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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Wolfenstein: The New Order.

TranscriptEdit

What has the video game industry got against the historians of the future? Is it because they've never come back and given us jetpacks? That's just being entitled, isn't it? And yet we still insist on naming games specifically to fuck with future archiving systems. Like the last time Wolfenstein came around, it was just called Wolfenstein, an experience I found so mediocre that I had to write the review in limericks to stop myself gnawing my hands off at the wrist.

But on reflection, if I thought Wolfenstein represented an apex of mediocrity in shooters, I must have been severely lacking in imagination back then, before the Modern Warfare genre had fully completed its slide into that dark unpleasant pit where there is only meaningless violence and a complete absence of Nazi space wizards. The sheer lack of self-awareness in spunkgargleweewee betrays an ugly paranoia that still exists in people today, whereas Nazi space wizards just illustrate how thoroughly we've gotten over those Nazi twats and can be free to blow off their limbs and fuck the stumps without worrying about whether it might be a bit weird.

So Wolfenstein: The New Order, more fun for the future archivists. What are you gonna call the next one, The Slightly Newer Order?

The series has shifted from secret history of World War II to flat-out alternate history, which is immediately brought across by the prologue being a desperate last-gasp attempt to prevent Nazi victory in 1946, their electropunk wizard technology having reminded them to bring a few more woolly sweaters to the Russian front. Our hero, William J. Blazkowicz (the weird thing I noticed is that very few people still call him B.J. in this game, I guess he's had enough of it being mistaken for an instruction in the communal shower), misses his chance to kill the Nazi space wizard and gets a chunk of shrapnel lodged in his meaty head like a dislodged filling in a Jersey Caramel. After spending fourteen years in a Polish asylum trying to squeeze the shrapnel out by thinking about it really hard (the kind of fourteen years during which nobody ages a fucking day, but never mind), he leaps back into Nazi-killing action with a machine gun in one hand and his nurse on the other, who fell in love with him from all those romantic arse-wiping sessions.

New Order has some surprisingly strong story-telling chops. One of the many advantages of Nazis is that you don't have to justify shit. "Hey, this guy's a Nazi, would you like to drown him in his own piss?" the game might ask. "Sorry, did you say something? I was busy drowning a Nazi in his own piss," we might reply. But despite that, New Order puts the effort into making hating Nazis feel fresh again. One of the first things we do is watch a soldier shoot a room full of hospital patients before we stab him right up the lebensraum, and the principal villains only need to smile and play card games to become infinitely hateable.

Meanwhile, the range of characters in the heroic resistance are almost universally flawed and sympathetic. I was drifting through Resistance HQ playing the "guess who's going to do the inevitable betrayal" game, but every flash of antagonism belied only the frustrations of rational people in an irrational world. Even Captain Meathead, who spends the whole game talking in a grizzled macho whisper and tanks cutscene injuries like they're butterfly kisses, comes across as pained and exhausted by it all, fighting to kindle the last embers of hope in a damp forest as Fritz prowls around with a Super Soaker full of cold spunk.

But I do have a criticism in that I'm not completely on board with the goal the heroic resistance are working towards. They seem to be mainly focused on bringing the smackdown on the chief Nazi space wizard's creepy ass, but the Nazis have conquered the world. They've won. They've written all those history books they were supposed to write and hung up their little swastika-patterned socks. I don't think they're going to be good enough sports to hand the world back just 'cos we killed their creepy dad.

I'm detecting a whiff of the old Uncharted syndrome in that I think the developers locked down a vague end-point of "killing creepy Nazi space dad wizard" and then filled the intervening time with a bunch of cool vignettes, figuring out after the fact how the plot connects them. This is most apparent just after B.J. nicks a German U-boat for exciting voyage-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea action, only to discover that they can't use the nukes until they get the launch codes, which for some reason are on the secret Nazi moon base! 'Cause it's not like you'd ever need something like that close to hand! The President's only bloody handcuffed to the launch codes 'cause he loves to accessorize! You know, at that point, B.J. is basically Tintin on protein shakes.

The gameplay is that you shoot the baddies and the baddies shoot back. Also a standard suite of stealth mechanics; use the silenced pistol that will completely ruin your day if you miss the head by one-quarter of an inch, or use a throwing knife that can land squarely in the left butt-cheek and instantly ragdoll the guy. But it all works well together and doesn't call for further comment. What I did find interesting is that there are map screens for each level, and map screens in meathead shooters have been rarely seen since the preferred method of navigating mission shooters became to set every one in a fucking corridor with Christmas lights dangling overhead in case players get distracted by an overly-decorative skirting board. But Wolfenstein: New Order actually has levels with multiple routes and secret paths to reward exploration. It's almost like it manages to combine the positive qualities of older level-by-level shooters with those of more recent fare, possibly by going around with a fishing net and collecting a bunch of babies that got thrown out with the bathwater.

I'm a little bit iffy on the dual path concept where you have to decide which of two characters to save near the beginning and that changes which one's in the resistance later on, as well as which one of two lock-picking minigames you have to do the whole game for some reason. I don't want to have to play basically the same game twice to see the paltry handful of alternate scenes and pathways I missed that ultimately change bugger-all. Fool me once, shame on you, InFamous: Second Son!

But in the end, I'm actually a little surprised by how much I enjoyed Wolfenstein: New Order. In my mind, I put it alongside Resistance 3 and Escape from Butcher Bay (I've started mentally cutting off The Chronicles of Riddick part from that title in the hope of reducing the spread of infection), the upper tier of the meathead shooter that no, it doesn't really do anything new, but puts its pieces together skillfully and balances the weak underlying narrative with a somewhat picaresque approach that paces out its peaks and troughs competently. That's about all I've got really, but just for old time's sake:

With the Wolfenstein series updated,
It's straightforward enough, I can't hate it,
For the goodies I root
And the baddies I shoot
And their corpses I leave desecrated!

AddendaEdit

  • The master race of masturbation: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Admittedly 'Wolfenstein' isn't *exactly* the same title as 'Wolfenstein 3D' but I think the 3 in there just muddles the issue further
  • All I want to know is whether or not MechaHitler is still canon

Extra: Humble eBook Bundle 4Edit

Hey, remember my second book, Jam, about an apocalypse with jam in it? Well, for the next few days, it's part of Humble eBook Bundle 4! Maybe you can get it and all of these and pay whatever you want. Well, at least 10 bucks to get Jam, but it's for charity, you monster!

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata

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