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Wolfenstein Review

Genres: FPS
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Review Date: 14-12-2009
Review Platform: PC
Review Region: AU Available In Australia
Est Playtime: 7+ hrs
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

BJ Blazkowicz is back in this sequel to Return Castle Wolfenstein. General Zetta has taken over the town of Isenstadt and is continuing the Naziís experiments in the occult. With the help of resistance fighters and new abilities BJ is ready once again to halt their supernatural schemes. Note: Thereís no real need to have played the previous game.

wolfenstein020Wolfenstein is a name that has a lot of importance in the gaming world, it popularized First Person Shooters. So itís surprising that itís 2009 iteration has had so little coverage prior to its release. After playing the game I can see why, itís a game that seems like it should have come out two years ago. Its features then would have been innovative, now theyíre well worn.

wolfenstein009Taking place after the events of Return to Castle Wolfenstein this iteration sees BJ diving back into the occult activities of the Nazis. In the opening cutscene, which reminded me of one of the Indiana Jones movies, BJ steals a magical device made by the Thule civilization. It taps into the Black Sun dimension Ė the Veil - at the price of energy/mana and gives players extra abilities which are unlocked and upgraded as the game progresses. The first ability is Veil Sight which increases speed, acts as night vision and allows the players to see the Black Sun dimension. This latter part usually comes in the form of pathways not otherwise visible. It should also be noted that activating the Veil causes a substantial frame rate hit, although I canít see why it should. The second ability is Mire, the third is Shield and the last is Empower. Mire slows down time and is used to cross failing bridges, for example. Shield stops bullets, and when upgraded reflects them. Empower super charges weapons and allows players to shoot through shields and obstacles. Not being able to shoot through wood by default was a touch annoying because I had been playing COD 4 before this. It also felt like it had cheap collision detection which didnít help the situation. All in all I think these extra abilities were put to good use during the game.

wolfenstein012Another new addition to the game is the explorable town of Isenstadt, which acts as a central hub between missions. These missions, which have a lot of variety, are provided by resistance groups within the town and the resistance members offer some commentary on your latest mission. I talked to them most of the time but itís only really worth it on one occasion when a NPC fills in some details about a traitor. The town aspect itself is mostly unnecessary to the game and just diluted that familiar Wolfenstein gameplay. Any Naziís you kill will just come back so I got tired of killing them just to reach the next mission, where I would have to kill yet more Nazis. Although itís not as bad as Farcry 2ís open world, at least here the town changes after every mission. Thatís something worth praising Ė new enemy types, more resistance fighters on the streets, new Nazi objects appearing around town and in the sky create a sense of achievement and progress.

wolfenstein039The Enemy AI is only semi intelligent. They ran into me a few times and I donít know what they were trying to do by rushing forward blindly. Theyíre also great at throwing grenades absurd distances but are less spam happy than COD4 enemies. The weapons on offer, which can all be upgraded in numerous ways and carried at the same time, are: MP40, kar98k rifle, MP43, panzerschreck, flamethrower, particle cannon, tesla gun and the leichenfaust 44. The MP40 and rifle remained my mainstay weapons throughout the game, with the particle cannon as my boss killer. Two complaints I have about the weapons is the rifle lacks kick/impact and using the flamethrower to torch Nazis isnít as satisfying as it should be. This is because the flame effects are stylized and donít blend well with the setting of the game.

wolfenstein034Some other things that need mentioning are that thereís no Hit Points and no medpacks. This uses the Gears of War style health regeneration and blood splatter on the screen. Thatís a pretty significant change for PC gamers and it only gets worse. Auto-aim is on by default. It should have been removed from the PC version and shows you how consolofied the game is. The menus are also like this with an unnecessary number of clicks needed to doing anything thanks to a circular menu and the graphics options are completely lacking. To round out the PC complaints thereís no quick saving, itís check point based.

wolfenstein021Wolfenstein is a game thatís also dated somewhat graphically with the early parts of the game appearing the worst. The character models in particular look blocky and low resolution. Not to mention their animation which looks simplistic along side the games of this year and the Veil Sight which turns things an ugly shade of green. Though itís not all bad, the farm level with its huge Nazi base and stylized trees is one area thatís appealing to look at. Itís incidentally itís also one of the best missions in game. Musically the game has a similar fate to the rest of the game Ė it doesnít excel. Itís has the same style and feeling as previous Wolfenstein games, which is something at least.

Wolfenstein 09 tries to rejuvenate the series and pull it into the current era of gaming, with an open area, increased puzzle solving and some consolofication. However these elements dilute the ingrained Wolfenstein gameplay, which is the reason why anyone plays Wolfenstein games. Theyíre straight shooters, which is something that has its own appeal. The new Wolfenstein is still fun to play but it doesnít stand out in any significant way.