STAFF REVIEW of Wolfenstein (Xbox 360)

Sunday, September 13, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Wolfenstein Box art It?s widely acknowledged that Wolfenstein 3D was the title that really gave birth to the first person shooter genre, almost 2 decades ago. Ever since the series has gained more and more fans and had a bigger following, each title has had more pressure on it to succeed as well; if not more, than the previous title.

With almost 10 years since the previous Return to Castle Wolfenstein released on Xbox, we now have its successor simply titled; Wolfenstein. Activision must be banking on the name alone though, as there has been very little to no advertising at all for the game before launch. Surely fans of the series will pick it up, but it?s hard to say if there is enough here to sell to potential new fans.

Once again you are William ?B.J.? Blazkowicz; the man who?s defeated many Nazi plots in previous Wolfenstein games. B.J. tends to be the only man who can stop the Reich and is sent as a spy to find out what?s going on. It?s 1943 in the heart of the war and you are sent on a mission to find evidence of a new power that the Nazi?s have discovered.

As you push further and further behind enemy lines in the town of Isenstadt, you learn that Hitler?s Third Reich hasn?t just built a new super weapon, but instead are harnessing the power of a different dimension all together to create something even more powerful that will end the war in favor of Himmler?s SS.

While the story does have an interesting concept, it really took until half way through before it started to pick up and I really wasn?t caring at all what happened until that point. Unfortunately, I don?t think many people will give it the few hours it takes for it to get interesting, especially if it is a rental. It can also be completed in a few hours, so the longevity isn?t truly there either.

While most first person shooters are fairly linear and have you going from point A to point B, Wolfenstein tries to change this by making a central hub area that you can freely go to shops or to your next mission. The city hub makes it feel not so linear, but it?s really just a trick to make to make it feel that way, as you still have to pass through it every time you finish and start a mission. Also having enemies respawn every time you pass through is quite annoying added on top of the multitude of backtracking you will do in missions.

Fortunately you will never get lost due to your compass as it will always point you in the correct direction. It points you exactly where you need to go, not just the ending point; meaning if you need to enter a door or take a hallway, it will constantly update as you traverse throughout the level. While it was nice to not ever be lost, it negated the need to ever look at your map and if you needed to get to an area that is a dead end, you know that you need to use one of your Veil Powers to continue on. It simply made it almost too easy, as you never had to explore unless you are looking around for the extras like gold and Intel for unlockables and achievements.

As you start the game you are only given a simple MP40, but as you kill more and more Nazi?s and take their weapons you?ll eventually have an MP43, Kar98 sniper, Flamethrower, and a Panzerschrek rocket launcher.

As you learn more about what the SS are really planning and fight the tougher ?interesting? enemies, you will gain their weaponry as well which includes a Telsa Cannon that shoots electric bolts and a Particle Cannon that shoots a stream of pure energy that will disintegrate any enemy it touches.

Oddly though there is a lack of shotgun for some reason, but it?s quickly forgotten once you start to upgrade your weapons. As you finish missions and find gold during, you can purchase upgrades to any of your weapons, but be warned; you can?t afford every upgrade, so choose wisely what you want from your most used weapons. Adding an extra ammo clip, silencer, or recoil dampener is completely up to you and your play style.

The different weapons will also affect enemies differently when shot. Sometimes you?ll literally shoot their face off or even nick their neck so blood spurts out profusely. It seems very random though as sometimes you?ll get the one shot kill and other times you?ll load a clip into someone before they drop.

As you progress through the game you gain new abilities in a medallion that you have; called Veil Powers. Some are more useful than others, but each can be upgraded to add extra unique abilities and sometimes are the only way to progress further or kill a certain enemy.

Down on the Dpdad toggles Veil Sight which allows you to see into the Veil; like another dimension of sorts. When in the veil you will see Geists, energy pools that refill your veil meter and secrets such as walls and passageways you could not see with your own eyes. When the skill is upgraded, upgraded you can also see enemies through walls which is quite helpful. You run faster with this toggled on too making crossing large areas a little easier and quicker.

Pressing Right on the Dpad toggles Mire which is essentially slowing time around BJ. This allows BJ to get past obstacles that need to be done very quickly, or to get a tactical advantage on an ambush. If you upgrade this skill you get a small radius around you that will kill anyone that comes near.

Veil Shield is used with Up on the Dpad and is simply what it sounds like; a shield that will block bullets. When upgraded it will actually bounce bullets back and if you upgraded it fully, it?ll actually give you a shield around BJ that will disintegrate anyone that comes in contact with you.

The final power you unlock is Empower and it is essentially a buff that gives your bullets more damage capability and can penetrate Veil Shields on enemies. If you upgrade this skill you can shoot through stone and wood as well.

Wolfenstein does have an online component to it, and I was hoping at bare minimum; a copy of Return to Castle Wolfenstein?s online, as that gameplay is what sold me on Xbox Live back in the day. Unfortunately this is not the case and multiplayer is a very basic and generic affair that doesn?t have anything special to it.

You pick your side of Axis or Allies, then one of three classes; Engineer who can drop ammo packs as their special ability, Soldier who has satchel charges and can use the bigger weapons such as the Panzer and Flamethrower, and the Medic who can drop health packs.

The higher tier weapons from single player are completely missing though, such as the Telsa and Particle cannons. You are able to spend your gold that you earn online to upgrade your weapon of choice though which makes an interesting dynamic should you be able to swallow the online experience long enough to get this far.

The only Veil Power that is usable online is Sight which makes it easier to find enemies and you run faster. There is really no reason to not use it, as there are many energy pools scattered through the levels to keep your energy bar always full.

There are only three different modes to play as well; Team Death Match which is the standard, Objective which is the normal attack and defend, and Stopwatch which has you doing multiple objectives as fast as possible.

I was incredibly disappointed with the online, as I was looking forward to many hours of online fragging more so than the single player portion. It?s simply primitive in its offering and isn?t nearly as deep as it was in the previous game that was known for its excellent online portion.

Sadly I was expecting more of a Return to Castle Wolfenstein part 2, but this is not it in any way (other than the plot). I would have been happy if they basically copy and pasted the multiplayer from the previous game, but again, it?s buggy and laggy and there are major balance issues.

There are many more issues such as horrendous AI that doesn?t even move out of the way of grenades when they shout ?grenade!? and see them land at their feet. This coupled with framerate issues when jumping back and forth between the Veil makes it very inconsistent. Luckily I haven?t run into the corrupt save data glitches that many other gamers are dealing with though.

With it being almost a decade since the last Wolfenstein game, I was truly expecting much more from iD software and Activision on one of my favorite series. If you are an absolutely huge Wolfenstein fan and want to see what happens to B.J. in the next chapter of his story, then I would recommend it, but there is little to no replay value and with an incredibly simplistic online, I would still have a hard time recommending this to anyone regardless of brand loyalty.

Overall: 7.1 / 10
Gameplay: 6.8 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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