September 23, 2009

Wolfenstein 3D is the grand daddy of all first person shooters. When it was released in 1992, the game became the first real success for id Software. Over fifteen years later, developer Raven Software hopes to reinvent the classic shooter once again with Wolfenstein. This follows the same basic ideas of the original game, but despite some promise, it’s clear that the genre has evolved since then. 

On a technical level, Wolfenstein is merely average. The game has some visually impressive moments, but it’s hard to be amazed by anything in this game compared to some of the other shooters we have seen this year. The voice acting is pretty bad as well, but that isn’t helped by the game’s practically nonexistent and very generic story. Not to say the developers set out to tell an epic tale, but it’s something worth noting. There was a lot that could have been done with Wolfenstein to make it stand out among the rest, technically speaking.

The basic controls are pretty solid all around, and if you have played a shooter before, you know exactly what to expect. The main positive of the game concerns the actual shooting mechanics. They are excellent, and all of the guns work exactly how you would expect them too. Killing waves upon waves of enemies can be very satisfying, and it seems Raven has nailed down the most important gameplay aspect perfectly. It leads to plenty of fun moments early on in the game, although even that begins to wear thin after a while.

The majority of the weapons are some we’ve seen in plenty of other shooters before, so there are no surprises there. However, there are a couple of pretty amazing weapons you can find throughout the game, such as the particle cannon (which pretty much dissolves enemies upon getting right), that lead to a lot of interesting gameplay moments. Traditional weaponry is well and good, but nothing beats these very satisfying and excellently designed new additions. 

You also have special powers, all of which seem to be incredibly useless and only really necessary for solving puzzles or getting through secret areas in the game. Your basic power is to enter the “Veil,” which reveals secrets in the game’s environments and makes you slightly stronger and faster. But it’s relatively pointless and does not  make any of the more frustrating sections any less so. And the worst part is it covers everything in this very ugly green overlay that seems unnecessary and actually makes the bland environments look even worse. 

You are also presented with a “free roaming” section of the game that allows you to explore some very lifeless sections of a German town while fighting through constantly respawning enemies. You can go to a black market to upgrade your weapons, but the majority of which seem relatively pointless once you begin to get the even more powerful weapons later on. And yes, Nazi soldiers will continue to try and take you out all while you wander around this town in search for the point to start your next mission.

There are a couple of sidequests you can take on, but they are short and the rewards are petty. And there are also collectibles, such as pieces of gold and intelligence scattered throughout this overworld (and in the different missions of the game), but they only give you more money for those useless upgrades. This entire section of the game seems to be added only to artificially lengthen the time it takes to finish it. It is during these sections you realize that Wolfenstein is an incredibly generic shooter, despite the fact that the basics mechanics and gunplay work well. 

There is multiplayer as well, but it feels just like it was added in at the last minute. The three game modes are limited and get boring very quickly and the basic elements of the multiplayer feel like they could have been expanded upon further. It just plays like every other shooter with multiplayer, which should not be the case seeing as the series has been known for having some excellent online. Despite all of the interesting and original ideas brought to life in the campaign, they seem pretty wasted here in multiplayer. 

Overall, Wolfenstein does not live up to its ancestor, the shooter that started it all. It has nothing really going for it, and besides some solid mechanics, this plays like a budget priced shooter with very limited replayability. It has some original elements, but they only add to the list of problems in the game instead of increase the fun value. Considering the fact that both Raven and id have made some excellent games in the past, this is a disappointment on all fronts, and only the most hardcore shooter fans should consider playing this. 

Pros: Shooting mechanics are solid; controls feel very responsive; some amazing and original weapons

Cons: The open city is very pointless and lifeless; bland story and characters; using The Veil gives the environment an awful look; lame special abilities; inconsistent difficulty; tacked on multiplayer does not live up to its potential

ESRB: M for extreme violence, nazis and zombies abound

Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.