Game review: Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Talos Principle

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I’ve recently played Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Talos Principle. What follows is a dual review of both.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of the surprises of 2014 and was considered one of the recommended first person shooters in many game publications. If this game is considered one of the good games of that year, we can easily conclude the year was weak. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the game very much and it gets many things right, but it’s far from a top level game.

The game itself is one more title in the Wolfenstein series and a sequel to Wolfenstein, released in 2009, a much weaker game. So let’s focus on what The New Order gets right.

Character development is unusually nice for a Wolfenstein game. Both for the protagonist and the many NPCs and other main characters in the story. The levels are varied and the single player campaign is long but not too long, with ample room for replays, instead of relying on pointless achievements to trick you into playing until the magical 100% completion number. The campaign length and level variety remind me of Deus Ex. The creators knew about this strength, I think, and that’s why they included two timelines as well as a browsable list of secret rooms and items. This, coupled with the chapter selection menu, increase the game value.

Another aspect the game gets right is when mixing styles. Goofy and overpowered weapons are mixed with simpler ones. Over-the-top action is mixed with dramatic moments and some comic relief. Many levels admit several approaches, from stealth to dual-wielding rocket launchers. The game even has unlockable skill chains for different styles to encourage you to change your approach and keep you entertained.

As I mentioned previously, the game prefers to give you replay value and a sane list of achievements so if you’re a completionist you won’t find yourself locating and killing pigeons all over a city. After getting to 100%, and if you found the game to be a bit easy (I played in “I am death incarnate”, replayed it in “Über” and found it to be easy except for the final act, which is a bit painful in Über), after getting 100% you can still solve the enigma codes and unlock new and challenging gameplay modes that will be difficult even for expert gamers. A very wise choice from the game creators.

The technical aspect of the game is a bit worse. It’s been over a year since its release and people are still having sound problems with the game. Usually, getting no sound at all (it happened to a friend of mine) or out-of-sync audio in cutscenes (it happened to me). It feels unpolished. In the graphics department, there is a marked contrast in texture resolution sometimes. While not as noticeable as in Rage, game world textures have sometimes much lower resolution than items on it or other interactive elements. Texture pop-in, typical from id Tech 5 games, is still present. However, with an SSD and a modern graphics card, it’s only noticeable in very specific cases and does not distract the player.

In fact, the best technical aspect of the game is how, despite the low resolutions in very close-up situations in the game world, the level geometry and texture work is amazing. The game look is really good and the it runs amazingly well in many systems. Framerate drops were very infrequent to me and the game ran smoothly at 60 fps all the time in the highest settings it allowed me to use, which were “High” (reminder: I have a GTX 760).

Let’s go for the scores. Technical: 8. Gameplay: 9. Overall: probably in the middle, a nice 8.5.

The Talos Principle

After The New Order, I played The Talos Principle. 100% recommended. I’ve wasted a lot of ink on The New Order and it feels like I’m running out of words for this game, which doesn’t do it justice. The Talos Principle is a puzzle game. It feels a bit like Portal or Portal 2, but on steroids. Its puzzles rely less on physics (jumps, speed and momentum) and more on geometry. I found it to be totally addictive.

Many things can be praised in this game. The way the plot is slowly revealed, the philosophical texts and discussions about humanity, culture and the life cycle, the music, the simple controls and game mechanics, or even its price. I get the feeling if I talk too much about the game itself, I would spoil it for you, so let me sum it up: just get it and play it.

Not everything is rosy, of course. Graphics are OK and fit the game and its mood, but they don’t shine nowadays. Physics are not very good either. They worked for Serious Sam 3 (the game uses the same engine) and fortunately and as I said before, puzzles are more based on geometry than physics, so they simply do their job, but sometimes you can’t help but notice Quake 1 felt better when playing. In the gameplay aspect, the main problem is that at the end of the game you more or less get the hang of the puzzles and the last, say, quarter of the game can feel less challenging than some of the middle game puzzles. This end-of-game decay is one of the few flaws in an otherwise amazing experience.

Scores. Technical: 7. Gameplay: 9.5. Overall: 9. The gameplay dominates. Hey, don’t blame me if you play it and don’t like it. :-)

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