Wolfenstein: The New Order Is The Last Of Its Kind

Wolfenstein The New Order

The following is a transcript of our YouTube video celebrating the 1oth anniversary of The New Order, which you can check out above or on our channel.

Today marks 10 years since Wolfenstein: The New Order first exploded onto consoles and PC. Not a lot has happened since then.

Yeah, been a quiet one hasn’t it. But what’s quietest of all? The scene for FPS games similar to it, so much so that it’s basically the last of its kind.

You’re probably wondering what I mean here. Well, The New Order is essentially the final AAA single-player linear FPS without any…bullshit. There’s no almost immediately abandoned multiplayer, no DLC, no skin packs to make BJ Blazkowickz into BJ Novak, any of that. This is just a game with a singular vision: to let you collect Gnatzi scalps.

You’re racking your brains trying to come up with other games to prove me wrong, but it’s a lot harder than you might expect. DOOM 2016 and Eternal both had multiplayer and DLC to get a bit more money out of you, Call of Duty’s campaigns have become an afterthought, and even The New Colossus had DLC packs that were absoluuutely worth your time…

Elsewhere, Rage 2 takes place in an open world, Metro Exodus has sandboxes, and even franchises like Battlefield have dropped their single-player component entirely. There’s Immortals of  Aveum, sure, but that’s *magic* and also sounds like a single mum’ s gonna try and sell me makeup on my doorstep.

Really, the only other game I can think of is…another Wolfenstein game. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, which is more like a standalone expansion to this game. Hell, even the most recent Wolfenstein game, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, was like a distillation of everything wrong with the AAA FPS space: bullet sponges, floating numbers, microtransactions, and cringe.

The simple fact is that games like Wolfenstein: The New Order just don’t get made anymore. It’s like “linear” is a dirty word these days. Obviously we all know why that is, Jesus Jeff Jarrett and Christ, but the fact that we basically can’t just buy a AAA game as it is and then finish the game in a weekend without having to either set up a payment plan or consult some kind of business firm to help you figure out tables is a crying shame. Long gone are the days where you buy the game, play the game, finish the game, and then you’re not tied into some symbiotic relationship with it for dozens of hours so you don’t feel like you’re wasting your money. There just doesn’t seem to be any room for games like The New Order anymore.

And that’s a huge pity, because the game is still an absolute whipper.

 

Opening

The first Wolfenstein game since that kinda polarising 2009 release that has now been digitally delisted, cheers corporate bollocks, The New Order opens up in the kinda complete chaos that makes Dunkirk look like Balamory, which also makes Silent Hill look normal sometimes. Please don’t do a police brutality on me, PC Plum.

BJ and his pals, including the very Scottish, very cool Fergus, are making one final giant push back against Deathshead, a recurring villain from earlier games in the series. The Wolfenstein canon is a little muddled, with MachineGames’ timeline basically being splintered off from the id Sofware era, but you don’t need really any prior knowledge to know the gist of the story here:

Mr Burns must die.

So what this means is a giant aerial assault with things constantly exploding before a crash landing where things continue to explode and giant robot dogs try to eat you. It’s crazy how accurately MachineGames re-enacted D-Day here.

Playing as BJ, you push up the beach towards Deathshead’s castle, and finally get your hands on some serious firepower. Now I will be the first to admit that the game feel and controls of The New Order kinda threw me off for a minute, the controls specifically. It is really odd that 1 on the keyboard is your knife and 2 is a grenade, which is also G, at least from a modern perspective. I changed 1 to a pistol and 2 to a shotgun while changing the knife to, I dunno, 7 because you don’t really need it when you can just press E to judo chop Nazis with knives anyway.

As for that game feel, what I mean specifically is that it’s difficult to acclimate to the peak masculinity of dual wielding a couple of shooters after years of being told that it’s too overpowered or illogical to make much sense in multiplayer games. Dude…who cares. Let the Fortnite children use two different Large Hadron Colliders, it literally doesn’t matter. Pro players and the general competitive scene have taken some of the stupidity out of multiplayer gaming, and that’s frankly inexcusable. When you say the word Goldeneye to someone, they will think of the opening level, some absolutely massive heads, and Oddjob being completely broken in split-screen. It’s part of the fun.

So I for one am so glad that The New Order completely goofies it up by letting you roll with two assault rifles, two shotguns, two suspicious deaths at Boeing etc etc. But it did take me a hot minute to get used to it again, as well as the lack of hit notifications when you land a shot, so early on you’re not all that sure if you’ve actually killed an enemy. It doesn’t take too long for you to realise that the enemies just absolutely pissing blood while screaming is the game’s solution to this. Just holding down left and right on the mouse and making everything explode in crimson hits all the right receptors in my brain.

