Not A Lot has changed over the years. B.J. Blazkowicz is off nobbling Nazis who're obsessed with harnessing the supernatural, and gamers are still being given the same old schtick 17 years after Wolfenstein 3D transformed first-person shooters.
Of course there's nothing wrong with the corny story, terrible accents and occult trappings when they're such a huge part of Wolfenstein's enduring charm. The major problem with this latest reboot is we've seen it all before and done better, most notably in 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Yes, a game from eight years ago. This year's Wolfenstein tries to introduce a few new ideas, but they're executed so halfheartedly it's almost painful.
A Right Misfire
Take the supposed open-world feature: being able to sneak around a German town dodging Nazis and collecting main missions and side missions from various Resistance fighters while operating on the black market to upgrade your arsenal. While it sounds good, this just amounts to wandering around a maze of boring and largely deserted streets, occasionally stumbling across a handful of dozy enemies before getting linear missions from bland characters and buying weapon upgrades that you don't really need. This illusion of freedom really starts to grate after a few boring trips back and forth to your safe house.
The supernatural element plays a more prominent role than ever before, to the extent where you can now wield some powers yourself using a MacGuffin called the Thule Medallion and its Veil powers. Again, what should have been a great excuse for developer Raven to really go wild with some crazy supernatural stuff ends up as bullet-time, a shield and a damage buff. Cheers chaps. Now you can upgrade them so B.J. can move in realtime while everything else is slowed down, or make the shield disintegrate enemies, but it's hard not to feel very disappointed at what might have been.
The Veil is another dimension, which sounds exciting and mysterious, but actually turns out to be a greeny blue filter that uncovers hidden doors and shows enemies taking cover in darkness. One step up from heat-seeking goggles then. The Veil also highlights enemies' weak spots, which comes in handy during the surprisingly decent boss battles against iibersoldiers and the like.
Despite the game doing its best to be underwhelming, there's still a lot of fun to be had with it Killing Nazis is undeniably entertaining - as it is always - and now there are even more ways to do the goose-steppers in. The game helpfully keeps a tally of how many you've dismembered, burned, electrocuted and dissolved, although we got a real kick just out of watching them clutch their throats and gargle while blood gushed out The Veil powers may not be up to much, but there are touches such as when gravity gets messed up and you get to shoot hapless Nazis spinning in the air.
The single-player campaign lasts about seven hours, but if you're looking for multiplayer to add replay value then you'll be left frustrated. While there are a healthy number of players to be found admirably plugging away at it, 2009's Wolfensteiris looks and plays worse than Return to Castle Wolfenstein. There are only three game types and three classes, and it's laggy and feels so slow to boot You can tell it's been cobbled together by a different development team because it feels tacked on.
Where once the Wolfenstein name guaranteed excitement and originality, now the best it can give is undemanding fun. There's nothing wrong with that but the usual spark and flair has deserted this game and it's seriously lagging behind rival first-person shooters such as Call of Duty: World at War.
If you're a newcomer to the series you'll wonder what all the fuss is about when you've heard gamers bang on about Wolfenstein being a classic, while long-time fans will be pretty appalled by this effort?