HISTORY OF X-MEN IN GAMING – PART ONE

Image result for X-MEN CARTOON

The X-Men made their first grand appearance on comic book stands way back in September 1963, and since then they’ve taken over the world by storm with some of the most significant characters and stories that the industry has ever witnessed.

It spawned successful action figure lines, several animated cartoon series and even a huge movie franchise that has led to box-office hits and unfortunately some of the worst superhero offerings that the genre has ever known. Here’s looking at you, Wolverine.

They’ve had it all, but for a long time, they’ve also made numerous appearances in the video game business. From arcade machines to mobile phones, the mutants have made an impact in the gaming industry. Due to my love of the uncanny mutants, I decided to tackle the long and arduous task of analysing and briefly reviewing almost every X-Men video game ever created.

I must be mad, right? Perhaps, but I’ve had the pleasure of growing up amongst some of these X-Men titles, and we’ve had quite the veritable cornucopia of mutants in video games. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the X-Men’s first ever foray into the strange and unique world of video games, with The Uncanny X-Men, on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

THE UNCANNY X-MEN – NES

It was the summer of 1989 when the X-Men first appeared on our tiny CRT television sets, and their first outing was rough. Released in the same year when the animated series pilot aired (Pryde of the X-Men), Uncanny X-Men was a multiplayer game that was published by LJN. A well-known American toy manufacturer and game publisher, LJN had produced several lines of Thundercats and WWF action figures and playsets.

Strangely enough, there is no record of the development team behind the game. Presumably, it was developed in Japan and then shipped to American audiences only. The title screen showcases several different playable characters, but that’s where the excitement begins and ends. Unfortunately, as it turns out, The Uncanny X-Men game is utter garbage.

The level design in the game is non-existent, and the game is slow and downright clunky. Enemies consist of floating blocks, robotic caterpillars and mysterious little orbs. The sprites naturally fit for a game developed in 1989, but then there’s no excuse for Cyclops resembling the Mad Titan, Thanos.

If you had no friends back in 1989, the game assists you with an AI character, which does nothing to help the player. I guess you can’t complain too much, because back then the concept of AI in video games was stuck in the Savage Land, but this adds to the misery of playing the game.

Perhaps this was just a pure cash grab for the upcoming mutant phenomenon, as this game is just a miserable reminder of how some licensed games were back then. Do not waste any time tracking down the first ever X-Men game. It’s mind-numbingly boring, and your ears will be pained by the horrible screeching sound of Cyclops’ optic blasts, too. You don’t need that in your life.

X-MEN: MADNESS IN MURDERWORLD

From the second gamers load up X-Men: Madness in Murderworld, they’re treated to a sweet little title screen and carnival music! Yes, it appears that some more care was taken with this Commodore 64 and DOS video game, which was developed and published by Paragon Software way back in 1989.

Recurring comic book villain Arcade (imagine Jigsaw – but a bit nicer) takes centre stage in the game, as he’s somehow miraculously managed to kidnap the leader of the X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier! It’s up the player to use their wits and expertise to save good ol’ Chuck, with the small team of Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Cyclops and…Dazzler!

Madness in Murderworld is a side-scrolling, awkward little video game which is extremely unforgiving. If gamers aren’t up to the task, losing a life means permanently losing a vital member of the X-Men! Of course, they would probably turn up again in the comics after dying, but this isn’t the point here. It’s life or death.

Combat in Murderworld isn’t fun, not even in the slightest. Engaging with an enemy is a headache, as players can only select specific mutant abilities by pausing the game. I was immediately thrown against a mutant-killing robotic Sentinel, and let’s say; it was a sad day for the mutants. The control panel for the game is a mess, and players will fumble over them continuously.

There are many different areas that the X-Men have to traverse through to find Charles Xavier, and in all honesty, at least there’s some sort of narrative here. There’s a decent enough range of characters to use, but it’s just too difficult and awkward to play. Paragon Software must have seen some success with the game though, as they attempted to improve on this formula with a sequel exactly one year later…

X-MEN II: THE FALL OF THE MUTANTS

The second game from Paragon Studios, Fall of the Mutants, was released in 1990 and was loosely based on the comic book story of the same name, by Chris Claremont. This time around, they had dramatically increased the roster, including Rogue, Psylocke, Havok and even Longshot, amongst others.

