2017 has been a banner year for video games, but that’s no reason to not revisit games from previous years. I’ve been slowly chipping away at my backlog, and I had an urge to finally get around to Wolfenstein: The New Order. It felt appropriate to play for some reason, like it was the right time for it and everything. And I’m so glad I finally did play through it, because with the sequel around the corner (which looks absolutely incredible and eerily relevant in the current political climate), I got to experience a game that combines the best of retro, old-school shooters with the best of modern first-person shooters.
Wolfenstein: The New Order came out way back in 2014. It never really piqued my interest, considering it looked like a generic WWII shooter you’d find in the bargain bin of a 90’s GameStop. While it does maintain that style and aesthetic people have come to expect from this specific genre, it quickly differentiates itself by presenting something completely new and refreshing with its subject matter. Wolfenstein: The New Order is an exhilarating game. It presents an almost terrifying depiction of a world in which the Nazis won WWII, as well as being one of the most fun experiences I’ve had with a first-person shooter in a long time.
It starts off with standard WWII shooter fare, instantly putting you in an airship where the first mission quickly tutorializes you and has you shoot at other Nazi airships. If it sounds uninteresting and boring, that’s because it is. But the game seems to lean heavily into that for shock value. Because as soon as your airship crashes into the ground, you’re presented with a new enemy: a rabid, mechanized robot dog. This isn’t the only enemy of its kind in the game. Wolfenstein: The New Order presents countless depictions of advanced German technology, showcasing not just their skill in technological advancements, but the wretchedness of the Nazi regime as well. After a few fun missions, and some pretty disturbing, grotesque cutscenes, your character is placed into a coma for over a decade. After awakening, he sees that his worst fears have come true: the Nazis have won the World War, and they dominate the majority of the world. Your job is to locate the resistance, and team up with them to take down the Nazi threat and take back the country.
The character you play as, B.J. Blazkowicz, is pretty much an empty avatar of a character; while he’s given a personality, he’s still assigned the role of a blank palette whose only significant trait is how clueless he is along with his machismo. While that’s usually a problem, it’s what allows the narrative to propel forward. The game is rooted in a heavy sense of patriotism, and Blazkowicz knows nothing more than that Nazis are bad, and they must be eliminated. The supporting characters though, mostly comprised of women and people of color, are stellar. They add weight to the overbearing conditions of the world. While your character aims to eliminate the enemy with the help of the resistance, the other characters still put him in his place connecting the Nazi threat to the systemic racism and sexism they might experience on a daily basis regardless of the terrible situation looming over their heads.
The overarching threat, however, is truly disturbing. While most WWII games only concern themselves with drawing direct conflicts between the player and the villains they’re tasked with eliminating, Wolfenstein: The New Order involves the entire world in these affairs, focusing on the loss of humanity that civilians are subjected to. Throughout the game, you hear loudspeakers constantly echo Nazi ideology, threatening to punish people that go against their set-in-stone ways. They tell you of their impurity. The world is drenched in grey, offering no color or signs of hope, as if it’s a metaphor for the Nazis’ mission to eliminate color and diversity from their gene pool as well. The enemies you encounter are rather unsettling as well, often offering Tarantino-esque monologues that would fit right into a scene of Inglourious Basterds. They help establish the villains as heartless, demented people that want nothing more than to see the world burn. And that’s kinda what they are. It’s good to see a game not hold back in its social commentary, and provide us with antagonists that are truly despicable fitting the setting the story takes place in, and are relentlessly terrifying without being supernatural in nature.
If you haven’t played this game, please do. It was worth every penny at its original retail value, and it’s easily worth whatever price you can find it at now. It’s an expertly crafted game with an enthralling story, some of the best and most fun shooting mechanics I’ve ever experienced in a shooter. It works as an incredible amalgamation of retro and modern-day FPS’s, while providing some great social commentary as well as characters that remind us that Nazis are the most despicable people you could ever meet. Then, now, and any time in the future. There’s not much else I could ask for, honestly. If you have a chance to play this game, go for it. You won’t regret it one bit.