Friday, 6 November 2009

Wolfenstein (2009) Review

Well surprise, bloody surprise my copy of Duke Nukem 3D which has been reliable for the ten years in my possession has broken midway through a reply/ So while scouring the depths of the internet for a new copy, that is reasonably priced might I add, I've decide to review a game I've found disdainful recently; the new Wolfenstein. But for me the experience wasn't difficult as it was a simple transition from a game about an oppressive blonde superman who enjoys killing things that are different to one featuring an entire nation of them.

Developed by several companies – Raven Software, id Software, Pi Studios and Endrant Studios you would have suspected the end result would be close to perfection especially with all the man power from prominent developers. But it was published by Activision who as we know refuse to put their name to a game unless it is a bag of steaming piss. The game was released in Europe on the 21st of August on the major formats – Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, and uses a heavily modified version of the id Tech 4 engine which powered the once remarkable Doom3 and Quake 4. Interesting this will be one of the last games to utilise the engine which makes me feel sort of guilty for shit raking, but not enough to actually be nice.

The game is as you would imagine a FPS (First Person Shooter) and I’m sure in this day and age I don’t have to explain the term, but if you genuinely don’t know it is basically a ghetto version of a point and click game. The genre was popularised in the early nineties due to my all time favourite video game Wolfenstein 3D, which along with Half Life and Doom is one of the few games that I’ve given consistently high marks to; because how can I downgrade a game when the main antagonist is a power armoured Hitler. With this in mind I eagerly awaited the arrival of the comely Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001. But it was revealed to be heinous and yet had managed to dupe everyone else into thinking it was a decent game. It felt like my father had been murdered right in front of me by my supposed best friend. Eight long hate filled years later I discovered Wolfenstein - the current addition in the series, and ignoring my cynicism I borrowed it off an acquaintance only to be punched in the pancreas for being so fucking stupid.

My angry stance spouts from the fact it has attempted to assimilate itself into the same mould as Halo and Half Life, i.e. a scripted shooter and is worse off for it because now it’s slower than the offspring of the degenerative swamp mutant and the hillbilly family dunce. Remember in 3D were you went round a town looking for work like some fucking migrant worker? Or when you stopped fight for a nice chinwag with the locals? Of course not because developers weren’t that idiotic back then. Imagine if you will, half way through Halo you were forced to work at McDonalds…mind you it would be less drudgerous. The developers wanted to follow the same pseudo horror tone as Return, rather than the anarchist Rambo fest of all Id’s games before they contacted a terminal case of stupidity. The thing is you can’t expect to create tension when the protagonist is the FPS equivalent of Ray Mears. And besides the only game capable of traumatising me would be Duke Nukem Forever if only for it actually being released.

Personally I feel Wolfenstein has been gallivanting with that dick Far Cry 2. They’re both FPS games set in warzones where you are ‘free’ to obtain objectives from the local factions who are distributing orders like they’re sodding herpes. Though at least in Wolfenstein travelling from A to B feels more like moving from the A to B sections in a music store as opposed to the travelling over the M6 on a bicycle with flats feel that Far Cry emulates. Both have utterly contrived weapon upgrading systems for the gamers who have an unreasonable gun fetish. Modifying the stats and capabilities probably won’t make an Earth shattering amount of difference since the majority of available weapons are authentically WW2 i.e. about as useful as arming a budgerigar with a Kalashnikov. The conventional firearms are rendered mute once you get weapons such as the Tesla cannon and particle beam because they will disintegrate the inglorious basterds, and anyone using a MP40 or a Karabiner 98k instead of one of these beauties through choice and preference should obviously be wearing a straight jacked. Finally lest we forget the gameplay for both consists entirely of murder and mindless destruction, so just an average night in Manchester in other words.

I said previously that you are free to collect objectives from the two factions; this is only partly true as the open world is more of an illusion. Sure you can explore to some degree and search secrets but other than that you game pretty much requires you to go where it wants. Think of it like this it is an open world in the same sense that 3D actually was 3D. And I don’t see why they even bothered to emulate an open world because players would have hardly sat there and gone “oooo a sandbox FPS how refreshingly original!” The game allows you to search for gold and tomes of power – to upgrade your equipment and veil powers respectively. You can also search for intelligence though I doubt you’ll find any in this game – sorry that had to be said. Intelligence actually provides some background for the story as well as unlocking the upgrades for the weapons.

