The first-person shooter genre continues to go from strength to strength and Wolfenstein is the license often credited with kicking it all off. Wolfenstein 3D was developed by id Software and released back in 1992 (first FPS I ever owned :-) -Ed). It featured a US grunt named William B. J. Blackowicz as a muscular one-man killing machine wading through scores of Nazi soldiers. The number of digital Nazis who have met their end in FPS games since then is incalculable. The simply titled Wolfenstein is an attempt to reboot the franchise and it meets with mixed success.
Story and Gameplay (4 out of 5)
The game has been built using the impressive id Tech 4 engine (updated Doom 3 engine). It was unusually co-developed by four developers, so is this a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth? Well a fairly solid single player experience is not really matched by a lacklustre multiplayer component, but this is a solid FPS release.
The game is set in the fictional town of Isenstadt and the Second World War is raging all around. The pernicious Himmler and his SS henchmen are set on a plan to use the occult for victory and they are attempting to master a force known as the Black Sun. You lend a hand to the resistance and thwart the Nazi plans. The mission based adventure offers a reasonable variety and eventually you’ll find yourself in another dimension known as The Veil where you’ll access secret locations and pick up some super powers.
Starting out with typical German soldiers you will come to face to face with a variety of foes and as the game wears on they get stranger and more formidable. All of the weapons are available from the start and the game uses an upgrade system. You’ll need to choose carefully on the black market, although the weapon management never becomes a tiresome challenge. You can find out more in our Wolfenstein Weapon Guide. You’ll also use some handy Veil powers which let you slow down time, shield you, deal out more damage and even walk through walls.
There are plenty of things to collect in the warren-like environments. Gold is essential if you want to be able to buy upgrades but there is also Intel to find and Power Tomes to collect. Typically for the series there are plenty of hidden secrets to sniff out. There are also some rip roaring action sequences and challenging boss fights. The gameplay is traditional linear run and gun FPS action and, while it is well made, there is nothing groundbreaking here. The poor AI and the obviously scripted nature of many events detract from the fun and the immersion.
Graphics (3 out of 5)
Visually the game is a mixed bag. It was developed as a multi-format release and the cut scenes which unravel the fantastical plot are not very impressive. The actual environments are quite interesting to explore and the setting has a good gritty feel but it won’t wow you. The prevalence of physics based rubbish can get a little irritating, especially when doors become stuck. The character design and animation is solid, if predictable. The visual effects on the weapons are very good and the strange hue the world takes on whenever you enter The Veil is quite effective.
Sound (4 out of 5)
The sound is well handled and the blend of context sensitive music, gun fire sound effects and voiceover chatter layers up to create a rich audio experience. The music is a nice cue to how tense and battle ready you should be at any given moment. The sound effects are authentic sounding and properly directional and the voiceover chatter is very atmospheric and occasionally quite comical.
Multiplayer (3 out of 5)
The multiplayer mode is a bit disappointing. The old class system of previous installments has been revived so you can play as a Soldier, Medic or Engineer. There are also three modes of play, traditional Deathmatch, Stopwatch and Objective. The Stopwatch and Objective modes are fairly engaging with the teams competing to complete objectives in the fastest times or fighting each other to complete or prevent objectives from being achieved. The world of FPS multiplayer has moved on a lot since the last Wolfenstein game and while this offers uncomplicated action on eight fairly well designed maps there are better titles out there for multiplayer junkies.
In order to run the game you’ll need a decent machine and frame rate drops are not uncommon, especially when you access The Veil. Absolute minimum you’ll want a Pentium 4 3.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 3400+ processor, at least 1 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or a Radeon X800 graphics card, a DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card and at least 8 GB of hard drive space.
Overall (4 out of 5)
Wolfenstein is skilfully put together and it definitely achieves what it sets out to do but then the original aims are so conventional that there is nothing here you haven’t seen before. It is fun to play if you enjoy linear FPS games but it is clear that what was once a genre advancing series is now playing it safe. It is a fun blast of supernatural Nazi action while it lasts but ultimately this is forgettable stuff.