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Wolfenstein

Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 1 - 12 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Call of Duty. Killzone. Halo. These franchises are three of many that belong to the first-person shooter genre, and they are all part of a lineage that dates back to a little game that expanded on Adolf Hitler's obsession with the occult. Wolfenstein 3D was not the proto-FPS per se, but it was the first one to bring the genre into the mainstream. Now, with the release of Wolfenstein, it would appear that the legendary series is still alive and well. This new Wolfenstein doesn't reinvent the wheel, and it seems to pride itself on that. It's not an overly ambitious title, but it knows what it's out to deliver: a fun and lengthy shooting experience that should please anyone who likes to make Nazis bleed.

Wolfenstein uses a modified form of the id Tech 4 engine, and it looks really good. However, it doesn't offer a good first impression. Before you upgrade your arsenal, all the action is represented relatively blandly. However, once you buy your first Big Bore and bayonet, the game becomes almost as much a joy to watch as it is to play. Bullets punch entrance and exit wounds in the flesh of your enemies, limbs fly, faces are rendered into unrecognizable red lumps, and gaping neck wounds will make you reach for your umbrella. Veil powers activate with an awesome effect that makes the entire environment burn away like a bit of dry parchment. Load screens are almost nonexistent, and the framerate is solid, though entering and exiting the Veil will cause it to stumble a bit. The animations are superb, as well. You won't often see an enemy die the same way twice.

Wolfenstein's audio quality is good on one side and bad on another. Even during the soft pieces, the music is always screaming "SERIOUS BUSINESS!" in your ear. This is fitting, since this game is about Nazis taking hold of supernatural powers -- which is about as serious as business could conceivably get. I found the voice acting quite bad, with the exception of B. J. Blazkowicz. Every German, friend or foe, speaks English in a ridiculous German accent. Every "th" sound is painstakingly and unnecessarily changed to a "z" sound. Hearing Nazis yell at each other in English makes absolutely no sense. However, I give major kudos to the developers for having some of the Nazis scream "Mein leben!" in the throes of death.


Gameplay:

The Nazis are trying to harness the power of the occult for their own evil ends, and they're very close to succeeding. Are you a bad enough dude to blow the entire operation to kingdom come? Yes, you are. OSA Agent B. J. Blazkowicz is back to make more Nazis die. The story takes a back seat to all the fantastic action, but I'll explain it briefly. Blazkowicz's new mission takes him into the enemy territory of Isenstadt. The Nazis are in open conflict with the Kreisau Circle, a German resistance group. Your primary goal is to work with them to find out what the Nazis are trying to accomplish in Isenstadt, and ultimately keep their plans from coming to fruition. (In other words, use a ridiculously awesome arsenal of weapons to kill Nazis.) As I mentioned before, it's not a particularly engaging story, but there are some winks to gamers who have played through Blazkowicz's other adventures.

Wolfenstein is as pure a first-person shooter as they come. Over the course of the game, your contribution to the Nazi body count will become so impressive that you'd think B. J. Blazkowicz deserved a major role in Quentin Tarantino's latest film. It may seem straightforward enough, but there are some interesting and clever mechanics that Raven has thrown into the mix. More on that later.

What would a first-person shooter be without multiplayer? Wolfenstein has an excellent twelve-player offering that should satisfy any fans of the genre. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch go almost without saying, but the real star of the show is Objective. This class-based variant allows you to upgrade your abilities and equipment on the fly. Your upgrades must be purchased, however; you'll earn your money from completing special objectives and scoring kills.


Difficulty:

Wolfenstein makes use of the classic id difficulty levels, but most gamers should be able to kick open their front doors and bellow to the world "I AM DEATH INCARNATE!!!" All joking aside, Wolfenstein is an easy game with a few inconsistencies. Most of the enemies will go down without too much of a fight, and the Veil powers only serve to make things even easier for Herr Blazkowicz. However, towards the middle of the game, a new enemy is introduced. These guys carry some lethal hand-to-hand fighting equipment, and they are so fast they usually can't be seen by the naked eye. Take a couple of hits from these jerks, and you're on the ground. You can use Veil powers to make them easier to fight, but they're hard to preemptively engage, being invisible and all.

Wolfenstein is quite long for a modern first-person shooter; if you don't care about exploration, you can finish it in under twelve hours. If that's not enough, intel and gold are scattered around Isenstadt. Collecting these valuables helps you achieve some of the oddly scant single-player achievements, and the gold will allow you to purchase upgrades from one of several Black Market locations around Isenstadt.


Game Mechanics:

Early in Wolfenstein's campaign, Agent Blazkowicz stumbles upon the Thune Medallion, an artifact that gives him the ability to phase in and out of the Veil, a parallel dimension of sorts. Over the course of the game, he'll have four main Veil powers to work with. Simply entering the Veil allows you to spot your enemies from a distance, and it also allows you to locate hidden areas that are blocked off outside the Veil. Later on, you'll gain a time-slowing ability, a shield power, and an ability that makes your weapons ridiculously powerful. All of these Veil powers are assigned to different D-pad directions, and they're easy to use. Veil powers figure into the multiplayer component quite smoothly; soldiers can utilize energy strikes, while engineers can run really fast.

There are other unique ways to use Veil powers, but you'll need to make sure your energy is constantly replenished; entering Veil pools and extracting energy from special blue barrels will do that for you. The barrels can also be thrown at enemies -- an exploding blue barrel will temporary nullify the effects of gravity and send the Nazis into a sort of semi-stasis in which you can gun them down. Good stuff.

If you're expecting Wolfenstein to have the same effect on the genre as its legendary great-great-great granddaddy, you're going to be disappointed. However, if it's a gleefully hyper-violent romp through Nazi Germany that you want, Wolfenstein's got you covered.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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