So, BJ and his best friend, violence, storm their way through Deathshead’s compound, including an extremely metal moment in which he rappels his way up a castle wall, before getting caught in probably the most obvious trap I have ever seen. All that was missing was a thing of cheese and a comedy-sized net.

Here’s where The New Order takes a sharp turn from Call of Duty for psychos into a game straight up for psychos. The player must make a choice between Fergus and Wyatt, who is basically the grown up white version of Short Round. As a big fan of Duncan Ferguson, the choice here was pretty clear.

This is a choice that comes back a couple of times later, with your choice actually having a bearing on the story and its characters, another thing that has sadly been squeeeeeezed out of a lot of the AAA space. And that’s a shame. Also some dudes eyes getting scraped out of his skull.

With Deathshead wandering off to, I dunno get shot by a baby or block out the sun or something, BJ and Fergus make their escape before BJ gets struck by an errant Beyblade, leaving him in a coma for 14 years in an asylum under the watchful eye of Anya, a nurse.

By the way, can we just talk about how good old Beej looks having been in a coma for 14 years? He’s 49 here. Is the blood of your victims like that good of a moisturiser? This was how I looked 14 years ago, and this is how I look now [salad fingers or something].

Anyway, after being tricked by the flying plane one too many times for one man to put up with, BJ finally wakes from his stupor just as the Nazis take over the asylum, killing Anya’s parents. BJ rises like Linda McMahon and starts his revenge tour as he tries to join back up with the resistance, really kicking off one of the best FPS games ever made.

 

 

Gameplay General

I don’t really wanna get too much into recapping the story of The New Order, as you can really just get that info on Wikipedia or Reddit apparently? Because now every single Google result goes to some guy going “yeah” in a Reddit thread for some  reason? Also, why is this Right back on topic: I’ve not talked about violence in about 20 seconds.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is really just as close to a good old fashioned linear FPS as you can get. You basically just keep pushing forward and press left click to make the bad guys disappear, and I love that about it.

I could honestly sprint around rooms like a T-1000 made out of pure American beef all day, leaping into the air with my dual assault rifles and turning Nazis into mincemeat while cackling — it’s the kind of murder that is always morally a-OK, and always super fun.

And man, the team at MachineGames really figured out how to make killing dickheads feel super visceral and chunky, like a Cup A Soup with croutons in except the croutons are bits of dead dudes. Mm. Croutons.

The death animations in The New Order are really crazy for a 2014 game in general. I realise saying that makes it seem like people in 2014 were communicating with sticks and berries and that, but it’s so satisfying to see Nazis stagger around like wine moms after you compromise them to a permanent end.

I think the main props really has to go to the audio design here, which I still reckon is close to best in class even a decade on. Every bullet shot feels like a serious ballistic shot from a 50cal held by Zeus, especially in interior environments where the echo effects are so, so good, and the squishy sounds of man flesh being ripped apart by gunfire makes me think those foley sessions probably went absolutely crazy. The audio design is punchier than Millwall fans when the cast of Hamilton rolls into town.

Even BJ himself gives like this wild haptic feedback for your ears when sprinting about so that you really feel that murderous, laser-focused intent. I don’t understand how people don’t hear him coming though, as this dude’s jeans make more noise than my thighs rubbing together after a meat feast pizza.

And you can’t talk about the audio without chatting about Mick Gordon’s score, which is still a banger here. It feels a bit like a precursor to the industrial metal in DOOM 2016 that is maybe the best FPS soundtrack ever [he’s right you know], but with a more European twang to it that makes sense, because it’s in Europe. The New Order actually kicks off as it means to go on with the massive punch of its title track on the main menu:

But my favourite on the soundtrack though is probably Ransacked, which sounds kinda like something out of a Robert Rodriguez movie.

BJ isn’t a superhero and can’t ram a Nazi’s femur into their arse in order to heal, so a bit more patience is required when it comes to the combat here. At the time of its release, it was seen as kinda wild that Wolfenstein was reverting to health pick-ups instead of the COD inspired regenerating health, though your health will still regenerate to a certain point.

While playing on harder difficulties, BJ’s health and armour will sap away quicker than goodwill after a corporation tries to harvest your data to, presumably, sell you more copies of Sports Champions 2.

