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Jason Picker
28 Aug, 2009

Wolfenstein Review

PS3 Review | What's more fun than shooting zombies or Nazis? Shooting zombie-Nazis!
When we fired up Wolfenstein for the first time, we had no idea what to expect, but the signs weren’t good. For one, there was very little pre-release hype, which in this day and age is a cause for concern. Secondly, it was released in the July to September quarter, generally a gaming black-hole filled only by the mediocre titles (have you read our Sacred 2 review yet?). These reasons alone had us worried that the gaming gods would again subject us to something akin to watching a Golden Girls marathon with mum. However, from the explosive opening cut-scene to the so-so final battle, we were more than a little surprised. In fact, Wolfenstein is right at the top of this year’s “Games that we expected to suck but didn’t” award, along with Bionic Commando and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. That doesn’t mean it’s the best thing ever made, because the Fuhrer knows it isn’t, but it will please the less discerning shooter fans looking for something to tide them over until the blockbuster season.

The first thing to note is that the game is not a remake of Wolfenstein 3D, which is actually a good thing as a remake of a game where you wander through a labyrinth of corridors with only a couple of weapons wouldn’t cut it in today’s market (just ask the developers of Haze). The game is apparently a sequel to 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein which we didn’t actually cover but which doesn’t seem to impact on our understanding of the story that even Forrest Gump could understand.

Nazis; giving Germans a bad name since 1933.

Nazis; giving Germans a bad name since 1933.
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Wolfenstein, as with the other games in the franchise, is set during World War II and revolves around special agent B.J. Blazkowicz (bet he got teased at school) who is assisting the allies – i.e. the Good Guys – to defend the town of Isenstadt against the Nazis – i.e. the Bad Guys. However, this is no standard World War II shooter with historically accurate battles. As Wolfenstein fans will know, the series is particularly focused on the theory that the Nazis were involved in the occult, raising the dead, experimenting with robotic enhancements, yelling at puppies and other ghoulish goings-on. In this latest instalment, B.J. (ha ha) is trying to prevent the Nazis from getting their grubby hands on a powerful force known as the Black Sun, and are also harnessing the power of a dark parallel dimension thingy called The Veil. In terms of the story, this boils down to the Nazis planning to build a weapon of mass destruction while making deformed monsters that even a mother couldn’t love. The story is pretty standard fare, and while it works well enough in between the shooty bits, it does get a little corny as it moves forward.

The town of Isenstadt acts as the player’s central hub where B.J. (giggle) can access missions, talk to members of the different factions trying to stop the Nazis, and discover hidden gold and intelligence. A quick press of the select button brings up the available objectives and a handy directional marker will point you to the active mission. Large parts of the town can be traversed by the rooftops or the sewers, which is particularly useful as those wacky Nazis and their devil spawn roam the streets and become increasingly difficult to get past as the game progresses. The NPCs you meet along the way will give you objectives that open up the various levels and often you’ll have multiple objectives to complete at a given time. However, the NPCs themselves are pretty one-dimensional and you never care what happens to them, which is a shame because the story expects you to. Maybe it's their bad Americans-pretending-to-be-German accents.

Early on in the game, B.J. (chuckle) discovers an artifact that gives him the ability to enter the parallel dimension of The Veil. For some strange reason, The Veil is basically our world except green, with a few more ladders and fewer walls, and some floating monsters in it. The artifact grants B.J. (...) special veil powers which are mapped to the directional buttons. This boils down to four powers that are unlocked as the game progresses – a power that reveals the hidden ladders and holes in walls, a power that slows time, a shield power that... shields, and a power that increases your firepower and allows you to shoot through the shields of your enemies. These powers can also be upgraded as you discover “tomes” hidden through the game which unlock add-on abilities. These can then be purchased at black market vendors. For example, you can upgrade the ability to slow time with an add-on that turns nearby enemies to ash upon its activation. As you can’t afford all the additional goodies you’ll need to choose wisely based on how you want to play. This gives the powers a bit of a personal touch. Additionally, if you make a bad purchase or you no longer need an upgrade, you can also sell it back at half the price you purchased it for. Think of it like Cash Converters without the smell.

Daniel Johns continues to deny those anorexia rumours.

Daniel Johns continues to deny those anorexia rumours.
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During the game, the player can, and probably will need to, use a combination of the powers to get through difficult areas. For example, slowing down time and increasing your firepower at the same time can be particularly damaging against the bigger nasties. The downside, of course, is that the energy you have available to use those powers decreases at a much faster rate. Fortunately, energy can be regained in a number of ways: it slowly recovers over time, you can refill it via “veil pools” that appear randomly throughout the game, or you can refill it via canisters which are scattered throughout the levels. What this means is that you’ll never be too far away from refilling your veil energy so you can go nuts with it. This certainly keeps the pace and enjoyment of the game high.

Weapons in the game can also be upgraded after finding intelligence documents hidden throughout the game and buying upgrades at black market dealers. At the start of the game, weapons are the standard World War II fare, with machine guns, rifles and grenades. Later on in the game, however, you’ll unlock some tasty firepower and this is where Wolfenstein really comes into its own. This includes the particle cannon which shoots out a green energy stream that obliterates enemies, the telsa cannon which sends out streams of electricity that fry enemies with a satisfying pop, as well as other weapons that can vanquish larger foes. These weapons are a lot of fun to use and they single-handedly add a point to the final score of the game. The levels themselves are a hit-and-miss affair. Some, including the castle, offer a nice mix between open areas and corridor-type shooting with multiple routes. However, other levels, such as the blimp, are a more traditionally linear affair that require a stand-and-deliver method to get through.