The game begins with an introduction from Uatu the Watcher, who was always synonymous with significant events in the Marvel comic book universe. After his brief introduction, Uatu lets you pick five different mutants for the game, and three different areas to choose from. You can visit Dallas, the Ice Age and the Galleria where you can fight the likes of dinosaurs, demons and…the Viet Cong.

Your end goal? To rescue Storm and the man with the cheapest mutant ability, in the history of the X-Men, Forge. No seriously, he can make machines with his mutant gene because of comic book logic.

Fall of the Mutants allows for gamers to explore a top-down map, where mutants can utilise their powers to get through obstacles, and also get handpicked for certain fights. The fight sequences are similar to the previous game in the series, but this time around, it’s a little more fluid. The backgrounds have a bit more detail for them, which is also welcome.

Again, for the nineties, it wasn’t that terrible a game. It’s a definite improvement on Murderworld, and Paragon Studios paved the way for some of the most popular franchises we play today, such as X-Com and Civilisation, which was brought forth by the acquisition from developers and publisher MicroProse. However, nothing had compared to the next X-Men game, which ended up emptying the wallets of comic book readers in arcades all over the world.

 

Sonic Mania – Review

It may have taken them a long fifteen years, but Sega has finally released a Sonic the Hedgehog game that fans can be incredibly proud of. Developed by Headcannon and PagodaWest Games, Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the blue speedball, receiving rave reviews almost everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, like the previous games, Sonic Mania revolves around stopping Dr Eggman (Robotnik) and collecting the Chaos Emeralds. As they attempt to thwart Eggman’s plans, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are thrown back into the past. Now it’s a race through time to save the day once again.

The game is similar in style to the original 2D platform games that the franchise is renowned for. Players are able to play as Sonic, Tails or even Knuckles in a variety of different acts. Some old favourites return with some grand redesigns, along with a small selection of shiny new zones.

Sonic Mania kicks things off with a stunning little animated short, and immediately this feels like a fresh start for the franchise. Known for his work on the recently cancelled Archie Sonic Mega Drive miniseries, Tyson Hesse lends a hand in animating this fun intro.

There’s a clear labour of love behind the game, as it’s even developed by a number of fans who are known in the community for their hard work on porting and creating their very own Sonic games. Once lead programmer Christian Whitehead approached Sega about this unique idea, the company decided to help publish it.

Thankfully, Sega made the right choice here. After so many previous pitfalls, Sonic Mania finally gets it right. It’s a superb piece of work, which can provide fans with hours of entertainment. Having recently finished the game, it’s safe to say that it should be recommended to those who have even fallen out with the hedgehog.

The zones have such a clever design to them, meaning that Sonic can traverse across any of the acts however the player wants. Due to the way some of them are designed, zones can be ended in various different ways. Don’t care for the water on a certain level? Get dry and travel to the highest parts of the map.

There’s a huge sense of nostalgia when Sonic is revisiting the old zones, but honestly, the new ones are where the game truly shines. For example, Studiopolis Zone showcases just how great the level designs are, and how the developers have managed to add their own flair to an old recipe. There’s so much detail to be seen as Sonic whizzes on by, so don’t hesitate to pause once in a while to admire the vibrant colours and unique designs.

If there’s any criticism to be made about the game though, it’s that we’ve seen some of these old acts before. The nightmare inducing Chemical Plant and Hydrocity zones make a return, along with that horrifying drowning countdown sound. It’s nice to revisit these zones with a fresh coat of paint, but there was a certain desire to see more new content, especially considering the fact they’re so well made.

Despite this minor criticism, it felt that Sonic Mania was severely missing its very own Ice Cap Zone, so no valid complaints can be made there. Bonus stages make a return again and unfortunately, there’s been no improvement here with collecting the blue spheres. There’s also the addition of the Special Zone, which can be accessed in hidden areas. Special Zones consist of chasing down a UFO, which is a welcome change of pace.

The enemies in Sonic Mania are pretty much the same as their predecessors, but there are a few surprise appearances throughout. Fans of the series will be happy to see a myriad of old faces, and some of the more keen-eyed gamers will notice references to forgotten games.

Players will notice the change in difficulty later into the game, and in one case the final boss in Oil Ocean Zone resulted in some short gameplay breaks. When all lives are lost in Sonic Mania, players have to start from the beginning of the first act. It’s not as harsh a punishment from the previous 2D games, but it’s suitable. Practice just makes perfect with these games.

