Very minor story spoilers, if you've not played. Nothing regarding the ending. Mostly non-boss enemies you'll face.
Early on a couple years ago when I heard they were making a new Wolfenstein I wasn't very excited. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was okay back in the Xbox days. Nothing special, pretty average shooter. Wolfenstein (2009) was again, nothing special, pretty choppy gameplay, average acting.
When I saw "The New Order" trailer, I was immediately intrigued by the "what if" scenario of the game. What IF the Nazis had WON World War 2? What would the world become? Would it be a utopia paradise of sunshine und rainbows, fair haired children mit blue eyes and good German values? Sauerkraut und bier?!
Or would it become a hell on Earth, a military state where the sick, old and "impure" are rounded up for slaughter and anyone who doesn't tow the Nazi line are put down like dogs?
I think we know the answer... Thank heavens it's only a game!
Right from the first level (which took me more than an hour to complete, on the hardest difficulty - Uber) and the beginning credits rolled, I knew this wasn't going to JUST be a typical shooter. There was something more happening, here. BJ, this hulking Captain America war hero actually has a story? A soul? Yep, and it's actually a pretty deep one.
Through some flashbacks/dreams and a bit of self narration by the always enjoyable Brian Bloom, we find out a good deal more about BJ, his life, and what drives him. And of course the cut scenes also give us both blood-boiling fits of his rage and brute power, but also his softer side that just wants this damn war to be over. He just wants what every soldier wants, to go HOME. To live, to love.
But this is war, and to quote Mr. Perlman: "War? War never changes."
The actual gameplay/shooting mechanics are extremely smooth and intuitive. Best feeling shooter I've played since Call of Duty 4, and I play a LOT of shooters. Not too loose, like CoD has become, not too tight like most other shooters. Good cover/lean system. Action ranges from extremely fast and chaotic to quiet moments, where you can plot your slaughter of the next group of Nazi scum. There is also a pretty solid stealth mechanic to the game as well, where you can sneak up behind any common soldiers (not the Supersoldaten, of course) and execute them silently (but always gruesomely. No mercy from BJ Blaskowicz!).
In addition, early on you gain the ability to throw knives to kill people at range. Surprisingly helpful IN combat if you run out of bullets and need just a second more to get back behind a wall. But nothing is more satisfying than seeing a soldier round a corner you didn't expect, having him start to yell out in fear only to be silenced forever by your spinning knife (fittingly enough, a stolen Nazi dagger).
Combat on its face is a simple concept. You mostly fight common soldiers and commanders. Kill or be killed. But the commanders can call for reinforcements if alarmed, and will spinelessly run as far away from you as possible, making it that much harder for you to find and end them, thus stopping the alarm. Otherwise, soldiers just keep on coming. Sounds annoying, but it isn't. I never felt overwhelmed by the number of additional soldiers called in by the cowardly commanders, but they certainly added a challenge. The whole point of the commander-alarm system is to make you stop and think about your plan of attack. You can certainly go in guns-a-blazing and try to take out the commander (or 2) quick before he has a chance to shriek for help. But the game is at it's most satisfying when you stalk them room to room, just waiting for that perfect moment to sink your knife into their ear-hole. Or throat. Or kidney. :)
Of course, you still fight a myriad of hulking supersoldiers and robot dogs, and one very, VERY big city-overwatch robot. Again, even on Uber I never felt I was being unfairly killed; I just needed to shoot straighter, duck a little more, and always have a back up plan.
The weapon selection is limited to half a dozen guns, but I was never bored with them. Maybe it's because the story itself was so intriguing, or the environments so varied that I never felt I was just running through hallways blasting bad guys with a big gun. The guns, limited though the selection is, are all very well balanced and totally useful in each situation. Whereas in some games, you find a favorite weapon and just stick with it until something better comes along, in nearly every SINGLE level in Wolfenstein I found myself HAVING to use almost every single weapon in my disposal.
One last note, I saw this game was getting solid reviews online. 7s, 8s, etc. I wanted to grab it, but wasn't sure. Wanted to wait for a sale. I looked deeper at the company that developed it (Machinegames) and saw they're made up of some ex-Starbreeze studio members (Chronicles of Riddick series). That instantly made my decision for me, as those games were fantastic. A shooter/adventure with brains. Luckily I also got a gift card for the MS store, so I ended up picking the game up for just $20. Knowing what I know now, I would've bought it day 1 for $60.
Excellent game, and a blueprint for what shooters can actually be if the time and care is put into them to make them more than just mindless shooting.
Bottom line: despite some (very) minor imperfections Wolfenstein is back in a big way. After all these years they're still in the Nazi killin' business, and brother: business is-a boomin'.