With such a wonderful pedigree behind it and being based on one of the darkest moments in human history with a supernatural twist, Wolfenstein is the original Nazi killing sim. Saying that WWII is overdone and that killing Germans is something best left to pre 2007 games is probably in many cases true, a Wolfenstein without these two things would be like ButtonMasher without the reviews, news, podcast, and over bearing colour scheme, all you are left with are some crappy moving pictures.
Story wise it was prudent of the developer to take us outside the castle for most of the game and they have given us a city to walk around in a sort of half open world feel I appreciate the effort but I am not completely convinced I wouldn’t have enjoyed a simple linear path. I never felt the need to explore and the back tracking did annoy me a little. The story is satisfactory but no real character development takes place and I never felt any attachment to any character in the game, the lead also seemed completely void of any real depth of emotion, Blazkowicz is reminiscent of his original more pixelated representation but the transition hasn’t been kind, an angular face with a scowl similar to Max Payne.
The single best feature that Wolfenstein can boast is that the guns and aiming mechanics are solid, too many games these day make shooting painful. The speed of the game during the first mission or two is not indicative of the entire game, once weapon upgrades start rolling in there are some good frantic action pieces. Your killing abilities start ramping up alongside the faster pace as you get new weapons and abilities from your cosmic gem studded disc. Head shots are easy enough to pull off, but I found a new love in neck shots, gurgling noises and grasping at the neck make life far more satisfying than a simple slump on the floor.
For a game based on dark arts, evil regimes, and killing the theme is appropriately mature. Some of the enemy character designs were grotesque and sinister while others were delightfully trim and leather clad. These trim fast moving female officers disappointed me when their swift charge towards me resulted in a clawing attack, it was not my body they wanted, it was my blood. Another interesting moment was raiding a Nazi base and seeing a lingerie clad dead woman lying in the middle of a pentagram drawn on the floor.
As I mentioned above the special abilities are available via some kind of ancient talisman, you gain four powers during the game, the ability to see through the veil, slow time, shield yourself, and empower your weapons for more bang. They are selected via the D-Pad and the use of them chews up your reserve of veil power, there are sources of this power scattered around the game in the form of vents and canisters. I found that in crazy moments the changing between powers was a little clumsy and rushed. The initial learning curve once all powers are unlocked isn’t too steep, but in the situations where you really need them it can be a bit of a pain reaching to the d-pad to change what you are using.
With all the shooters out there, and all the games with gimmicks and convoluted themes the main problem is not that they try and diferentiate themselves with alternate realities or silly gameplay mechanics, it is that it simply isn’t fun to play, the flow of the game gets broken and the basics are overlooked. Wolfenstein gets past this problem by having solid responsive controls and action based level design that works quiet well. It’s not revolutionary like Wolfenstein-3D was but it does hold its own for a single player experience.