Unfortunately, a small number of glitches hindered my progress throughout the game. So far, Sonic has managed to completely skip an act one boss, and also get himself perpetually stuck in the spinning motion during a boss fight, presumably for the rest of his life. This can be put down to the fact that the game is brand new so glitches like this can happen. Hopefully, these get fixed though, as other players are having issues.

The sprites have never looked better either, and they’re completely fluid no matter what Sonic is doing.  The same applies to the enemies and especially the boss battles, and Eggman’s creations are meticulously put together brilliantly. Hard work and dedication has been spent on bringing this game to life, and people familiar with sprites will end up blushing during the game.

Of course, Michael Jackson isn’t around to help contribute to the music in Sonic Mania (was he ever?), but it is without a doubt the strongest soundtrack in around 20 years. Whereas Sonic Adventure 2 had some decent songs, Sonic Mania provides some solid remixes and fresh tracks that fans will be already adding to their personal playlists.

Sonic Mania took around five hours to complete, but thankfully there’s an awful lot of replayability here. There’s a Time Attack mode, allowing players to finish the zones in the fastest time possible. Competition Mode makes a welcome return (first appearing in Sonic the Hedgehog 2), where players can race to the finish line.

As is the case with all Sonic games, players aren’t truly finished until all the Chaos Emeralds are collected. Medallions can also be acquired in the game, unlocking special features for different characters. Some will even notice that playing as Knuckles results in a different layout for one level.

For those who fond of the original 2D games, it’s certain that they’ll fall in love with Sonic Mania. It’s even a great starting point for the younger player, who will enjoy the fast-paced action. Considering just how cheap it is, Sonic Mania is great value for money, and it deserves to be played. Hopefully, Sega picks these developers once again, and we’ll see more of this sort of thing.

Sonic Mania is available on all platforms, and it’s a downright bargain. Although I claimed that there have been no well-reviewed Sonic games in fifteen years, I’ve admittedly left out the Sonic & All-Stars Racing games, which deserves recognition for being amazing. Sorry about that.

Loot Box City: Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

The sensitive subject of loot boxes was reviewed last week in a post regarding Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, and it appears that their model might be the new standard for video games. One bizarre example of this is the unnecessary inclusion of loot in the upcoming Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor game, which has raised important discussion amongst gamers.

Developed by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros., the sequel to Shadow of Mordor was eagerly anticipated by a number of fans, due to the unique ‘nemesis’ system the game employed. However, the sudden implementation of loot in a single-player game has rightfully agitated and confused players.

This time around, Monolith Productions will allow players to purchase loot boxes which can contain a variety of XP boosts, flashy gear and even orcs. It’s a surprise to see that they can somehow fit huge orcs into small little boxes, but regardless, these digital items can be purchased with real money without any guarantee of winning specific items.

The whole scheme stinks of greed, but it brings up an important question regarding this industry. Are some developers and publishers enabling gambling for gamers of all-ages with this new model? And is it a fair system if it allows developers to continue producing free downloadable content after release?

Unfortunately, there are a growing number of companies that have absolutely no issues with this new structure, and one of the most egregious examples of this is showcased in the multiplayer game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which skins are gambled with players all around the world.

Video game developers Valve introduced this new program a few years back and countless players have wagered items on several third-party websites, where ridiculous amounts of money have been exchanged. There’s hardly any regulation from Valve, who are allowing players of any age to take part in this shady gambling scheme.

Thankfully, a few publications have already picked up on Valve’s new business model, and the sheer level of profit is currently unprecedented. Unsurprisingly, some of these third-party sites really abuse the system, which is addressed by popular Youtuber h3h3productions, in this informative and entertaining video below.

It certainly feels like Valve is mostly to blame for this recent surge of ‘gambling’ though, as they first introduced a similar arrangement in their multiplayer game Team Fortress 2. A game which was renowned for having some of the best balance for a shooter was abruptly tarnished by digital hats, crates and an assortment of new weapons.

For some, including myself, it was enough to stop playing a game I had engaged with almost every day. New weapons were effectively changing the way people played, and this new fascination with cosmetic items in Team Fortress 2 felt a little peculiar.

