Activision – Wolfenstein review

an old name revived, but the greatness has gone
Photo of Activision – Wolfenstein

With characters talking as if they’ve just walked out of an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo, and cut scenes that you want to skip pretty much as soon as they’ve started, the latest revival of the grand-daddy of first person shooters, Wolfenstein, doesn’t get off to the easiest of starts.

To be fair, graphically it looks like a fine, modern, first person shooter, but from the earliest levels the game hints that it will offer little you’ve not seen before. It’s a suspicion that, as things progress, proves to be correct.

You can choose your active mission (but rarely from a very wide choice), interact with characters and generally enjoy a little bit more freedom than you might ordinarily expect. But we never really found ourselves, in the past, loading up Wolfenstein to have a chat with other characters, and while the plot of Nazi experimentation with the occult remains at the base of this game, we had little interest in seeing the actual narrative play out. Instead, we’d have appreciated being pointed in the right direction and allowed to go off and play.

That said, the game does compensate for what’s soon apparent as an all-round lack of new ideas by getting you down to business fairly quickly. In the past, we’ve expected quite a build-up before getting to the occult-related elements of the game. Not here. Inside the first hour, the game has introduced you to the veil, a finite source of energy that when activated jumps you between worlds.

It’s the first of the functions that you can ultimately activate via the Thule Medallion, the others allowing you to see things in a room you couldn’t spot before, to slow down time, to shield yourself from bullets and to shoot through others’ shields. The problem, though, is that – fun while some of these are – they do feel like bolt-ons.

Which leaves you with the main game, one that simply fails to generate the magnificent levels of tension of, for example, Return To Castle Wolfenstein. It feels light on surprises, and while you wouldn’t quite say there’s a feeling of déjà vu about things, there’s certainly a comfortable knowledge that you’re going through reasonably familiar motions.

You’re also encouraged to hunt down pick-ups such as weapons and gold, the latter of which can be spent on a succession of unlockable upgrades in the game’s black market (the requirements to unlock each upgrade are detailed, too), but even that’s been done to death elsewhere.

Granted, this game does tie in to the themes of the original Wolfenstein game, and granted, there are moments that look particularly impressive. But as you studiously employ all the tactics you’ve employed in first person shooters over the past five years or so, it doesn’t take long for it to dawn that Wolfenstein is content to be more of the same.

To be fair, it does deliver a decent game once that realisation is out of the way, but for those of us of a certain vintage, we remember Wolfenstein as the game that smashed down boundaries, not one that was happy to live within them.

Company: Activision

A revival, but not an ambitious one. Wolfenstein is a decent first person shooter, but there's no hint of greatness here.