Being B J Blazkowicz Again in Wolfenstein The New Order

Title: Wolfenstein: The New Orderwolfenstein_the_new_order_art.0_cinema_640.0
Developer: Machine Games
Distributor: Bethesda

More Entertaining Than:
Wolfenstein

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Less Entertaining Than:
Return to Castle Wolfenstein

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Rating (out of ten): 8

The following review is based on my experience with the Xbox One version of Wolfenstein: The New Order over the course of 8 hours worth of game play.

As with the previous Wolfenstein games, id software have little to do with the overall production of the title, Raven and Grey Matter Studios in the past having control over the game that was created, Machine Games being left to pick up, in my opinion at least, the mess that Raven left behind. I have always been a fan of their products, but the 2009 version in the franchise seemed to go in an unfathomably absurd direction, before falling flat at the conclusion with a less than riveting reveal, testifying that a sequel could very well be developed.

I had begun to believe that the best possible strategy to improve the series would be to send it kicking and screaming into the future, as to allow the vast futuristic powers the Nazis have seem less than unbelievable. Originally beginning in 1946, the war still raging onwards, Blazkowicz finds himself amidst a team of men selected to neutralize Deaths Head, a character who, for me at least, seems to be getting tirelessly old (as a character, as well as physically), the technology at the disposal of him and his men being incredibly poignant. Much like the beginning moments of Mass Effect 3, The New Order opens with our heroes failing, however, rather than fleeing, Blazkowicz is badly injured, and finds himself carted off to the funny farm, of all places. The game quickly fast forwards to the year 1960, with the Nazis having notoriously won, and now ruling over the remnants of the planet, using the asylum he was transported to as a ‘candy store’, where Deaths Head takes subjects for all kinds of malicious projects, the 14 year slumber Blazkowicz was in coming to a sudden and violent end as he cuts the jugular of an enemy agent, and sets about killing Nazis all over again right, left and center.

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Upon meeting up with other individuals during the early hours of game play in Nazi 1960, having to work alongside old Grandpa Moses (or just about) paints a strong picture that very few resistance members are alive, these dire straits needing amending, the primary mission to build an effective counter insurgence team agaisnt the Nazi regime. The fellow characters you work alongside each have equally interesting back stories that are convincing, and often emotionally in-depth, painting further horrifying images of all the suffering that has occurred. Caroline Becker (from Wolfenstein) makes a surprising return, along with several new soldiers, specialists, and innocent civilians, just trying desperately to survive. The feel of the base camp the resistance later occupies has a similarity to it reminiscent of subway town in Rage (with the music, sound, and general happenings) and the Atlantis in Unreal II, this being further strengthened with themes of family, honor, retribution and love. Although Blazkowicz is still a Nazi killing machine, his usual bluntness shares the screen with a softer side. There is one side quest where the player has the option to help finds toys belonging to a mentally disabled young man, the care displayed during this being very considerate. The emotional depth additionally gives the character something to fear losing, and thus is potentially a more powerful motive than the typical mundane storyline attributes that have been previously showcased. On that note, it is fair to say the game does often become quite adult, and I mean that in all sense of the word.

the growing intensity during this particular scene was especially well delivered

the growing intensity during this particular scene was exceptionally well delivered

The graphics in the Wolfenstein games have always been rather ahead of their time, yet, the same cannot always be said for The New Order. True, they are very attractive, the facial construction in the cinematics to the in-game environments all being beautifully detailed, however, a blandness seems to hold sway over much of the world. This could no doubt be due to the bleakness in the game’s atmosphere, and the general want to make the sheer weight of the war fall upon the gamer. If so, this is furthered again by lead protagonist, Blazkowicz himself, who not only narrates the storyline, but mutters beneath his breath during the game, his sometimes poetic, sometimes vengeful, but always brutally honest depictions of the happenings, further immersing the gamer into the world. Moreover, the musical score adds to the explosive sounds of bullets slamming into walls, and shrapnel falling all about, much of the music being less than serene, and having a resemblance to the sounds of the game itself, a shrill warning filling the airwaves whenever danger is around. When the music is not accompanying a battle, much like the softer aspects of the game, the music too envelops this theme and further draws the gamer in.