Whilst Team Fortress 2 opened the floodgates, it was Overwatch which really put a strong focus on loot boxes, thanks to their seasonal events. As has previously been addressed, their loot boxes haven’t been well-received by a number of players. However, Blizzard Entertainment is making some positive changes, so it’s not all terrible over there.

There are other games that attempt the same model of Overwatch, and that means we shift our focus towards the massively disappointing Gears of War 4. The Coalition provided gamers with the option to buy ‘Gear Packs’, which can help with progressing through Horde mode, whilst supplying fans with special skins.

Not content with people buying the game and the season pass, The Coalition even announced a $100 loot box package which gamers could purchase! In addition to this, they restricted exclusive content for some weekends only, because they still want money from the few people that still bother with the game.

You simply can’t justify the pricing of a loot crate package costing around $100, and thankfully the questionable actions of some of these developers have already caught the interest of government bodies, such as the UK’s Gambling Commission.

With new regulations coming into play, it’s clear that there’s a growing problem here. It seems to be raising eyebrows everywhere else too, with Chinese gaming regulations forcing Blizzard Entertainment to reveal the drop-rates of their loot in Overwatch. The country already has issues with gaming addiction, so adding gambling into the mix is one hell of a nasty concoction.

Sure, there might be some gamers who are not personally affected by this, but it doesn’t change the fact that gambling is wrong on a fundamental level. It can deeply affect people in different ways, where younger players are more susceptible to such habitual, nasty habits.

For instance, studies from a leading UK survey company in 2015 have shown that 11% of respondents aged 11 to 15 years have gambled in online games, with 2% of them having done so in the past week. The number seems to be slowly expanding, which is a worrying sign.

It’s normalising gambling, which can lead to problematic issues further on in life. Young people can often feel rewarded for betting their money on these digital items, and that can have a hugely negative impact, leading them to believe it’s a completely normal activity without any risk involved.

Loot boxes appear to be replacing season passes and paid downloadable content now, and Overwatch is clear proof of that. These crates have paid the way for free content since its release, and even EA are now adopting the same model for their upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront sequel.

It’s amusing because EA’s season passes for the first Star Wars: Battlefront completely split the user base in half once substantial content was eventually released. The price of the pass also felt extortionate for a game that wasn’t even finished. So, in all honesty, the idea of scrapping passes is a welcome one.

 

source – kotaku (au)

Season passes need to be fine-tuned though, as gamers have been fooled into buying season passes by the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and Gears of War 4, to name a few. For all the astounding work that CD Projekt RED has provided us with The Witcher 3, we’re still being supplied pathetic offerings from other companies.

Still, loot boxes just aren’t the answer to resolving this complicated problem with video games. Sure, some developers may vehemently disagree due to the sheer profit they’re making, but luckily gamers are beginning to stand up against loot. The exceptional PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has also recently introduced crates which have to be paid to open, and players are already showing their clear disdain for it.

It’s a massive shame that this is happening because PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has just become one of the most-played games on Steam, and despite this resounding success, the developers Bluehole still feel the need to slap loot crates into the game. Of course, servers are expensive and they need to be maintained for such a growing community of gamers, but there must be other ways to help finance further support for it.

So far, few games have managed to do it correctly. It’s possible, and that’s been proven with the original Mass Effect franchise and The Witcher 3. Significant downloadable content for those games has ultimately been worth the gamer’s time and money. Heck, even Nintendo, who are relatively new to the concept of DLC, have managed to set a decent standard with Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

There is a way to give gamers cosmetic items without having to find them in countless crates, and Titanfall 2 accomplishes just that. The game allows players to purchase specific skins and attributes for the entire roster, and so far it looks to be working. It’s all affordable, and obtaining unique animations keeps those Titanfall 2 devotees happy.

Loot boxes are soon becoming the new way to finance games after their release, and we’ll be seeing much more of it from the industry in years to come. If you don’t like it though, and you believe it’s supporting a form of gambling, then vote with your wallet.

Sure, your online character might not look as cool as the others, but then you’ll be happy with the knowledge that you didn’t waste your money on gambling for superficial items, so there’s that.

Overdone?

Now surpassing a staggering 30 million players worldwide, Blizzard Entertainment’s massive online shooter Overwatch has seen some of the strongest support in the industry today. It’s a magnificently polished video game, but now a year after its release has the game actually maintained gamer’s interest?

