I have an odd adoration for low budget, arguably sub-par shooters the likes of Legendary or Singularity. A large part of the AAA industry revolves around shooters with trends straying far away from much of the elements that defined the genre in the past, remnants of which often survive in budget shooters. Wolfenstein: The New Order does something incredible; it manages to find a space between these two worlds, bringing the long lost soul of the arcade shooter back into the spectacle of the modern day shooter. What’s more surprising though is just how incredibly well executed this balancing act is, and how Wolfenstein manages to out-perform its competitors in such a vast array of ways.
The gameplay in Wolfenstein is a return to the health packs, armour pick-ups and preposterous weapon wheels that its ancestors pioneered in the days of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. As opposed to swapping weapons, and only ever holding a limited number at one time, Wolfenstein allows you to carry every weapon simultaneously, occasionally taking some away in the name of better pacing. This plays greatly into the fantastic sense of agency the player is given over combat situations throughout the game’s 16-chapter campaign, with the ability to play through many segments using entirely different tactics creating vastly different outcomes.
This includes the option to handle much of the game through stealth, sneaking past larger enemies and silently eliminating others with silenced guns, melee takedowns or throwing daggers. Entirely opposed to this, is the far more bombastic ability to dual wield nearly every weapon in the game, from knives to automatic shotguns and sniper rifles. It’s this seemingly reckless disregard for arbitrarily logical decisions most shooters make that causes Wolfenstein to feel so refreshing. The developers have not been afraid to offer drastically different, and some may even feel mismatched, elements to the game. However these two distinct play-styles never feel at odds with one another, largely due to the ease with which you can retaliate should you be caught off-guard.
There is a wide variety of weapons you will get the chance to use throughout Wolfenstein: The New Order, including multiple alterations of the same weapons, as well as upgrades you will find as you progress that provide additional functions and fire modes to each weapon. There is also a perk system that will give the player new abilities relating to actions performed during gameplay, such as the ability to throw knives after performing a number of stealth take-downs, the ability to hold more ammo for specific weapons or reload faster. As these perks are unlocked simply by the use of certain skills, this makes the gameplay evolve slightly to suit the way you rely on most.
Level design is often fairly open, though it can be very easy to miss some of the branching paths on the first play-through. All of these paths inevitably lead to the same destination, but the option to stray in search of more weapons, gold or vantage points gives a pleasant sense of exploration to what is otherwise a very linear experience. On a similar note, enemies come with enough variety to keep players on their toes, with the various soldiers and robots easily overpowering the player if they do not stay aware of their surroundings and concentrate on priority targets. The giant grenade-spewing mech may seem to take priority at first, but this often leaves you open to surprise attacks from shotgun wielding Nazis that often take advantage of the more open level design to sneak up behind unaware players.