Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wolfenstein Review

If you're asked to think back to the earliest first-person shooter you can recall, you might answer Wolfenstein 3D. You'd be wrong (the first game to fit all the criteria for an FPS is actually a game called Maze War that was in development back in 1973), but it's understandable that you'd think it. After all, Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are largely credited with popularizing the genre.

Today you can't throw a rock without hitting an FPS. Console gamers cut their teeth on the N64's Goldeneye, EA made World War II cool to fight, then over done with Medal of Honor, and the Xbox might never have taken off if it weren't for Halo. Even franchises like Metroid and Fallout have gone first-person (although whether they count as shooters or not is debatable). In a market when it seems like one out of every three games released during the holiday sales period is a first-person shooter, is it enough to be a sequel to one of the most venerable FPS games of all time?

In a word, no.

In Wolfenstein's defense, it's trying. You can really tell it's trying. The developers tried breaking up the usual linear nature of shooters by giving you some freedom to decide which mission to take and when. In between the missions is a sort of hub city area where you can find people to give you side missions or buy weapon upgrades on the black market. They put in some memorable boss fights. They gave you a special medallion that gives you access to special powers. The game's graphics are decent, and the gameplay is fluid, and shooting a Nazi in the face will cause him to die with a satisfying gurgle as his facial features turn into a fine red mist.

Unfortunately, the game's pros are negated by it's cons. The city-hub is actually an annoyance that forces you to fight your way from one mission to the next. You character, BJ Blazkowicz, has less personality than an empty bucket. The enemy AI is retarded and works mostly by funneling a crap ton of enemies to a choke point and having them spam grenades at you. The enemies themselves are either generic Nazis or ripped off from FEAR 2. (Laser-shooting dude, check. Feral dudes that crawl around, check. Invisible dude that sneaks up on you to try to melee you, check. Flamethrower dude, check. Missing anyone?) Your powers aren't even original. Mire slows things down, and is essentially the same bullet-time we've been using forever. Shield is, well, a shield. Sight allows you to see enemy weaknesses and hidden paths. And Empower adds some extra oomph to your shots, allowing them to pierce enemy shields or just straight up do more damage.

For all the game's cool ideas and cool weapons, the game quickly devolves into you taking up a position where you have some cover, and shooting as many enemies as you can with the KAR98 rifle before moving up. There are cooler and more damaging weapons, but I found myself hoarding the ammo and saving them for really big enemies and bosses. Meanwhile, the KAR98 had the scope and the silencer.

The end result isn't a bad game. It's just that, when the cons cancel out the pros, the result is utterly average, and average just doesn't cut it anymore in today's FPS-saturated market. Wolfenstein is the kind of game that, when you're playing it, it seems okay but when you put it down you don't find yourself having any strong desire to pick it up and get back into it. It's competent, but lacks character. Next summer, you might pick up a discounted copy of Wolfenstein and you might find it an enjoyable way to get through that summer slump. But if you pay full price for it, especially with a ton of other new releases coming out that could be (and in some cases already are) better, you're going to regret it.

Final Score: C


Mike said...


Given how much you enjoyed Wolfenstein, you might not want to take my word for it, but my early experience with Darkest of Days is also going to have me advise a pass on it.

Rick said...

Yeah I saw some reviews for it that absolutely drilled it. Your review on Wolfenstein generally falls in line with all the others though, I admit I liked it more than most people, but no one outright said it's a bad game, yourself included. DoD however is getting slammed so I'm gonna pass on it.