A thread I recently discovered on Reddit appeared to suggest otherwise. The question was posed to gamers whether they were still playing, and out of approximately 1,300 comments, the majority had stated that they had drifted away from the game. There were a number of reasons for this, such as users complaining that the game had grown stagnant, to the toxic community and timed events ruining Overwatch.

It was a surprising discovery and of course, it goes without saying that this is but a tiny fraction of gamers that have touched Overwatch. Blizzard’s colourful and entertaining shooter is loved by millions, but why do some gamers, including myself, feel completely burned out with the multiplayer game?

There might be a few reasons for this, but we’ll engage with the topic of loot boxes first. To continue free support for the game, Blizzard implemented a loot box system that allows players the opportunity to win new skins, emotes, sprays and voice lines for all characters. They all differ in rarity, and boxes can either be purchased in bulk lots or acquired by completing arcade modes and levelling up.

The loot box system was a welcome idea at first because it allowed us a new way to gain fancy items for favourite characters. These boxes are set to have random drops and if players are lucky enough, they’ll even discover a rare ‘Legendary’ skin inside one! Blizzard appeared to get the system correct, unlike other games that adopted the same method, such as the atrocious Gears of War 4.

However, when Blizzard decided to kick off their first season event for Overwatch, loot boxes quickly became a topic of concern with fans. Whereas all previous items could be purchased via in-game currency, the Summer Games event contained items which could only be found in loot boxes.

With the introduction of 112 items, players had to act quickly if they wanted the desired item, due to the timed exclusivity of the content. It was actually a decent first event, and it was clear that this was Blizzard simply dipping their toes into the ‘loot’ waters.

Blizzard listened to the community’s complaints regarding the exclusive skins, and following events were changed so gamers could purchase whatever item they could afford. Since then, there have been at least five different events with their own unique items. Some of those have been incredibly entertaining, such as the Halloween Terror and Uprising events.

Something started to happen with every new event though, and the community soon realised the exponential number of rare items that were getting included. Whereas the first event began with six legendary skins, the latest Anniversary event boasted a surprising eleven legendary skins, and 24 ‘epic’ emotes!

By all means, fans don’t need all of the items, but if collectors wanted all of those sought after skins, they would have to spend 33,000 of their hard earned credits. If they wanted the superb dancing emotes, at the cost of 750 credits each, it would set them back 18,000 altogether. Sure, some of us tried their luck with loot boxes, but then the drop-rate for the experience was exasperating.

In some instances, users were finding that the money they had spent on loot boxes resulted in severely disappointing results. Some of the wilder players that were spending upwards of £50-100 on boxes were finding that they only won three legendary skins in approximately 50 boxes. The whole event felt like a joke to those who wanted to collect the majority of the content, and you couldn’t blame them, as it was all brilliantly designed.

Of course, Overwatch’s skins and various offering are not essential to the enjoyment of the game. Unlike Team Fortress 2, they’re purely cosmetic and don’t affect gameplay, but the drop rates of loot boxes have still raised important discussion online. Has it been a fair system? Is Blizzard getting a little too greedy with how much-timed content they’re putting out?

It’s a tricky subject. Overwatch’s lead designer, the great Jeff Kaplan, has insisted that these events aren’t intended for gamers to manically collect everything in such a short amount of time. If they have a favourite character, then they should simply focus on getting their new accessories.

That’s a fair point of course, but then I didn’t acquire a skin for my favourite character until the last few hours of the timed content. Standard duplicates were constantly being found in the majority of my loot boxes, and it really soured the entire experience.

Despite how exhausting the loot boxes became, Blizzard Entertainment has actually listened to their community in regards to their events. There are some actual improvements on the way, with drop rates set to increase and the possibility of old skins making a return. That’s fine, but I can’t help but feel that those susceptible to gambling habits have been badly affected by Blizzard’s system so far.

It’s great that Blizzard listens so well to the community, but then that leads us to one of the more important reasons for not continuing to play Overwatch on a regular basis. The community in the game, especially in competitive mode, can be completely and unnecessarily toxic.

Sure, competitive gaming is notorious for bad behaviour, but then due to the anonymity, the desire to win, team gameplay and the dislike for some characters – people can get real nasty in Overwatch. It’s a massive shame, and I’m almost certain that almost everyone who has played competitive has experienced toxic behaviour in some form.

