level and get to the end. Obviously, there is some task to be done, but main objectives are too obvious, unless you pause the game and look at your current objective. Typically though, you are either trying to destroy some piece of machinery or take out a high-ranking official, aka boss. These don’t simply require you to shoot them until they’ve taken enough damage, but rather, entail you finding their weakness and then exploiting it. Some areas are more interesting than others, than a giant castle, but you’ll basically be mowing down Nazis left and right in both. There are a variety of special enemies who use unique weapons, like a flame thrower or ooze-shooting gun, and have distinctive weak points. The AI is decent, but nothing special. Enemies will take cover at times, and rush you at others. There was never a time I can recall when they would just stand around while you shot at them or anything stupid like that. And their grenade throwing abilities? Ridiculously accurate.

The story mode is pretty short, clocking in at under 6 hours for my first play through on “hard”. I got a trophy for beating the game in under 12 hours, so perhaps it may take the average gamer longer. Naturally, it will also take much longer if you look for all of the gold pieces, intelligence, tomes, and secret missions throughout the game, which will greatly extend the play. Once you have beaten the game though, you can play a new one with cheats activated, which allow for pumpkin heads, and give you all of the weapons and upgrades from the start. Once that has gotten stale though, you can head over to the multiplayer.

In the current era of Call of Duty and Halo, it can be hard for a game, especially FPS, to create a good multiplayer universe and grab gamers’ attention, but Wolfenstein does a good job of offering players some engaging content. Wolfenstein provides 3 modes to play on 8 maps. The first mode is your standard team deathmatch, while the other two are objective. Both feature the option of choosing from three different classes: soldier, engineer, and medic. Each class is unique, having their own powers and options for weapons. The soldier can use any weapon, from the MP40 and Kar98, to a Panzershrek and flamethrower. The engineer and medic can only use a MP40 or Kar98, but have unique abilities that make them useful, especially in objective matches. Each map has their own objectives that you must complete for victory, and engineers are vital in success, as they are the only ones who can plant explosives to access areas needed for victory and build bridges and ladders.

There is also a ranking system in the game, that is very similar to others and levels you up based on your stats, which are all trackable, including kills, objectives met, etc. You also gain money for every kill and objective you complete, which can be used similarly to story mode, allowing you to purchase weapon and ability upgrades. Furthermore, there are some old-school-type awards given at the end of each match, which are always fun to get. The games I played did seem a bit laggy, and weren’t the smoothest I’ve ever experienced, but they were definitely playable. This is my first experience with PS3’s online play, so I’m not sure if it was more the PS3 or the game itself. Again though, it was totally playable.

Overall, Wolfenstein presents an engaging story featuring the legendary B.J. Blazkowicz. While the FPS mechanics are fairly standard, the game provides some unique weapons as well as cool Veil powers to devastate the enemy. There is plenty to explore in the game, from collecting all of the gold and intelligence, to seeking out resistance members to help out. Once you’ve done that, you can play up the multiplayer, where you can rank up to level 50 I believe, and upgrade your characters and weapons.

Overall Score: 7/10

Posted in cooperation with Gamers Platform

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