From a technical perspective, the game is very functional. The graphics, while not mind blowing, are crisp and use a more diverse colour palette than most shooters on the market – especially if you like green. The animations are relatively natural and free-flowing, the sound is rich and meaty, and there’s rarely any slowdown or any other major issue to speak of. However, you can’t help but feel that it lacks a little bit of polish that puts it down a peg from the triple A shooting titles on the market.

Popping a stream of electricity in yo' ass.

Popping a stream of electricity in yo' ass.
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Multiplayer is pretty standard stuff, with only three modes: Deathmatch, Objectives – which provides variations on the theme of team A doing something and team B trying to stop them, and Stopwatch which is where both teams take turns in an objective-style level and try to beat each other's times. The multiplayer looks decidedly worse than the single player, has lag problems, and from our experience it doesn’t use the cool experimental weapons available in the single player, sticking instead to the historically accurate one. Gee, we already have Call of Duty for that.

All said and told, Wolfenstein is a quality title that for whatever reason hasn’t received very much attention. But with its range of powerful weapons and powers to upgrade, some interesting levels to explore and an action-oriented pace, this may well be the game that helps fill in the days until the end of the gaming drought. We should also add that in a nice bit of marketing, you can earn an extra $1,000 in the game on both the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions by buying the Wolfenstein 3D title and finishing the first floor. Clever.
The Score
Yet another surprise hit for 2009, this could be the game that tides you over until the summer blockbusters arrive. Wolfenstein may not be a Killzone 2 killer, but it's an action-packed romp full of powerful weaponry, bad accents, and Nazi-zombie killing glee.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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23 Comments
4 years ago
well said Jason , might just grab the game at some point
4 years ago
A lot of Raven Software's staff got made redundant following the completion of this project. A shame as I really enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Uncaged Edition), which I felt really delivered.
4 years ago
Yeah apparently Wolfenstein didn't sell very well overseas, but according to the Aussie charts, it's doing well here in its first week.

I actually think this is better than Wolverine, mainly because Wolverine got a bit repetitive towards the end. Both games may not be perfect, but they have high fun factors in my opinion.
4 years ago
Jaws wrote
A lot of Raven Software's staff got made redundant following the completion of this project.
Wolfenstein kicks arse imo.
4 years ago
Come on, it's just a rehash of a rehash. The last one was fine, no need to even make this.

Plus, adding slow-mo/bullet time in this universe is just laughable.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Plus, adding slow-mo/bullet time in this universe is just laughable.
You're right, the Wolfenstein universe has always been at the forefront of realistic FPS.

Only got around to playing RtCW earlier this year through steam so I definitely appreciate the update even if the multiplayer is a pile of poo compared to the previous iteration.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Come on, it's just a rehash of a rehash.
What about Quake 4? My friend thinks that game was a ruin (never played it myself) but he really likes Wolfenstein.

He's also a much bigger Wolfenstein fan than me.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Come on, it's just a rehash of a rehash. The last one was fine, no need to even make this.

Plus, adding slow-mo/bullet time in this universe is just laughable.
So you're saying there's no need to make a sequel to a game? If that were the case we'd only be getting about 5 games this year.
4 years ago
Considering Wolfenstein was one of the first ever FPS and there have been so few sequels - with the last one being 8 or so years ago, I'd hardly call this rehashing the franchise.

And since when do developers make a good game and decide not to make another one? icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
A sequal should do something different and original, plus develop the story. Does this game do any of those things?
4 years ago
What you mean like the Halo series, Doom series, Quake series (ignoring Q3A), Max Payne... oh wait, none of them do anything different either.

Yet Wolfenstein, which adds new elements such as The Veil and a bullet time mechanic (new to Wolfenstein) is suddenly not adding anything new?
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Does this game do any of those things?
A simple look at the respective wiki pages on the games would show that yes, they have changed it up for the newest sequel. This is Wolfenstein we are talking about, not Final Fantasy.
4 years ago
Maybe it's just me being an old school gamer, old enough to have seen the actual release of the original and to have played pretty much every fps ever made.
4 years ago
Phreak - makes no difference, I'm also of that vintage. icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
A sequal should do something different and original, plus develop the story
Develop the story, yes.
Build on the core gameplay, yes.
Different and Original, no.. that would make it a new game which culls the point of creating a sequel and attracting the same audience (plus more) from the original.
4 years ago
Ie, why people enjoyed it in the first place.
4 years ago
The last Wolfenstein was made when halo 1 was released. I sure hope they changed something.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
Maybe it's just me being an old school gamer, old enough to have seen the actual release of the original and to have played pretty much every fps ever made.
I may not have played almost every FPS (though I have played quite a lot of FPS's since then) but I was around when W3D came out (I was 9 at the time).I used to watch a friends father play W3D all the time.

though I have played quite a lot of FPS's since then.
4 years ago
This was a much too kind review for such a generic title. Please read this review at http://playingwithpat.blogspot.com/ before purchasing this title.
4 years ago
I don't think I want to play with Pat somehow.
4 years ago
Slinkyman wrote
This was a much too kind review for such a generic title. Please read this review at http://playingwithpat.blogspot.com/ before purchasing this title.
That's actually my friends boyfriends blog. icon_eek.gif

I wonder who decided to try and plug it here (I know it wasn't Pat himself at least)?
4 years ago
Vervulus Maximus wrote
Slinkyman wrote
This was a much too kind review for such a generic title. Please read this review at http://playingwithpat.blogspot.com/ before purchasing this title.
That's actually my friends boyfriends blog. icon_eek.gif

I wonder who decided to try and plug it here (I know it wasn't Pat himself at least)?
http://palgn.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=42352
4 years ago
I just finished this on the weekend. Singplay campaing was good. Multiplayer not so good. 7.5 is definatly and appropriate score IMO.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  19/08/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007

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