Naturally the game’s story is supernatural but unlike 3D seems to take it seriously. Excuse me guys but we all know that despite dabbling in the occult the most abnormal element in the Nazi party was Hitler’s moustache. Unfortunately the game has left me wishing the Nazis had unleashed demonic hoards to eradicate western civilisation so that I wouldn't have had to play this dross. The game seems to have gone all Hollywood with nice fancy cut scenes and scripted events to get the story across – whilst the most sophisticated 3D ever got was the deathcam and that was perfectly fine. Though the recession must have obviously hit developers hard as they use cutscenes sparingly and opt instead to pad the story out using telegraph messages or via the aforementioned intelligence that's scattered throughout the game.

You reprise the role of B.J Blazkowicz the type of man who makes you wonder why nations need entire armies, who is sent to Isenstadt in Germany to investigate a mysterious energy source called Black Sun and prevent these rascally Nazis from utilizing it. B.J finds a mystical amulet called the Thule Medallion which allows him to exploit the black sun energy giving him arbitrary powers such as shield penetration, a protective shield and obviously bullet time making an appearance to abide by that unwritten law. Veil sight is the only one that serves a real purpose as it allows you to see beyond the veil of the material world to show which objects don’t actually exist meaning you can walk through a wall that had previously appeared solid. It also displays enemies’ vulnerabilities however we shall take a leaf out of the Germen’s book and not mention it. You can upgrade your powers on the black market but why exactly would you want to in a FPS? Unfortunately the game insists you use the force and has handily covered the environments in black sun recharge points – for a clear picture of just how many try to imagine pre-ripper Whitechapel and substitute prostitutes for recharge points.

"By God I'll make this neighbourhood respectable again..."

Veil sight isn’t just another visual display, when you actually use it you are transported to the Veil dimension; a barrier between our dimension and the "Black Sun" dimension. It is when you are in this veil that you get the benefits from veil sight, but you’ll also encounter beings known as Geist which are the single most annoying things in the entire game. They simply float dozily around being as docile as the average shopper during the January sales, and for the most part they will ignore you unless you ‘accidently’ annihilate one of their number or if they decide to live up to the German stereotype of being miserable dicks.

Wolfenstein manages some things competently – such as the graphics which quite frankly look like the whore’s drawers, which in case you were wondering is a good thing. You will be dragged through a variety of clich├ęd war time environments but take the time to stop and appreciate the surroundings if it is possible to go ten seconds without killing; though excluding the sewer level if only because that has now been used more times than any actual sewerage system on the planet. The characters are visually adequate (which is more than you can say for their personas), and the guns are well designed which will appeal to the gun nuts. The other thing the game does exceedingly well is the combat which should go without saying – there is no point in having a literary professor who is iliterate. It is very much like the classic Medal of Honour games in that respect, just with the intensity ramped up to 11. Objects that can be used as cover degrade during combat, grenades create debris and the gore has been ramped up past Saw levels, giving a sense of war is hell or in this case at least entertaining.

Unfortunately we won’t be ending on a positive note as I still need to discuss the multiplayer mode which they tacked on presumably to disguise the fact the single player campaign is shorter than 3D – I’m be flippant here but most modern games are over before you can plonk your fat arse on a chair. Why should the inclusion of multiplayer always make up for the short comings of the campaign? Not that this measly offering could appease even the most humble of multiplayer gods. I didn’t like the Return mod Enemy Territory so having less modes, player slots and forgetting to invite the party animal Mr Fun isn’t going to quite cut the metaphorical mustard. Plus there are only three classes which is a disgrace considering two of those are medic and engineer. The saying more is less isn’t a recommendation it is an oxymoron.

All in all Wolfenstein isn’t a bad game much rather it’s run of the mill. The only reason it would stand out is because of the lineage of the series, and the fact it is one of few WW2 shooters with a unique premise although that think tank is steadily stagnating. Competent, entertaining but you’ll forget about it as soon as you’re done. In lieu of a recommendation for the reader I will conclude by referring it to a concentration camp; so that it can concentrate on how to be a better game you judgemental people.