Friday, August 28, 2009

Wolfenstein – Xbox 360 Review


Genre – First Person Shooter
Platforms – Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC
Players – Single Player Campaign, Online Multiplayer
Score: 6/10

The time has once again come to step into that chiseled American chin, whip on those bulging capitalist biceps and fight off the seething evil of the Nazi Regime. You are B.J. (snigger) Blazkowicz, a dashing young American special agent oozing confidence and charm. But can your steely gaze of democracy be any match for the pale, baggy eyes of Himmler and his dreaded SS Officers? (all of whom are curiously fluent in the English language). Only bullets will tell.

Yes, it’s 1943 again and the Second World War is at its peak. The Nazi war machine has moved into mainland Europe and has established their foothold. The conflict of Wolfenstein takes place in the fictional location of Isenstadt, a typical European town.

Your mission is to drive the Nazi forces back with shear heroic strength and a hail of bullets. However, in Wolfenstein the Nazis don’t plan on holding you back with good old fashion hard work and ammo like the Allies. No, apparently the Nazis are so incredibly cowardly with their tactics they are willing to resort to the supernatural to take the upper hand. Himmler and his SS are ordered into Isenstadt in the attempt to muster an occult force known as the Black Sun (oxymorons add to the mystery! Oooooo!). As B.J. you must not let these powers fall into the wrong slimy hands.
Now that I’ve gotten all my sarcasm in relation to this abysmally shameless premise this game is based on out of the way, we can have a look at the features and design choices that make up the experience of playing Wolfenstein. The town of Isenstadt is yours to explore openly. You wander the streets in search of Black Market hideouts (save points) housing the German rebels who will give you the location of your next objective. Although this is a welcome change to the standard shooter-on-rails we have been used to for so long, it is by no means original. In fact, finding something different in Wolfenstien is like ordering the entire menu at McDonalds one item at a time. It can’t be done (believe me I’ve tried). As a game design student it really gets me quite depressed to see not one attempt at something original within a game. Usually, behind what seems to be a superficial action-packed First Person Shooter, you can see at least one little spark of creativity pushed through by a talented designer. But with Wolfenstein, those talented designers seem to have been quietly smothered with a pillow in the night by Activision’s deadly representatives. Wolfenstein is a game that has suffered from weak design. That is not to say it is a bad game to play. It merely means that the designers have used old design staples that have been known to work, so they are able to sell and keep their studio afloat.
So what staples does it rely on? What is it like to play? Most of the gameplay mechanics have been taken from the popular Call of Duty series, specifically, Call of Duty: World at War. Whilst playing I noticed this/ so I decided to list the similarities to WaW. I was unable to walk three steps in game without having to stop and write down a similarity. This is what I found:
The controls are identical. LT to look down sights, click in LS to sprint, B to crouch, etc.
The compass on your HUD (Heads Up Display) is identical. They didn’t even change the art.
Obviously the setting is the identical. But also the environments and art style are similar as though they were powered by the same engine (though they are not)
AI is very similar. Both will try to flank you, throw grenades in co-ordination etc.
The Battle Chatter system developed by the CoD series is employed without shame. Enemies will taunt you and inform their teammates that you are reloading. Whilst allies will encourage you and inform you of dangers.
The weapons are exactly the same (minus the supernatural ones). Though Raven decided it would be ‘cooler’ if they boosted the bass to maximum for the gun shots. So shooting an MP40 feels like you’re shooting a hand held anti-air flak cannon.
One major design choice made by the CoD4 team (Infinity Ward) was to employ a well rounded ranking system based on experience points for the online multiplayer. Wolfenstein uses exactly the same system, with the same ranks as well.



Now don’t think I’m trying to put you off playing Wolfenstein. Although it suffers from weak design, what it does do is deliver these unoriginal features in a faithful way. If you enjoyed the sensation of the WaW experience and want more of it, then Wolfenstien is the game for you. If you haven’t played WaW and mowing down Nazis with old fashioned weapons seems like a good way to blow off steam to you then Wolfenstein is the game for you. It suffers from very few technical difficulties and is quite a polished title.