this was an especially fun area to fight in

this was an especially fun area to fight in

As with all of the previous titles, The New Order is primarily a violent shoot ’em up, with an endless wealth of battles taking place over the course of each level, the gamer only demolishing one group of bad guys before having to confront the next.  The human opposition are reasonably weak, but then again, so too is the character portrayed. Each injury takes away a good portion of health, however, even when health is in short supply (this includes meals, dog bowls, medical packs, etc), the game will automatically level the player up to the nearest even 20% (as an example, if you have 51% health, the game will automatically charge you up to 60%). Furthermore, health can be ‘overcharged’, at least for a short duration, any health points accumulated that takes Blazkowicz’s health line over 100% slowly burning off. This is beneficial during a head-on battle; say you have 136% health, there is a chance you may lose that extra 36%, but still retain your regular allotment.

Armor too is located all around, in the shape of helmets (that can be dropped by the enemy), flak jackets, riot shields, etc, all of it adding to the percentage. The quality of protection can be further increased through upgrades that can be found in maps, or by building upgrades at the work bench situated within HQ. Ammo is another quantity that is wealthy in the world, however, no matter how much is acquired, it always seems to get burnt through like popcorn, and on more than several occasions I found myself suddenly deprived of any and all magazines. This means that you need to be quite conservative, The New Order offering gamers the opportunity to be stealthy and assassinate the opposition.

There are many moments in the game when commanders happen to be present, who set off the alarm and rally more men to the area once you are spotted. Dispatching them silently, or before anyone else has the option of getting the drop on you, minimizes the number of enemy tangos. However, at the same time The New Order has no problem with the gamer being all loud and proud, with a number of gun turrets, which can be ripped from the world and physically carried around, existing in a number of areas. These, much like the other armaments, run out of steam quite quickly, and are automatically dropped the moment Blazkowocz interacts with the environment, whether it be opening a door or hitting a switch. This can potentially be annoying, however, adds to the realism.

Furthermore, when it comes to acquiring items, unlike in previous titles, Blazkowicz does not pick these up simply by walking over them, and the gamer is constantly clicking ‘x’ in order to garner as many goods as possible. For me, there was a constant threat hanging over my shoulders that I might well accidentally miss a number of items; at least when the game is in charge of obtaining ammo and health, there is no chance that it shall be inadvertently left behind. I also found this to be reasonably annoying, since every single combatant dropped something or other, and I felt I was clicking ‘x’ more than I was pulling back on the trigger. On a side note, I do presume this again strengthened the realism of the game, however, in  a purely fictional title, is realism even a requirement?

Continuing with the theme of realism, Blazkowicz later has access to a laser cutting tool which is used to slice away at wire fences, the gamer having to physically move the torch around in a square shape in order to make a hole large enough to waltz on through. This time consuming process became boring after the first time I did it, there being however a wealth of similar scenarios to come; however, the ability to upgrade weapons during the campaign, including the cutting blade later rendered this concern moot, and you too will find out why.

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Returning to the theme of antagonists, although the humans could be dispatched with reasonable ease, the new robotic creations, which are introduced right from the start, certainly are not. Dogs (yes, they too are robotic now), although far easier from afar, up close, the continuous snapping of the jaws as you attempted to prod them with your knife seemed to be a constant gamble as to see who would win. Other robotic monsters included flying gizmos and larger assault mechanisms, which although slow, packed a wealth of fire power, and boasted an epic amount of protection that made killing them a real challenge. In previous titles there has been a continuous move towards actual monsters, or X-creatures as they were once called. This movement towards more robotic opposition makes the futuristic world The New Order occupies come alive in a more sophisticated way, by showing the ingenuity and strength of the Nazi war machine.

Continuing on, during combat, the game would automatically level Blazkowicz up with additional skills, depending on the methods I used. By using dual wielded weapons, Blazkowicz learned how to reload both weapons simultaneously; by throwing grenades, he learned how to throw them back at the enemy; by assassinating opponents, he was educated on throwing knives, etc. This assisted in benefiting my personal experience with the game, however, what did not was the frequent lack of any actual guide. In many games, a way-point or arrow is provided so the player knows the direction they are meant to move in. Although there was one on occasion, when there was not, I sometimes found myself moving back and forth in a vain attempt to find the exit.

