I assume that most of you haven’t been paying attention, so here’s all that you’ll need to know about the Wolfenstein series: You play William “B.J.” Blaskowitz. Yes, that’s his real name. B.J.’s World War II accolades include invading Hitler’s castle, killing his dogs, eating his dogs’ food, stealing countless valuable treasures and artifacts for personal gain, and eventually gunning down the Führer with all of his friends. Oh, and Mr. Blaskowitz also conquered Mecha-Hitler, but that was in self-defense. Colorful. Anyway, B.J.B. is back in an all new, Hitler-less Wolfenstein, and he has thankfully brought some supernatural abilities with him.
You see, the Nazis opened a portal to another world, attempting to harness mystical powers to give them the edge in combat. Of course, our hapless hero B.J. stumbles upon this dig site and disrupts it, gaining control of these phenomenal abilities in the process. As his adventure continues, B.J. discovers ways to walk through walls, slow down time, intensify bullets, and even generate a force field around himself, becoming an almost comic book-like super-hero as he runs around familiar World War II locations.
While I won’t waste valuable internet space (Good, because we’re almost out -ED) describing how a first-person shooter works, it’s worth saying that the weapon mechanics of Wolfenstein are traditional. The game spins tradition by letting players upgrade the machine guns, rifles, flame throwers, and special weapons found. The Nazis have inexplicably left bags of money lying around, and tracking these down affords the player to add extra kick to gunfire or reduce the amount of recoil while shooting. While these don’t make a huge difference, it’s a nice touch that gives the collectibles a sense of worth.
Also unique are the sci-fi weapons found during the journey, which coerced more than a few gleeful squeals out of me while playing. First and foremost is the Particle Cannon, the Wolfenstein version of a Ghostbusters Proton Pack. This delightful firearm emits an untameable beam that obliterates anything it touches, reducing enemies to skeletal frames and piles of ash. Also enjoyable is the Tesla Gun, which scatters electrical currents through any living object in its path, and the Leichenfaust 44, which might as well have been called the BFG-WWII. These weapons liven the combat, which feels mundane to a fault without the special powers or guns.
The enemies range from regular soldiers to powerful mages and invisible Nazi-ninjas. As exciting that sounds, most of them have powers that negate acquired abilities, making the player feel less special most of the time. There are also a number of large-scale boss fights against beings from another dimension, but they aren’t clever or fun, and won’t take up much time. The quality and ingenuity of the level design is wildly erratic, with traditional European villages and war-torn countryside interspersed with Raiders of the Lost Ark-like crypts and caves. The weirder ones are more successful, as the towns and warehouses don’t stand out.
The game also includes a hub world – the fictional town of Isenstadt – that players are dumped in after every mission. Here, players can talk to other freedom fighters, battle random foes, upgrade weapons, and attain new objectives by wandering around. Unfortunately, this all feels like a complete waste of time, as the town doesn’t change much throughout the course of the game. The fights here are inconsequential and pointless, and each mission requires traversal of the same spots with little deviation. The idea wasn’t terrible, but the hub world’s implementation is padding, something to which Wolfenstein’s seven hour run time would attest.
Of course, a solid multiplayer mode would make the single player brevity inconsequential. The series’ previous entry, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, became a hallmark thanks to its mind-numbingly awesome class-based multiplayer mode. Wolfenstein attempts to fly by with similar features, but the action isn’t nearly as smooth, the maps that are too big for the game’s puny 12 player limit, the modes and weapons are completely unoriginal, and horribly-unbalanced Modern Warfare-style perks system leaves veteran players with a significant advantage over rookies. Some enjoyment can be found online, but almost nothing new is attempted here to make overcome the flaws.
Wolfenstein isn’t a terrible game, just one that lacks a unique vision. Series fans that really like World War II shooters will enjoy it, but a handful of awesome weapons and abilities isn’t enough to recommend a purchase. Give it a rent, if only as an excuse to spout Ghostbusters lines while liquefying Nazis with the Particle Cannon. "This chick is TOAST!"