Eight long years ago, a video game was created that lent major force to shaping the genre it belonged to. This game was Return to Castle Wolfenstein, an iconic first person shooter. Last month, the long awaited sequel was released, known simply as Wolfenstein. It is a much more modern beast compared to its almost decade old brethren.
The new 2009 Wolfenstein game follows the adventures of secret agent “BJ” Blazkowicz, hot off the heels of his 2001 game and given a new assignment by the Allied powers. The Nazis are back to their evil ways and it is up to BJ, and by extension the player, to stop them.
The Wolfenstein series has always separated itself from other WWII shooters by including heaping amounts of the occult and super science into the storyline and gameplay, and this new game is no different. The player can expect to encounter a variety of supernatural foes, from Nazi mages to soldiers in powered armor, and even creatures from beyond our dimension. However, unlike the last game, in this installment, BJ is given access to a mystical Thule medallion, which grants him several powers, which include the first person shooter standard bullet time and an extra damage ability.
Mechanically, the game plays well. Bullets are about as accurate as you expect them to be, Nazis tend to go down from three or four well placed shots, and the player enjoys regenerating health, negating the need for any type of healing item in the game. The game is not easy, however, even on the normal setting, as Nazis can easily swarm around and shoot to death an unwary player.
As for what the game does to separate itself from the pack, however, doesn’t amount to much. Granted, the “supernatural forces in WWII” does give the game some novelty, but aside from the setting, the game does not bring much of anything new to the table. The powers are mostly what you’d see in other games, fighting your everyday Nazi feels like the gameplay was taken out of the Call of Duty series, and even the supernatural and paranormal foes feel reused from another game series, specifically F.E.A.R..
About the only thing the game does differently from its shooter brethren is the inclusion of a hub level. In the game, you travel through a German town on foot to get to your missions, often encountering random acts of Nazi aggression along the way. At first, it feels fresh and new, and learning the shortcuts through the cobblestone streets is fun. But after your fifth trip through the town, the foes you encounter become a waste of bullets, and running from the street battles becomes a much more viable strategy.
This is not to say that Wolfenstein is not a fun game. It is. It pulls off its mood well, and is quite pretty to look at. It just doesn’t contain much you haven’t seen before.