So yeah, I ended up picking up Wolfestein: The New Order via the summer sale. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much: A decent FPS to while away a few hours while I wait for another release. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it much, and I definitely wasn't expecting to actual give a crap about parts of the story.

Let me be clear here: The overall plot arc is boilerplate. BJ Blackowitiz is like every military action hero you've ever met who growls literally all of his dialogue, sent on a mission to kill the some evil Nazi scientist: Spoliers for the prologue, it doesn't work out well, and we end up in a weird alternate-history where Germany beat everybody. And I do mean everybody. Largely because their army has giant killer robots and cyborgs.

But here's the thing: Wolfenstein pulls off things it has no business doing: Having a lot of fun with a frankly bit of a tired premise (though in the glut of modern shooterfests it's practically a breath of fresh air to not be shooting at terrorists for a change) and yet managing scenes that have give the subject matter some weight. Sometimes you get interludes like the one in the video above (which is fantastic), and sometimes you get a story-heavy sequence about going through a god-damn concentration camp and it's as horrible and dehumanizing as it should be. There are scenes that are downright chilling, and even a few great emotional moments as well. And then suddenly it jumps to weirdness, like 'BJ trips on Acid! (Yeah, that's a thing that happens) and it works. It breaks the tension and ends up being hilarious. Basically, sometimes the game is Saving Private Ryan, sometimes it's Inglorious Basterds, and sometimes it's a shade of Schiendler's List and it all kind of hangs together. It shouldn't, but it does.

One thing I hear brought up a lot is that sex is also handled maturely—and I have to be honest, I'm not 100% on that. There've only been two in my playthrough and I felt them a little gratuitous, but they were just sort of there, instead of say, treated as some sort of achievement the way Mass Effect or Dragon age might (with long, lingering cutscenes set to soft music and montages, that kind of thing. You saw them coupled, there was some dialogue—often BJ reminiscing about finding a little comfort in the margins of something terrible or some little affection between them). That said, I will say something I like is that weirdly, the relationship between BJ and Anya feels like a real relationship to an extant, if that makes sense. It's the little things; a fleeting touch here or there, a little change in tone to one another even as they go about day to day. Rather than weighty declarations of love, we see what most relationships are like, at least in public: a sort of invisible connection between a couple characters.

Downsides? Well, to be blunt, I had to look up Anya's name. She's not all that memorable and ends up largely filling the FPS 'Voice-in-my-head' role. (On the other hand, Caroline, who is wheelchair bound and serves as the sort-of-leader is a god-damn badass.) On the gameplay side, while the game can be tricky at times (I've died in quite a few sequences—even your basic foot troop can kill you if he flanks) it has little to do with the AI and more to do with weapons just being lethal. The AI is often as dumb as a post, almost randomly jumping out of good cover as if to say 'Okay time for me to die'. Most times the gunplay is frantic and fast paced, but there are too many segments that devolve into 'Stand behind cover, edge out and pop heads as they come out'. Which is a shame, because running around dual wielding machine guns like some sort of crazed maniac is a freaking BLAST. Missions are varied, but tend to follow a somewhat linear 'Now is the time to stealth. Now is the time to run and gun' feel (to its credit though, you can screw up stealth sequences and just murder everything. The reverse less so).

In any event, fans of old school FPS, or even FPS in general should give it a shot. Fans of ANY genre provided it's quality should try it. People who dislike FPS or hate ANY modern conventions in FPS should probably avoid it. It stays old school (carry ALL of the guns! Your health doesn't regenerate much—to the nearest 1/5th, basically, and armor does not! There are secrets, and hidden pathways that allow you to approach encounters optiomally!) in some ways but plays to modern conventions in others (lean-and-fire is the most efficient way to not die in most scenarios. There are iron sights, although running around hip firing will work for most of the game. Lots of exploration, but still not as linear as some.)