Review: Wolfenstein (Sony PS3)

Developer: Raven Software/id Software
Publisher: Activision
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 08/18/09

You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business: we in the killin’ Nazi business, and cousin, Business is a-boomin’. With that out of the wa,y we can delve into Wolfenstein here and see if it’s worth plunking down that hard earned cash on nostalgia or just because you were inspired by Inglorious Baterds or maybe wanted something that followed Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Not all first-person shooters were created equally, and while this one is based richly in the world of one of the first, it doesn’t always live up to it’s name sake.

Story isn’t usually the first thing you think of when you pick up a first-person shooter. Most of the game is all about running through a level killing everything that shoots at you, or trying to get around some annoying ass puzzle that they’ve laid out for you to give it a challenge. There have been a few exceptions so keep those panties from bunching up people. This one offers the tale of B.J. Blazkowicz, our gun-toting hero from the other titles as he gets on the trail of an artifact the Germans are interested in that has some kind of special powers, and of course the military doesn’t want them to have it. So you’re sent into the town of Isengard, er Isenstadt to work with the rebels there to figure out what the big bad General is up to and stop him. There are some interesting characters you come across and the story plays out as you move through the sections of town and head out of it to dig sites and the like to stomp down the Nazi menace.

01 cutsceneFor the most part this keeps you interested, but it’s a bit cliché and somewhat predictable. We’re not talking about the new 4 star movie of the year though, this would fit in with the summer popcorn flicks. Surprisingly it’s better than most that popped up this year. It’s almost like you’re playing a member of the B.P.R.D. from Hellboy during the war with all the supernatural and ultra-high tech gear you come across while you’re playing. It has this great feel to it, but at the same time every time someone opens their mouth you wince from the accents.

Multi-player is another ball of wax. I’ve tried several different times of day and I’ve yet to hit a fully-loaded mission against other players, which can be frustrating. Add to that I jumped in late and instead of pitting you against someone your level you end up fighting someone who’s already maxed out their bonuses from playing online against noobs like me who haven’t gotten any upgrades yet. Granted you do accumulate fast, but it still reeks of getting hit with the noob hammer for not jumping on it sooner. The biggest problem I had with multi-player is that it kept dropping connection and this is after I got the new patch. I get better connections with Quake Live Beta on my laptop and that’s running wirelessly instead of through a wired connection like my PS3. Completely inexcusable.

You do get the variety and upgrade options that seem to have become standard with multi-player first-person shooters over the past few years, but the connection issues and a total lack of players and getting into similarly skilled matches really kills it. Overall the multi-player really hurts the modes score.

Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable

02 charactersGraphics
Graphically the game could have been better. Despite the richly colored and detailed backgrounds as well as the neat detailing on the characters on screen themselves, there are some animation issues, not just during gameplay but it is noticeable during cut-scenes as well. The game uses an updated game engine that powered Doom 3 and Quake 4, with a new physics model in place for some of the weapon effects as well as the Veil, an alternate reality the device B.J. can use to transport him into a world without shadows where he can move faster, increase his damage output, see through objects that don’t exist in the Veil as well as the critters that float around and can act as explosive charges in a pinch.

While there are some neat visual effects with this, and the detailing is very well done, the game has a few issues with the animations and such that hurt it a bit. Is it the aging graphics engine? I can’t tell you, but it feels a bit dated at times.

Graphics Rating: Good

Most of what you hear in this game is forgettable. Some of it I wish I could forget. The soundtrack isn’t that great, just a kind of generic set of themes in the background that just kind of help move the game along. Then there’s the mostly terrible and repeated German accents that sound like they’re trying to do a Governator impression and failing badly. It’s almost always the same sound bytes from the enemy bad guys too. “Grenade! Everybody out!”, “Ze enemy spy iz over here!”, “Git him while he’z reloading!” You can almost predict it every time how the sound is going to come out during a firefight.

Conversations with the resistance group and the black market are not nearly as bad, and there is some decent dialogue here, but again, popcorn flick. The futuristic weapons and the bosses have some great sounds to them, but if you’ve played any WWII shooters you’ve heard the other guns before over and over again.

Sound Rating: Decent

03 veil beastsControl and Gameplay
Usually I can’t stand playing first-person shooters on the consoles. I can’t aim fast enough, I don’t like the movement and the controls feel sluggish. Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The controls are very responsive, it’s not too hard to aim and the way things are laid out on the controller by default actually work very well. The only problem I had was hitting the R2 button instead of R1 to fire, and that’s more from my Transformers habit than anything else. So bravo on that end.

One of the things that saved this game from being ho-hum besides the somewhat interesting story was the gameplay options in single player. Some of these carry over to multi-player but I’ll deal with that in a second. Gameplay wise at first you’d expect nothing but your average first-person shooter minus the cover mechanic that’s oh so popular these days. Duck and Strafe is all you need! They’ve added in weapons upgrades through the black market since you get paid for each mission you do about town and you can pick up somewhat hidden gold and other trinkets to enhance that. So while your base weapons are good, the new enhancements make them far better.