Focusing more specifically on the game itself, the significant lack of the 1940s feel, and the removal of aristocratic castles in exchange for technologically proficient societies perhaps may well have been a necessary change to breathe new life into a series that could have rhapsody being at an end. Sometimes this change feels as though it were forced a little too strongly, however, when the game works, there are moments when you forget you are at the helm of a video game and are simply experiencing life itself. During these amazing scenes, you just know that Machine Games have valiantly done their job.

 

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Is Godzilla (2014) King of the Screen?

Title: Godzilla
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rating (out of 5): 3.5

When I was much younger, I was a massive fan of Godzilla; I had two toys of this triumphant lizard, two Mothras, three Rodans, three Hydras, two members of Godzilla force, a Godzilla force fighter jet, and a set of trading cards, not to mention several pairs of clothing depicting this massive creation.

Where Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla failed, due to repetitive action sequences, immature dialogue, and certain aspects of the storyline which were unable to make coherent sense, I was hoping this particular reboot would find a way of telling a far superior story.

Now, if a feature happens to be named after one of the major characters (Riddick, the Bourne franchise, etc) you expect said character to play an incredibly pivotal role. Although many in Godzilla believed this terrific behemoth was the only hope in stopping other ancient predators, his entire screen presence lasted probably ten minutes (excluding the moments you see his fins as he swims through the oceans).

Much like in Alien Vs Predator Requiem, the human characters have the more significant roles, and although at the beginning this was of little concern, for the remainder of the film was still yet to transpire, by the end, there is this disgruntled sense of unquenched entertainment that settles over the cinema, as you come to realize the shocking absence of this tyrannical monstrosity.

Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) was a scientist at a Japanese power plant when it was inexplicably destroyed by an unexplainable force of unparallelled proportions. 15 years later, and his son, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Araon Taylor-Johnson) who has discovered a career for himself in the Navy, is officially over his father’s wild conspiracy theories that lead him back to Japan.

There, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his team of scientists who have existed since before the events of the Japanese power plant, have been running experiments on an unidentified creature located at the epicenter of the destroyed reactor.  But when the creature is released from its egg-sack and begins to run, or more aptly, fly rampantly across the terrain in search of food, the military, including Jason Strathairn as an Admiral and Richard T. Jones as a fellow high ranking commander, are brought in to help bring an end to the chaos that is only escalating.

This particular version of Godzilla returns the frachise back to its origins, with these triumphant ancient beasts having a high tolerance, and general appetite, for all things nuclear, the male Rodan-esque creature released from the egg thus making its way from one potential source of radiation to another in the hopes of finding food. When another creature of the same species eventually erupts out from its burial chamber, this particular creature identified as a female, you can begin to imagine what their intentions are, which can only spell further catastrophic trouble for humanity, unless something of equal strength can fight them. Some believe nuclear arsenals are the answer, whilst others, especially Dr. Serizawa, believe firmly in Godzilla.

Although the Rodan like creatures, which are initially introduced as some kind of ancient monstrous parasite, receive considerably more face time with the audience than Godzilla does, it is still not nearly enough to satisfy one’s thirst for special effects. These creatures look almost robotic, with rather square block heads and a red nuclear light pulsating across the underside of their bodies, and along the tips of their elongated clawed fingers. This is no criticism however, the special effects being exceptional in this creature feature; I only wish that the creatures had a far greater screen presence.

What further fails to fill my appetite are the fight scenes between the monsters, a number of them being cut short; at one point the fight scene takes place over a couple of incredibly quick frames on a television screen hundreds of miles away, Moreover, on the occasions when you are in the thick of it, the blanket of night fall does all manner of annoyances. Although you can often make out what is happening, daylight would have been preferable in illustrating these magnificent creatures in their truest form.

A story of family at heart, it seems the developers of this particular feature on occasion forgot that Godzilla was supposed to play a paramount role, and for this reason the audience suffers greatly. If this studio plans on making a sequel, which may prove unlikely (think what happened last time America decided to create a spinoff), hopefully the creators may consider having any further incursions taking place during the day.