It’s disheartening to have someone yell down a microphone because they’re not happy with the state of the team or a character, or even if someone makes a simple mistake. Their ranking in competitive is so damn important to their lives that they will berate anyone who ruins their chance of climbing up the ranks.

Competitive mode on Overwatch has shown me just how fickle some people can be with video games, and on occasion, I’ve received abuse for not picking the character they want you to be. When you have teams consisting of 6 players, apparently there is just no room for error. Here’s a handy tip for those who suggest you be a healer, go to the character select option and pick Mercy. It’s as simple as that.

Judging by people’s opinion of the community, levels of toxicity are almost up there with League of Legends. In my countless hours of playing Team Fortress 2, there was hardly any abuse thrown around. Players were there to have fun, which some people appear to forget about during Overwatch.

Sure, it isn’t the only game to suffer from hateful players, but then the objective based gameplay just easily angers some folk. And to those who solo queue, you are some of the bravest souls who play Overwatch. Personally, the toxicity has completely put me off competitive, because it’s just not a nice environment to be in.

With so many playable characters and their whole host of abilities, tweaks are regularly needed to help balance gameplay in Overwatch. Unfortunately, some changes have affected the viability of certain characters in the game. The tank class has gone through some of the worst changes recently, with Roadhog mains getting the worst treatment to date.

Several changes have often had a number of negative effects, and players will remember that one time when Bastion became completely invincible for a short period of time. It’s weird that this is happening though, as Blizzard seems to regularly ignore the problems that testers raise. Mostly everybody cried about the Roadhog alterations, but nothing was done.

It certainly isn’t the worst thing that ever happens to Overwatch gamers, but in the past, one of my most played characters D.Va received a decrease in armour and a change to her damage. Suddenly, one of my regulars received an undesirable nerf that negatively impacted the way I play. These fluctuations for the game’s roster aren’t completely game-breaking, but it’s a slight annoyance that has occurred on numerous occasions.

Don’t get me wrong, Overwatch is a brilliantly made game. It has some of the best designs I’ve ever seen in a game, but it’s just not grabbing me the same way it used to. Unlike some users in the aforementioned Reddit thread, I don’t agree that the game is poorly made. Perhaps updates could extend to a little more than just a new hero or map every once in a while because entirely new modes might pique my interest again.

Blizzard has done a superb job with building a rich universe within Overwatch, and they have also provided us with some of the finest animated shorts as well. It begs the question though; where is our single-player mode? The interesting lore they have built upon needs to be made into a fully functional campaign.

Unfortunately, they have absolutely no plans for that anytime soon though, which is a shame considering how well the Uprising story went down with fans. The entire history of Overwatch could be explored and surely knowing Blizzard’s skills, it could be turned into an engaging story mode.

It’s a damn shame that I’m not finding myself returning to the game regularly, but then some of the points made earlier showcase why the game is currently collecting a thin layer of dust right now. It’s a solid piece of work, but the toxic community, the loot boxes, the nerfs and buffs and lack of any substantial update just isn’t bringing me back anytime soon.

At the moment, I’m currently finding myself enjoying Titanfall 2’s crazy multiplayer modes and the new season of Diablo 3. Sorry Overwatch, I do like you; we’re just taking a break right now.

Play Wolfenstein You Jerks

w1

Do you enjoy the idea of killing Nazis in space? Well then, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the game for you. Despite strong sales during its release, I often found that a staggering amount of gamers hadn’t bothered with the first-person shooter. Perhaps this was because it was a Wolfenstein game, but then the joke’s on them; as The New Order is the best FPS in years.

Released in 2014 and developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda, The New Order follows veteran William ‘B.J.’ Blazkowicz, who attempts to stop the Nazis from continuing their reign of terror after winning the Second World War. It’s a fresh reboot for the series, introducing compelling character development to the main protagonist for the first time ever.

During its release, the game was mostly met with critical acclaim, with critics praising its narrative structure and intuitive shooting mechanics. It seemed weird to see a Wolfenstein game receive such positive reviews, but then again, they weren’t wrong in the slightest.

w2

Providing William Blazkowicz (or ‘B.J.’ for short) with much-needed depth and emotion was the best idea that MachineGames came up with for this game. For so long now, the games have only provided little more than a grimacing face but now, B.J. appeared in The New Order with a love interest, a personality and a much greater motivation for killing Nazis.

