Monday, April 18, 2022

Wolfenstein (2009) (PC) Review

I finished this game on Thursday, September 3, 2009, 3:02:00 AM. This review was first published on GameSpot on October 1, 2009.

When Wolfenstein was first announced back in 2005, I had very high hopes. I could not wait to play it. Return to Castle Wolfenstein remains one of my favorite games. Having played Soldier of Fortune and enjoying it immensely, I was happy to know Raven would be in charge of the development. After playing Quake 4, I was confident it would be fantastic.

Four years later, I am not sure if am entirely happy with the game.

B.J Blazkowicz returns as the protagonist to fight against the Nazis. The game begins with Blazkowicz on a Nazi warship getting ready to launch missiles on London. He battles the Nazi soldiers on the ship and makes a last minute getaway with the help of a medallion with mystical powers. He discovers that the medallion contains crystals which are found in in Isenstadt, and that the leader of the excavation is a Nazi general named General Zetta. Blazkowicz goes to Isenstadt to uncover the secret, and meets with the agents of rebel forces from the Kreisau Cricle and the an occult group called the Golden Dawn in order to end the control of Nazi's over Isenstadt. There is plenty of action throughout, with lots of weapons. Flamethrower and Leichenfaust44 deserve a mention here. Leichenfaust44 is Wolfenstein's version of BFG - its fantastic.

Almost the entire game is set in the city of Isenstadt. The game is somewhat linear, you need to travel through the city to various locations to access missions. The city is well created but there are some nagging flaws in the execution. The game tries to be an open world game, but it doesn't quite live up to that and it feels contrived. For example, when you backtrack to a location within the city, everything is respawned including enemies and fuel barrels! That just feels really wrong especially when you shot the very fuel barrel less than 10 minutes ago. It immediately has an effect on immersion, and feels like a cheap trick to create an illusion of an open world. The changes are not persistent. After a battle in an area, should you leave it and return, there will be absolutely no sign of anything, and enemies will be back in their place, going about their patrol. No lessons learned from STALKER, because its Diablo 2 style monster respawn - seeing this in a first person shooter and Wolfenstein at that, just didn't feel right.

Highlight of the game are the veil powers that the medallion lets you have; a slightly different version of Nano suit from Crysis. Once accessed, the veil takes over and everything turns green - basically lets the player into an alternate universe. This allows the player to spot enemies easily, move faster, access hidden location, increase damage, and acquire shield which can deflect enemy bullets. I thought the visual effects in the veil were very well done. Taking down enemies with these powers is a lot of fun.

There is a certain RPG element in the game as well - you get to upgrade veil power and existing weapons. This can be done by completing missions and earning cash rewards and then going to the nearest Black Market and spending them on veil power and/or weapons.

Soundtrack is really good, and audio, as in weapon sounds and sound effects, is quite impressive. The voice acting - not so much. The fake German accent is cringe-worthy.

The game is built on Doom 3 engine. Its not spectacular, but I had no issues with the visuals at all. My biggest complaint with the game is the gameplay - it just does not feel like an id game. Let me give you an example.

You are in a big room, with all doors locked and enemies are attacking you, you manage to defeat the enemies and the door automatically opens for no particular reason. I understand the reason this has to be so, but here is where it failed badly. One of the enemies was half dead - the enemy wouldn't move and I naturally assumed it to be dead, yet the door wouldn't open because all the enemies are not completely dead. I spent about 20 minutes trying all possible ways to get out of the room, when i suddenly realized, all corpses vanished except for the one in the corner, so I shot at it, and pop! The door opens.

You kill the final two bosses multiple times - four and three respectively. I thought those boss battles were boring, and given the fact that there is no quick save in the PC version (!), it was frustrating as well. Half-Life 2 managed to deliver fantastic endings just fine without any lame design to prolong gameplay, in fact prolonging the gameplay was never an issue. That clearly is the concern here, for I see no reason for some very stupid design decisions - the door opening for example. Scripted gameplay is fine if its done right, but in this case, the developers employed some very archaic methods at linear gameplay. If in a Mario game, you had a room full of enemies, and you have to defeat all of them for the door to open, it probably makes sense, but in a 'serious' first person shooter, an innocuous door staying locked for no reason while enemies are alive...just doesn't cut it. This could have been done a lot better if some thought went into it.

To me, Wolfenstein is a disappointment. I feel sorry for fans of the series who paid full price for this, expecting a game in the same league as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which this clearly isn't. I don't hate consoles, but its a shame when a PC game is built with console gamers in mind, and given that fact that this series is a PC classic just makes it worse.

Is this a bad game? Technically, its not. Is this something worthy of id software/Raven? No. Not from the people who made Doom 3 and Quake 4.

+ Veil powers
+ Excellent soundtrack
+ Lots of action
+ Weapons
+ Sound effects
+ idTech 4 engine still looks good
+ Lengthy single player campaign, about 12 hours on hard

- Bad gameplay design
- Does not have the atmosphere of Return to Castle Wolfenstein
- Very bad voice acting
- Everybody calls him BJ...
- Fake German accent
- Feels like a console game
- Traveling through Isenstadt completely breaks the momentum
- Lack of quick save

Verdict - Buy for it for about $20 or less

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