What this means for you is that you often have to learn the layouts of certain rooms when shit hits the fan, so that you know when Nazis 1-20 learn the lyrics to Kingdom, you know where to reposition to so that you can prepare for Nazis 21-40. You also need to scrounge for ammo manually, instead of BJ automatically hoovering it all up, and this also adds a nice bit of tension when you need to scurry across a room to pick up some shells.

I dunno if it’s just me, but it almost feels like a game where you’re not always meant to aim down sights? Pure hipfire spam seems way more satisfying here for a lot of situations, but you’re also meant to make the most out of cover and use a lot of peeking for when things get really chaotic, and you can also approach most situations with stealth, which can feel a little overpowered at times.

What’s better, a BFG or a little gun with a tube on it?

 

Weapons and Enemies

And you have loads of different weapons to do all that murdering with, though the pool of them is a bit more vanilla than in The New Colossus. The game is a bit more vanilla in general than its sequel, but honestly, that might be for the better overall, but I will get to that later.

You get your pistol, your shotgun, your assault rifles, your sniper — nothing too crazy at all there. It’s in the dual wielding of those weapons where things get a little wild, even more so when you unlock new abilities with perks, which are basically just extra little boosts like more ammo, hitting harder, stealthing easier, and so on . It’s all fairly grounded, and well implemented as you have to complete specific challenges to unlock them, with most of them just unlocking pretty naturally as you play through the campaign.

Really, the most unique weapon / item in the game is the Laser Cutter, and later the LaserCraftwerk, a feature that I had absolutely no memory of whatsoever upon replaying The New Order, which was odd.

Basically, Wolfenstein: The New Order has some destructible environments where you can use the laser weapons to cut holes in certain fences and also access special crates for ammo pickups etc. You will need it often for the basic platforming sections in the game like cutting down a ladder, opening a door etc.

It’s neat and all but I dunno…I don’t know if the game really ever needed this? Maybe it’s a bit of an artifact of the Portal Effect, where most FPS games seemed to need some kinda gimmick gun, but yeah…the introduction of the laser mechanics does kinda slow the pacing of the game right down. You can’t have a game that is all action all the time, but did Wolfenstein need to make you get your welding goggles on, especially when its environmental destruction isn’t reaaallly used to its full potential? There are a couple of spots where you can take different routes towards encounters, but the game isn’t very overt with it, or those detours just aren’t all that interesting.

But then the game does eventually let you basically vaporise Nazis with it, so that’s one in the plus column.

Let’s talk about those walking tomato soups themselves, a fairly varied bunch that tends to go from normal fascist bastard to robot fascist bastard. The usual grunts are always fun to mow down, and I love this pseudo imm sim mechanic where you have to figure out the best route to taking down commanders so that they don’t call in reinforcements. But there’s also these armored Fire Trooper guys that are maybe…the toughest enemies in the game? This might just be me, but there’s a section on a submarine that was by far and away the hardest section across the entirety of The New Order, because there’s two of them in this enclosed space and they hit extremely hard with their weak point hits just not registering or something. I must have died here like eight times, and it really bothered me.

Anyway, apart from those guys, the rest of the enemies consist of dog robots, man robots, and larger man robots with large guns. This is definitely something that The New Colossus improves upon, as I personally found that they all kinda bleed into each other in The New Order, or that I had no real idea what they were called, but figuring out the priority chain of who to deal with first and then picking them all off one by one while keeping on top of the arena resources is always a really fun challenge. Random question: do you reckon the fact that both of the games having New in the name might have confused some buyers and that’s why the second seemed to struggle with sales a bit? Never underestimate people’s ability to be a bit stupid.

Regardless, The New Order does have a few chunky lads to deal with, but most of the time it comes down to just utilising spacing and explosives in order to send them back to the shadow realm. It’s especially apparent how straightforward some of these encounters are during the London Monitor boss fight, which reminds me of a particular colossus in Shadow of the Colossus but just…bad. You hide, shoot the big eye, shoot the big honeycombs, repeat ten times, then shoot it in the gooch. It’s a pretty plodding boss that looks really damn good in scale and design but never really gets out of first gear.

Everything in The New Order doe–s really still look damn good visually too, as while the facial animations are a bit more simple, there’s lots of lovely horizons and interiors to gaze at.

Where else I think that The New Order does shine quite well is in its characters that you don’t shoot at.

 

Back to Story

BJ is such a good character, a complex dude who has suffered like few other protagonists before him. His constant internal monologue showcases a guy who’s hanging mentally by a thread, but because of his machismo, he can never show it. He lives in an alternate 1960s timeline where they probably never felt the joy of using an et ch a sketch, you know? Also his father was hideously abusive to him, but the etch a sketch?