An additional feature given to the player is the ability to use a supernatural power known as the Veil. This is essentially night-vision mode, but it also speeds up the player’s movement. Enemies and their weak spots are easier to see when in the Veil, though it costs ‘Veil points’ to use it. There is also a power called the Mire, which allows the player to slow down time and dodge bullets. Although this is fun when faced with LMG emplacement, it’s nothing new and your ‘Veil points’ run out to quickly when using it.
If you can leap over Wolfenstein’s terrible premise, hurdle over its inability to innovate and bring yourself to dish out $99.95 for a fun and mindless ride through Nazi Germany then it could be the game to entertain you till the next generic FPS comes knocking on your door. My advice is to resist the temptation, save your money and wait till an exciting, new and original FPS comes your way. Whenever that may be…

18 comments:

  1. A ha ha ha. Please. This is supposed to be a review? How can Wolfenstein be so much like World at War when it has many supernatural enemies not even SEEN in WaW? How can the weapons be identical when they're, well, NOT? You skim over the crystal powers as if they were a side gimmick whereas they are in fact a pillar of the gameplay - without using them the later levels are impossible to conquer. You never mention the non-linear nature. You draw a conclusion that old design equals weak design - excuse me??????

    Fortunately, you are only a blogger, not a reviewer. Hopefully no one takes your unprofessional, biased drivel of an opinion one bit seriously.

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  2. Oh, and you never say ONE word about the multiplayer, and the level of your understanding of game(s) is summed up in this sentence: "Although this is fun ... your veil points run out too quickly." Well, if they were to run out slowly, you could just go into any situation and destroy any enemy with your super-veil-charged-time-manipulation powers. Whereas if they run out quickly, you must take the situation seriously and play properly because if you are not careful, you run out of Veil points and die. So how exactly does not having supernatural powers that last an eternity correlate to "weak design"? And why is destroying everything in your path with a large amount of superpower points FUN, as opposed to WEAK DESIGN?

    Man, you're just full of crap.

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  3. To Anonymous,

    I'm sorry that you didn't agree with Pat's review on Wolfenstein. But I suppose that objectivity is often the nature of reviews, eh? Hopefully you can find common ground elsewhere. In the meantime, thanks for your input and for checking out the blog. If you have some constructive criticism for us you're more than welcome to contact me on a.m.l.s.n.11@gmail.com

    Ann

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  4. Hello Mr. Anonymous, thank you for your post. I agree with you in some regards. Yet if you made your points without personal attack "your just full of crap" I, and anyone reading, would take you alot more seriously. You have to admit, you sound like the mere blogger you accuse me of being.

    I agree that if your veil points did run out too quickly they would be over powered. However, in my opinion, they are at the other end of the spectrum. There needed to be a balance between fun and difficulty.

    In relation to it's similarities to WaW, not once do I ever say it is exactly the same. I never say the enemies are exactly the same. Wolfenstein does have differences to set it apart. I was merely listing its similarities so as to show the reader the blatant correlation between the two. In my word limit of 1000 words I was only able to touch on certain aspects of the game and only give the reader an overview, or general feeling of what it is like.

    It is a shame you misread my review, but please understand that a review without opinion is merely a description.

    Thank you

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  5. Game seems to get mixed review's cant seem to make up my mind.

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  6. I was just over at palgn.com.au and someone decided to sign up, bitch about their review of the game and post a link to your one instead Pat. I found it quite funny.

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  7. Lol, guess who Slinkyman is! btw, follow my blog man.

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  8. Wolfenstein is pretty good. Sure, there are some similarities between it and CoD:WaW but those are non-important ones. Once you get past the Multiplayer and Isenstad, it's an impresive Game!

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  9. I have been playing this game almost half-way through, and I dont think we are playing the same game. Cause i have a dreadful and fun time in this world of nazies. I feel like if you are being to nonchalant and careless to this game from the beginning. You can infact find similarities in almost any FPS-game, no matter who you pick. This is not a review from my POV, but more of a post discussing how much WS has ripped from WaW, and that is wrong. Instead of spending som much of the text on that point, try bringing out some positive sides to the game. As mentioned before, it has gotten very different ratings, so it cant really be that bad. When i read this, i feel like if you expected to much of a game that, in the end, is living large because of previous game by this name. It is not a bad game, you just expected to much.

    Thats my two cents. I love the game so far. Havent tested online yet though, think ill wait until they fix whatever is broken.

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  10. You attack the game for all the wrong reasons, my man. The control system isn´t a bad point, as all FPS games for the last 5 years have used it.

    Why? Because, it works, gamers know it, and it reduces the learning curve. Would it really make sense to put the Iron Sights control onto x? No, because that isn´t what people are used to, and it wonñt work as well as LT.

    Secondly, you say the game suffers from bad design, but don´t state why. Are the textures and props bad? Do the levels contain pointless detours or backtracks? Are the individual areas implausable? I would argue no.

    The levels look good, carry the atmosphere of what they represent, and have a layout that suits what the level is. For example, the dig site level contains beautiful temple textures, a good mix of tools and tents etc, and the layout is well designed to prevent the "2 mile detour round a locked gate" syndrome inherent in many generic games.

