I should probably admit a few things before getting into my feelings on Wolfenstein. First: I'm generally pretty bad at playing first-person shooters on consoles. Second, I'm a little queasy when it comes to gore in games; with the strange exception of the God of War games, I usually can't stomach excessively bloody violence. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, even though I'm a child of the '80s, I somehow never played any of those classic early '90s shooters like Wolfenstein, Doom or Duke Nukem, which means I don't go into the game's next-gen debut with any kind of nostalgia goggles. In other words, if ever there was a perfect storm of reasons for me to dislike a game, Wolfenstein: The New Order would be it.
Or, at least, that's how it works in theory. In practice, however, I really dig it. Despite the violence, despite the perspective, despite the fact I have no history at all with any of the previous Wolfenstein games...I'm shocked to admit that I really, really like it.
It helps, of course, that the game has a pretty compelling story. Without going into too many spoilers, the game takes place in a chillingly dystopian vision of the the past, imagining what might've happened had the Nazis won the atomic race, dropped a nuclear bomb on the United States and won World War II. It's a pretty standard revisionist history trope, to be sure, but it's done really well here, in large part because the story is driven by a surprisingly well-drawn main character in B.J. Blazkowicz. Yes, he's another gravelly-voiced white guy, but he has motivation deeper than simply killing all the Nazis that get in his way. He's got a back story, a love interest, a heavy sense of regret -- and, above all else, a voice that conveys the weight of all that stuff. I very, very, very rarely notice good voice acting, so it should say something when even I'm noticing that it's done well, and in this case, Brian Bloom did one heck of a job.
Of course, none of the story or its characters would matter if the gameplay didn't back them up, and in that respect, Wolfenstein delivers. My biggest complaint about FPS games tends to be that I feel weirdly claustrophobic with such a limited viewpoint; that's not the case here, as everything about Blazkowicz's movements seems totally natural. Likewise, the weapons all work well, with nothing seeming absurdly over- or underpowered, and switching from one to another is a breeze.
Now, Wolfenstein: The New Order isn't perfect. If you're prone to queasiness, you'll probably find quite a few moments in the game stomach-churning (though, I guess, if you're that queasy, a game like Wolfenstein probably isn't on your radar). More annoyingly -- and certainly more relevant to anyone who'd be interested in this game -- there are some weird little things that draw you out of the story. Stuff like doors simply not being available to open, or some wooden crates not being smashable. I know that Bethesda and MachineGames had to limit what they did and didn't put in the game, and making a wide-open world for players to explore and destroy wasn't their intention with Wolfenstein, but there are enough tantalizing glimpses of what else could've been added that it adds up to a niggling little annoyance.
The operative word there, though, is "little". Whatever minor issues there may be with the game not being as expansive as it could've been, they're totally dwarfed by the fact the Wolfenstein: The New Order is a thoroughly well-made, addictive shooter. And heck, if you really want to get down to it, even those annoyances highlight what a great game this is: it takes place in a world so well-imagined, you can't help but want to explore it (no matter how nightmarish a scenario it may be). It wouldn't be a nice place to live, but as BJ Blazkowicz, you're going to want to go back to Wolfenstein: The New Order again and again.