It also gives The New Order this really nice detective noir edge to hear BJ narrate what’s going on and what he truly feels. I can’t think of many other games that really give a window into a character like this, and it doesn’t. There’s maybe Days Gone, but Deacon is a pretty unfiltered motormouth who talks out loud.

There’s a genuine, unforced feeling of love between BJ and Anya, even if they’d probably overshare on Facebook if they were around today. They’re just a n, and BJ finally getting a win like this is nice. It can’t all suck, you know what I mean?

Then there’s the player’s choice of either Fergus or Wyatt, who go through survivor’s guilt after you choose them, which, let’s be honest, should always be Fergus. He’s just a top lad, isn’t he?

The other supporting characters are all pretty likeable too, and MachineGames do a pretty good job of allowing you to fill your own blanks in without dumps and dumps of exposition. There’s this guy called Bobby Bram early on who really unexpectedly sacrifices himself early on so that you can easily get into a now slightly less wheelchair accessible building. Go back to your base, and you will find letters shared with the love of his life that he lost to the war. Aw.

And oh man, I knew I said I wouldn’t do spoilers, but you come across this guy called Milo in a slave labour camp who is really missing his wife. I’m a wifeguy, so when he is reunited with his wife, that got me pretty good in the emotion box. And then…

On the flipside, the villains here are all really great. Despite looking like a raisin, Deathshead is a pretty chilling dude. But Frau Engel is the real villain here, someone who is a truly magnificent cunt. It takes a lot to stand out among the Nazis, but considering she has absolutely no memory of previously threatening to kill you when she sees you again in a slave labour camp, it basically tells the player how very little stock she puts in human life. She is wonderfully, fantastically awful, and one of the best villains of the 10, 15, 20 years, you know what, ever. Add in Adolf Twinkler and you have a power couple of bastards for the ages.

That slave labour camp is no Fyre Fest, but it’s not a walk in the park either. The New Order actually has a pretty good hit rate overall when it comes to its levels, as most of them are easy to remember off by heart. There’s that siege at the castle, some time spent in a claustrophobic submarine, an extended shootout on a wrecked bridge, a prison sequence that’s maybe a bit too hands-off for a bit too long but still pretty good, and even a section on the moon that’s a total highlight, with some zero gravity fighting and fricking laserbeams.

There’s also this underwater level that maaaan it suuucks so bad! It kills the momentum completely dead as you drive around on your little submersible that probably won’t implode. DOOM Eternal is in my top ten favourite games ever and it understands the need for platforming sections to break up how insanely hectic it can get, but this just reeks! It’s like the six endings for Return of the King in that it just goes on and on and on, but the game’s still only really just about to kick into gear.

 

 

Wrap Up

There’s a couple of other bugbears about The New Order that I feel I need to bring up, the first being that kinda wild 60 fps cap on PC. The New Order came out at a time when a lot of developers were still console first in their design and PC optimisation was a bit of an afterthought, and I think that’s the case here. I mean, there’s like 6 graphics settings and that’s it. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s just a relic of game design from a long forgotten time–ok I gotta stop doing that.

There’s also the fact that climbing over ledges sometimes makes you feel about as nimble as Ric Flair in 2024. I  don’t know what it is, but sometimes BJ just doesn’t grab onto ledges well at all, so I found myself randomly jumping at nothing quite often, or then falling to my death.

Again, not a deal breaker, but it feels like one of those things that was way down the priority chain.

That said though, these are really just super minor inconveniences that do so little to take away from the final product. Playing The New Order was a big breath of fresh air for me: a super straightforward, absolute ride of a game where you claim your Nazi scalps. It’s also a game with a lot of heart beneath all the blood and bits of sick, as it tells the stories of people with versions of themselves killed by war, the people they will never be. It’s a very sincere reflection on conflict and the casualties, physical and mental.

It’s also not afraid to get a little goofy at times, and while I think I love The New Colossus a lot more than most, that sequel really sipped on the stupid juice a bit too much at times to the point where it felt like a gonzo hallucination, and so those those emotional punches felt like they were getting thrown in a dream. It’s the same thing that happened to the most recent Thor movie.

But The New Order?

Perfection.

It makes me feel a little bit sad to think that if we ever get Wolfenstein 3, which isn’t looking likely at all, it probably won’t be anywhere near as clean and, well, pure as this. Not pure like that, I must stress. I’d like to think we won’t all be buying Terror  Billy Bucks or paying more to play it three Reichs early when MachineGames get around to it after finishing off Indiana Jones, wow they really know their way around Nazis right, but at least we’ll always have The New Order. It’s not new, but it is eternal.

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