Some things are bound to stick with a given formula, especially when they involve Nazis. Like Indiana Jones, for instance. That dude just can’t catch a break, but you know darn well that he’ll get the girl, get the gold and ultimately get by just by the skin of his teeth — all while battling a phalanx of Nazi soldiers. Then there’s Wolfenstein, the classic first-person shooter that started the FPS craze by giving mouse-wielders a clip full of bullets and a screen full of Nazi targets. But much like Indiana Jones jumped the shark in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the latest Wolfenstein outing on PS3 and Xbox 360 goes where no Nazi game has gone before — or should. The spirit realm.
Look, I’m as good as anyone at willingly suspending my disbelief, but the Nazis tapping into another dimension to try and win the war is just a bit too much for even my over-active imagination to stomach. Sometimes, you just have to let a good thing go, and in this case, the “good thing” is the franchise. Here’s the skinny with Wolfenstein: you’re the same main protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz, whose job is to blast through largely linear levels trying to find the source of the Nazi’s power and save the world. Only the newest power is of the out-of-this-world type, which leaves players in a still-linear battle against all manner of supposed-to-be-scary baddies that really just look like grumpy glow sticks.
Wolfenstein and Doom are notorious for their linearity and hallways, and this latest Wolfesntein outing on PS3 and Xbox 360 is no exception. Activision tried to spice it up with a central area a la each level’s hub in Dead Space, but like Dead Space, Wolfenstein doesn’t really have all that “open” of a feel even with the hub, since you have to pass through it each time on your way to the next linear area filled with enemies. What’s more, if you find yourself lost or at the end of a hall, you simply need to use one of your Veil Powers to continue unimpeded. Not exactly challenging stuff.
Since this is a first-person shooter, it’s pretty clear that there’s a nice selection of guns, all of which are upgradeable to a certain degree. If you’ll pardon the additional Dead Space reference, not every upgrade can be purchased in Wolfenstein, much like those in Dead Space, so you really have to think about which path you want to pursue with each. The Veil Powers, too — the powers that let you peer and even venture into the spirit realm — can be upgraded at times, from shield strength to bullet time to extra damage.
If that all sounds familiar, that’s because it really is. For a game that had its last outing a decade ago, Wolfenstein sure feels like a title that’s trying to catch up with the times. Alternate dimensions, energy guns, linear levels that “try” to be open-world through the use of hubs…. Look, Wolfenstein didn’t exactly go out on top the last time around, and to see it jump the shark with zombie Nazis and Tesla rifles just makes the series feel desperate. I appreciate what Activision did graphically with the game, but eye candy alone doesn’t warrant a recommendation, and especially not when there are other shooters with better graphics available. My recommendation: let Wolfenstein stay in the other dimension and away from your Xbox 360 or PS3. There are other shooters this fall that can scratch your FPS itch a heck of a lot better.
- Score: 7.1
— Jonas Allen