Wolfenstein: The New Order opens in 1946 during the midst of an intense battle of World War II in Europe. Nazi forces have mysteriously turned the tide on the Allies and General Wilhelm Strasse (known as Deathshead) overcomes the Allies. Humanity’s greatest hope is lost, and the Nazis win the war. Fast forward to 1960, and the Nazi’s oppressive regime is spreading, utilising mysterious and advanced technology from beyond their years. Playing as B.J. Blaskowicz, who was there and fought in the same battle in 1946, you must stop Deathshead and their iron fisted regime.
While the story in Wolfenstein might not sound like anything interesting, it’s presented in such an interesting way that it’s hard to be disinterested while playing. Blaskowicz does have his broody monologues from time to time, but his supporting cast in particular stand out here. Every character is characterised well, is likeable (even the villains) and behaves somewhat believably – giving a greater emotional weight to the story. While the themes explored are somewhat confronting, Wolfenstein does not shy away from any subject matter and provides a compelling story from beginning to end that’s not afraid to shock or terrify.
Wolfenstein is a pretty mixed bag visually speaking, although for the most part a strong and bold artistic direction saves it from looking generic and uninspired. Environments themselves are well designed to capture the era of the 60s well, but with an obvious twisted “what-if” scenario with the Nazis having won the war. The most interesting of these is a museum which tells the “history” of the moon landing in a different way than most of us would know. The combination of the time era, as well as the alternate timeline gives Wolfenstein’s environments subtle changes to illustrate an overarching larger change. It’s this subtlety that helps elevate its visual design above the rest.