During the game, players will take Blazkowicz through an extremely unforgiving war, taking place amongst the Allied forces in a deadly fortress, to an asylum where he awakens 14 years later, towards a forced labour camp and even a lunar research facility. The game has it all, even allowing Blazkowicz to commandeer a German U-boat in the meantime.

Of course, the narrative also requires the gameplay to be fun, but thankfully MachineGames decided to make this one of the craziest first-person shooters around. When there’s no need for stealth, gamers can go in guns blazing, wielding some of the finest guns known to the series. If they really want to use both hands, B.J. can even dual wield, therefore making it easier to take down enemies.

Some moments in The New Order don’t always require stealth to complete sections of the game, as it’s up to the gamer to decide on how to tackle certain enemies. Alarms can go off though, and that’s when the Nazis appear in droves. Their deadly machinations though, need to be tackled with much more finesse than other enemies. Just you wait until B.J. encounters some of the big dogs, oh boy.

It cannot be understated just how much fun gamers will have with Wolfenstein’s action-packed gameplay. Thanks to the polished combat mechanics, it’s an absolute delight to play as Blazkowicz. Thankfully, there’s enough variation throughout the game, so players won’t get bored with the same weapons. As they’ll find out, there’s a whole selection of methods in taking down Nazis.

The level design in Wolfenstein is another thing that really stands out as being outstanding, and that is immediately noted during the beginning fortress attack. Despite some of the maps having a linear structure, there’s still room for Blazkowicz to explore certain areas. Levels are designed in a way that players can navigate throughout them however they please, using whatever tactics they see fit.

The New Order really captures the grisly reality of war at first, and it later expands on how the Germans took over parts of the world. The game maintains a certain disturbing atmosphere wherever players take B.J., and I often found myself looking around at the finer details found on specific levels. The propaganda that can be found in the game was usually quite interesting.

The story in The New Order has some fascinating development during B.J.’s journey in taking down the Nazis, and gamers are presented with two different choices in the beginning of the game which affects the narrative later on. The narrative somehow manages to have a wonderful blend of emotional, downright terrifying and crazy ideas throughout. It’s a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.

w3

The length of the campaign is around 12-15 hours, depending on how long gamers want to take with certain extras. It’s a sufficient amount of time for a single-player mode, and it’s a mighty relief to see that MachineGames never bothered to tack on a multiplayer mode onto the game. Too many games nowadays have watered down multiplayer modes, taking up developer time that should be spent on the single-player aspects (obligatory Mass Effect: Andromeda mention again, sorry – not sorry).

It appears that Wolfenstein: The New Order was a nice little surprise for reviewers and gamers alike, who didn’t expect much from the game. The previous 2009 entry was rather unremarkable, so having a Wolfenstein game implement a proper story, strong character development and polished gameplay mechanics was totally unexpected.

The success of The New Order allowed for a small expansion a year later, The Old Blood, a prequel story focusing on Blazkowicz in 1946 Germany. During The Old Blood, players have to infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein to obtain the location of The New Order’s main antagonist, ‘Deathshead’.

Whilst the additional content upheld the solid gameplay of the original game, The Old Blood slightly suffered from having a story that just wasn’t as impressive or as interesting as The New Order. Still, it’s certainly worth playing if players are itching to take down more Nazis as the effortlessly cool B.J.

This year’s E3 saw the surprise of new Wolfenstein II footage, showcasing a bunch of outlandish action that the series is now known for. This time, it appears that the Nazi regime is at its strongest in the occupied countries, and a returning Blazkowicz is now ready to help turn the tide once again. Even if he’s in a wheelchair, he’s more than able to kill the enemy.

With the game out later this year, there is no better time to get caught up on Wolfenstein. It is the most fun I’ve had with a first-person shooter in absolutely years. Whereas games like Titanfall 2 provided a decent campaign, games such as Wolfenstein went the extra mile and delivered a solid story with rewarding combat.

Wolfenstein: The New Order should be fairly cheap to purchase now, so you’ve got no reason to not pick it up. MachineGames are cementing themselves as a great video game company, and with the current sequel out soon, let’s hope they continue their success with Wolfenstein and many other games.