Saturday, 4 August 2018

Gaming's Best Levels #7: Moon Base One - Wolfenstein: The New Order

A journey through some of video gaming's greatest levels. Or, the ones we like at least.

By Sam Graham

Iron’s been away doing bigger and better things this week, so I’ve tagged myself in for this review.  To paraphrase another timeless duo: I feel the need... The need, to dole out my opinion on a public platform and make myself feel important.

Everyone and their mums (and more likely, grandparents) know who the Nazis are. In a way they’re a bit like the 1980’s: Divisive at the time, then as soon as it was over, the world decided it was uncool, but now, thanks to a generation that never experienced it the first time around, their popularity is gaining again. They’ve become nostalgically profitable. See, like the 80’s.

A brief history: Wolfenstein is hailed at the first ever FPS and while actually the 3rd game in the franchise, it spawned a litany of sequels, one subpar reboot, then another one in the form of this: Wolfenstein: The New Order.  In TNO, Jerry actually won the Second World War and plunged the world into shades of military-industrial gray, thought control through oppression, and suave black leather uniforms.

You play as B.J (no jokes now) Blazkowicz, US soldier extraordinaire. The kind of bruised action hero who crunches Nazi skulls in one scene, then slams his lithe resistance girlfriend senseless over a box of ammo in the next. He’s so hard, even the voice in his head talks with a clenched jaw. Blazkowicz, who after being a vegetable for over a decade and somehow losing none of his muscle mass, or cognitive processes, comes to with the SS right up in his grill, so does what he does best. It’s the 60’s, here’s a gun, go kill some Nazis. Simple.

The downright best part of TNO though comes when the games decides to take its premise to full B-Movie territory. BJ hops on a rocket and flies to a Nazi base on the Lunar surface. That’s right. Nazis In Spaaaaaaace. You can practically see the billboard poster for it now.

You hop off the shuttle into clinical white corridors patrolled by guards in armoured space suits, then as soon as it hits the fan, you whop out your new laser rifle that used to be the fairly useless sniper rifle, and start blasting. After killing a nearby Space-Jerry, take his gun, then dual-wield laser rifles. What could be more fun? The whole premise is as ridiculous as it sounds and is, thankfully, played tongue-in-cheek. I spent the whole time trying not to laugh at just how mental it is.

There’s even a section where you get to walk on the Lunar surface in a space suit. Now, the last time I did this in a game was in Alien: Isolation (Best Gaming Level review coming soon) and that ended with frustration and cosmic terror, so thankfully this one was the complete opposite. I spent a good half hour taking running jumps off small hills and floating around in low gravity, occasionally falling into a ravine and dying (there goes my NASA career dreams).

The thing that marks this level as the best it that up until this point, TNO was played reasonably straight. There was no mention of any space Nazi action until the previous level, the cutscenes and the characters’ interactions made the resistance struggle seem quite serious. The Nazi are an oppressive force, choking independent thought, individuality and creativity out of society. Blasko’s internal monologue is poignant; he dreams of a better world and is prepared to do his part in creating it, but is acutely aware he will not survive to see it. Apart from the attack dogs with gnashing metal jaws, the game was a reasonably serious affair. Then you go to space... Still, in for a Pfennig, in for a Deutsche Mark.

My only disappointments with this level is that it’s quite short. You can blast through it in under an hour while the majority of the other levels are fairly big. It is extended by the fact that it’s quite late in the game though, so it’s reasonably hard. The other disappointment is that the Lunar Surface section is a quick A to B. There are 3 drones to destroy, but I was hoping for some intense combat. I wanted to lob a grenade and watch the explosion send Nazis flying off into orbit, but sadly it was not to be. This is still the best part of Wolfenstein: The New Order though, because of the sheer ballsiness and absurdity of it.

Space Nazis. Why not? I bet they wanted to call it the Space Force too.

Enjoyed this piece? Then 'like' The Crusades of A Critic on Facebook. Sam also has a Tech Noir novel, 'An Inside Joke', which can currently be viewed herehis first novella 'Iron Country' is available to buy herea horror short story, 'We Must Never Found Out', published here; and finally, another short horror story 'Eagal' available to buy here. Phew.