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Wolfenstein: The New Order on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Back in 1992, Texas-based id Software brought a 1981 stealth game into a new era. The stealth game being revived was Muse Software's Castle Wolfenstein, and id Software's title was the DOS classic Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein 3D is often considered the first FPS and this isn't a lie. Sure, first person games existed before Wolfenstein 3D, but these were often flight/tank simulators or dungeon crawlers. Wolfenstein 3D put a gun in your hands and allowed you to unload pistol, machine gun, and chaingun ammo into hundreds of goose-stepping Nazi soldiers.

Unlike id Software's other titles like DOOM and Quake, the Wolfenstein series didn't see many titles after Wolfenstein 3D and its Spear of Destiny expansion pack. Though when sequels were released, they were great games. 2001 saw the release of Grey Matter and Nerve Software's Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a reimagining of Wolfenstein 3D that saw a release on the PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox, and PS2. It packed a solid single-player with what is considered one of the greatest multiplayer components in history. Then came the 2003 title Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Originally planned as an expansion to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the Splash Damage-developed title suffered problems with the single-player component during development. As a result, it was released free for PC, Mac, and Linux. Even 11 years after its release, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is still one of the most popular free shooters ever (Download here: http://www.splashdamage.com/wolfet).

Then there was the 2009 title Wolfenstein, developed by Quake 4 developer Raven Software and released for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. It added various features to the series, including an increased emphasis on story and a Postal 2-esque hub town. The game, despite positive reviews, split the deck for fans. Some called it generic, with only hints of Wolfenstein's better past. Others felt that, despite a few bad ideas, that it was still a Wolfenstein game. I fell into the latter category. While some mechanics were unnecessary (like the regenerating health), it was still a good entry into the series. Plus, it led the way to the subject of this first review.

Developed by MachineGames, a Swedish game developer founded by people who worked on the critically-acclaimed titles The Darkness and Escape from Butcher Bay, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the latest title in the long-running series. Released on May 20, 2014, Wolfenstein: The New Order brings players back to the world of long-time Nazi killer William J. "B.J." Blazkowicz. This time, the world is completely different. However, will the game win back the hearts of fans that felt betrayed by the 2009 entry, or will they feel even more betrayed?

Graphically, Wolfenstein: The New Order is downright gorgeous. It runs on the id Tech 5 engine, which was last used in 2011's RAGE. Environments and textures are well-detailed, models for characters and guns are slick, lighting is moody, and effects and animations are well done. The PS4 version, from what I've read, runs on the highest resolution of the next-gen consoles, with the Xbox One not too far behind. I have played the Xbox 360 version and, while some effects are toned down for the "older hardware", and a bit of screen-tearing and texture pop-in is present, it still looks really good. It also runs at 60 FPS on all consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360 included) and on PC, assuming you have good enough hardware. In my eyes, Wolfenstein: The New Order ranks among the Metro series and Grand Theft Auto V in terms of the best looking games I've played and seen.

One of Wolfenstein: The New Order's biggest surprises lies in its storytelling. Those who have played Escape from Butcher Bay or The Darkness know that the people at Starbreeze (and, by connection, MachineGames) can tell a great story. Wolfenstein: The New Order is no exception, even if the rest of the series hasn't had a huge emphasis on story. The story starts in 1946, 3 years after the ending of the 2009 entry. A group of soldiers, commanded by the OSA and lead by B.J. Blazkowicz, has been tasked for one final assault on the compound of Nazi scientist and general Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, a character fans of the series will remember. This attack fails and, after being forced to make a decision that will affect the game's timeline, B.J. takes a piece of shrapnel to the head. He is then put into a coma and transported to a Polish asylum, where he is put under the care of nurse Anya Oliwa. Years into the coma, the Nazis arrive to purge the asylum of its staff and patients. After the deaths of Anya's parents and her attempted capture by the Nazis, B.J. awakens and escapes, killing the Nazis in the process. It is when he arrives with Anya to a house owned by her grandparents that he learns what has happened. It's a nightmare scenario: The year is 1960. The coma lasted 14 years. In B.J.'s absence, the Nazis won WWII. After teaming up with the remnants of the Kreisau Circle, he must launch a seemingly impossible counter-attack to win the world back and to defeat Deathshead for good.

Due to strong writing and amazing voice acting, the story is one of the greatest in a first-person shooter. The writing is a mix of a dark world run by the Third Reich and classic Wolfenstein humor. There are plenty of jokes about the characters and even a few jokes involving B.J.'s own tasks (such as calling himself "the goddamned errand boy" when doing fetch quests in the Kreisau HQ). Then there's the brilliant voice acting. B.J. is played by veteran actor Brian Bloom (F.E.A.R series, StarCraft II, RAGE), who gives the character of B.J. a new meaning. While he's still a Nazi killing machine, B.J. has a much deeper personality than in previous games, where he's more of a cardboard cutout in terms of actual personality. He has a deep care for his friends and anger towards Deathshead for his crimes. Anya, former nurse, is played by Polish actress Alicja Bachleda. Her character is given a great personality that, when more is revealed, makes her a great companion to B.J. and his fight. Deathshead, played by Dwight Schultz (Ben 10, Star Trek: First Contact) is a brilliant, yet completely insane, Nazi scientist and general. Other characters include sweary Scotsman Fergus Reid (Gideon Emery), new soldier Probst Wyatt III (A.J. Trauth), and returning character and Kreisau Circle leader Caroline Becker (Bonita Friedericy).

Gameplay in Wolfenstein: The New Order is a mix of old-school run-and-gun shooters with modern story-based shooters. The two games MachineGames likely used for inspiration are Return to Castle Wolfenstein for old-school and Escape from Butcher Bay for modern. From Return to Castle Wolfenstein, it takes the Wolfenstein universe (of course), unlimited weapons, med-pack (and turkey leg and dog food) health system, exploration in levels, multiple paths, and collectible items. From Escape from Butcher Bay, it takes the simple and effective stealth mechanics. mild regeneration (health regenerates to nearest interval of 20), health upgrades, side-quests, and an emphasis on story. It's a mix that works amazingly well.

Of course there are some new aspects added to the series. First is a duel-wielding mechanic, as in just about all of the arsenal (with the exception of a double-barreled shotgun and grenades) can be duel-wielded. This includes, and is not limited to, the assault rifles, automatic shotguns, pistols, and sniper rifles. For fans of old-school shooters, this mechanic will provide a great time. There's also a perk system. The way it works is that there are four categories of perks: stealth, assault, tactical, and demolition. As players complete tasks involving these categories, they will unlock perks that affect gameplay. For example, stealth-killing a certain number of Nazis with takedowns will unlock the ability to throw knives. Also, based on the choice made in the 1946 chapter, you will either have a lockpicking mini-game or a hotwiring one.

As it is a single-player only game, Wolfenstein: The New Order should have a long campaign and a lot of replay value. Thankfully, it accomplishes both of these. The single-player, with a bit of exploration and being played on Bring 'Em On difficulty, can take around 16 or more hours. The alternate choice, collectibles, story, five difficulties, and pure old-school fun should bring many players back. Also, the collectible Enigma Codes unlock one bonus mode each (four total). These are a lot of fun to play through.

It's easy to tell that the people at MachineGames are huge fans of the series, from the returning difficulty modes to playable version of the first floor of Wolfenstein 3D's first episode as an easter egg. They were dedicated to bringing back the classic series to the modern audience while keeping its over-the-top take on WWII for the fans. After playing this, I can say with honesty that they succeeded. For me, this was a great game. In fact, I can say that Wolfenstein: The New Order may be the best first-person shooter we will have in 2014.



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