You don’t have a health meter but as you get nailed the screen gets bloodier until you fall over from hemorrhaging. Ducking and not getting shot will help heal you. One of the neat things though, is the Veil mechanic. This took the game from boring average FPS and gave it some style. Through some ancient Black Sun device you can pop open a new dimension that at first lets you see hidden doors and these creatures that explode when you shoot them, which can come in handy unless you have killed too many of them and then they come after you. You can also get an option to slow down time, which does allow you to dodge bullets easily, as well as create your own personal shield and there’s also an option to crank the hell out of your own weapons to turn then into some Mega-Damage weapon from the Rifts RPG, which basically can kill anything not armored. Awesome!

To keep it from being too much of a crutch, the Veil powers have a very limited lifespan, so you have to use them sparingly. There are convenient places you can recharge your power levels, but they aren’t always where you get into a firefight with a slew of Nazis who have their own supernatural powers which can be a problem. So the game moves on as you increase your own weapons and powers while stealing and destroying the Nazi power base in the town.

04 hellboy ripoffMulti-player lets you play as three different classes, the soldier, the medic, and engineer. Each have their own merits and uses, and you get Veil powers here but they’ve been heavily modified from the fun in the single player game so that each class has their own unique power. There isn’t really a free for all just teams and you have deathmatch (pretty self-explanatory),objective (complete the objectives before the other team), and stopwatch (which you have only a certain amount of time to get things done. A nice player on player deathmatch would have been nice, but there it is.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

So say you want to play this over? Well the multi-player won’t keep you coming back. I haven’t touched it again since I first tried it and went back to single player. There are things to collect all over the place and you do have several difficulty levels to choose from, and with the weapon upgrades you can probably have some fun there, but really the story isn’t going to play out all that differently. You do have a few options as to where to go next, but really the story of the game is pretty linear except for an option to do a few things in a different order. So unless you really like the game’s story, there isn’t much to bring you back to it.

Replayability Rating: Above Average

Price wise, unless you’re a big fan of the single player part of this game (which I loved) and like multi-player, you’re getting ripped off either way. The campaign mode isn’t terribly long for an experienced player, and multi-player is pretty abysmal. There are better FPS games out there on the PS3 right now that have done it better, Killzone 2 for one. If you’re looking for a neat twist on the WWII story though with a bit of Hellboy-ish story-telling thrown in than this might be for you.

05 hate these guysThe AI isn’t too terribly smart in this game though. Easy mode is pretty, well easy. Hard mode they’re still idiotic, there’s just MORE idiocy to go around. While yes, that does make it harder, it isn’t more challenging, it just takes longer to mow them all down and move on.

Balance Rating: Below Average

One thing id Software is good at is mining their old titles for new games. This one is a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein and is not a remake of the first game, so bonus points there. The town and the set-ups in the new areas as well as the new weaponry and the Veil help this area of the game tremendously, but it’s something we’ve seen before in Prey. I’ve been talking about the storyline reminding me of something from Hellboy, and even some of the devices the Germans are using look like something ripped from the first Hellboy movie when Rasputin was trying to get through to another dimension. While they are recycled ideas, they are used differently here, but that’s not being very original is it?

Originality Rating: Mediocre

With the Veil and the new areas to explore and all the neat new toys and upgrades, I did find myself playing this quite a bit. I even did the no-no and told my wife to wait while I finished up killing some Nazi’s in one area to move on. Married people understand that’s not something you do. Luckily my wife gets it, most of the time. I really enjoyed the single-player section, but I found the multi-player section to be a headache. From waiting to connect, to being dropped for no reason, to getting my ass handed to me by someone who’s been fully-upgraded and I’m still learning the map. It wasn’t fun. In fact to get the bad taste out of my mouth from that I popped on Quake LIVE Beta on my laptop to remind me that id could in fact do decent multi-player again. So really the campaign mode won my heart and the online mode tore it out and chewed on it.

Addictiveness Rating: Above Average

06 cap would crapAppeal Factor
Word of mouth seems to have gotten around about the crappy multi-player and this game has not sold well. Most FPS games aren’t going to sell well if the one thing that keep people playing it is garbage. It’s a simple fact. Unfortunately I think this game is going to tank and tank in a big way, which is a shame because usually I love titles from these guys. And considering the guys responsible for the multi-palyer section laid off half their work force, it’s not getting any better on that end any time soon.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

I really did like the layout of the town. Some might find it cramped, but I liked being able to move from section to section, and it really did feel like a war-torn town in the height of WWII. The levels outside of town really shined and none really felt repeated at all. One thing I can’t fault the game for is great level design. I just wish everything else with it had been up to par.

Miscellaneous Rating: Great

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound Rating: Decent
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Replayability Rating: Above Average
Balance Rating: Below Average
Originality Rating: Mediocre
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
Appeal Factor Rating: Poor
Miscellaneous Rating: Great

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize If you’re looking for a FSP set in WWII that has a bit of the supernatural and science-fiction thrown in that has a pretty strong single-player campaign then this is your game. If you’re looking for that and a strong multi-player element, look for something else because you’re not going to find it here. B.J. Blaskowicz’s latest outing is lacking in some areas, pretty generic in others, and completely awesome in other ways that make this title fun to play from a single-player perspective. Unfortunately, some jerky graphics, a bad multi-player set-up, and a few other things keep this from being a truly awesome title. There are other, better FPS games out there for the PS3. If you’re looking for an FPS title, pick one of the others up instead.



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