    I also think you need to realise what the game is. It wasn´t designed to be a groundbreaking new game, but more of a fan service. It succeeds, as it is a well built, solid FPS, with all the traits expected by its name.

    Good luck with future posts, as I think you have the potential to write some interesting stuff. I just think that maybe you need to consider a) what is the point you are trying to get across in your article (Is it a review? Is it a comment on design? What are the key points you are trying to make?), and b) how this relates to what you are reviewing (Was this intended to be a fan service game? Do you dislike the game because you dislike the genre? etc).

    Oh, and the Slinkyman thing? Thats a touch pathetic, really. And admitting to doing it yourself makes you look like a fool. Don´t let yourself down like this, my friend, as I think you may have the potential to write well written, informative pieces, and this just makes you look childish.

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  11. Judging from the cover it is a video game version of the start of Watchmen :)

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  12. Argh, not Watchmen, HellBoy :)

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  13. 100 $ for a game WTF!

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  14. Biggest disapointment of the year.

    EDGE mag gave it 5/10 :)

    Looking forward to AvP(3) and Rage.

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  15. You said you were a design student? I graduate in November and good god I hope you don't find a job. I agree its not a very good game, but calling things like the AI too "similar" to WaW is ridiculous. The enemy is SUPPOSED to flank. I agree with their not being much creativity, but the solid AI works, and works well most of the time. The controls are similar, but not identical. As a design student, I hope you realize that by forcing new ideas down someones throat does not constitute a good game. There are staples of the FPS genre that just work. Left trigger to aim, right to fire. You disappoint me..

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  16. As a long time gamer that has a hardcore taste for FPS games and also like to follow along with old favorites, I found this game to be a HUGE disapointment. I funneled many hrs into the first one and then many more into Return to Castle Wolfenstien. I excitedly preordered and waited for this to release, only to get it and wish I had saved my money.

    Someone commented this is a "fan service game" well myself and a few others wish they would have taken the time to give the fans some service. I hurriedly beat the game only to trade it away for something better. This is sad, seeing that they have tainted the Wolfenstien name with this flop.

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  17. Let's face it: the COD series kills Wolfenstein. Wolfenstein not only copies them in a shameless fashion, but it gives inferior performances in terms of framerate rendering, network play, and menu interface.

    The first thing I noticed was that the framerate is consistently choppy - I don't mean super choppy; rather, it is more like a consistently lower framerate. Turning corners makes me squint and feel slightly sick. It feels like my visual information is perforated.

    The COD games, on the other hand, are masterpieces of smooth framerates and gameplay.

    The network code in Wolfenstein multiplayer is atrocious. It feels like there is no intelligent code smoothing out the not so subtle realities of playing over such an expansive medium as the Internet - kind of like stepping back in time when internet play sucked. It feels like you are locked into a linear stream of bits, and the connection seemingly drops in and out every other byte.

    The multiplayer menu interface is also unforgivable. No wonder there are a surprising lack of players: every "wrong" button push punishes you with a modal "thiking..." progress bar, that is reminiscent of playing chess on level 10 on my dad's 8080 IBM Compatible PC (in which the AI tries to play out every possible permutation of moves in real time before taking a turn). Thirty seconds later you thinking, "never again will I hit the A button on this screen." Five seconds later when you are looking at the same modal "thinking..." popup, you really are "thinking"... something along the lines of, "never again will I waste another moment of my life attempting to play this game in multiplayer mode."
    It would be different if the multiplayer mode itself were a gem, but it's not.

    In COD, the menus are streamlined (obviously user acceptance tested to death), efficient, and mindless. Within a few clicks, and while only half way paying attention, I can barely put my drink down before I'm being shot at and am completely immersed in gamer bliss.

    Quake Wars: Enemy Territory was the same brand of dismal failure on the XBox 360. It suffered the exact same poor framerate / network code / menu problems. However, I happened to own that one on the PC as well and it was one of my favorite games of all times; a perfect sequel to Wolfenstein - Enemy Territory, where everything good was improved upon.

    I haven't played Wolfenstein on the PC, but I suspect that it is probably the same story: the X-Box conversion is just a mere afterthought.

    Wolfenstein is a been-done formula, and it also manages to be two steps backward in every way when compared to the current generation of successsful games. I genuinely feel that Activision is $60 richer and I am $60 poorer, with a sucker wrapper over my head.

    As much as I'd love to lie to my friends so as not to be the only one who wasted his money on such a crappy game, I cannot; it would just be too wrong.

    - Jordan

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  18. i thought the campaigain was fun but shitty when it is being compared to the orginal wolfenstein and multiplayer is the worst online play i have ever seen when ever i play a game and earn a 1000 dollars it never saves so when i go and play the next game i have 0 dollars........... worst multiplayer ever

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