I've been shooting Nazis for 17 years, and never once have I needed to make time slow down. Or conjure up a mystic barrier. Guns have been good enough for killing Nazis since the invention of Nazis. And they've been good enough for me since Wolfenstein 3D, way back in 1992 - a Gen-X game if there ever was one, the precursor to Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, and the prototype for Halo and Call of Duty.
I'm not sure if the designers of Wolfenstein "The Reboot" meant for it to feel like an aging game from a generation ago, or if they were just being sloppy. On one hand, they use a fairly modern graphics engine (if you consider Quake 4 modern), so the game is light years beyond the big-flat-room appearance of Wolfenstein 3D. But in the new Wolfenstein the mouths on the digital characters chatter like robots. Fire billows in different, contradictory directions while managing to spread nowhere. Beams of light catch on my hand and gun, but I don't cast a shadow. It's as though a modern game were deliberately imitating the artless graphics of an earlier era.
Lately shooters have allowed me to swagger through the twisty Old West of Bound in Blood and creep though the penal colony of Escape from Butcher Bay. In contrast, Wolfenstein sends me trooping through a series of rooms, some bigger and some smaller, in which shootouts with Nazis invariably occur. The Nazis naturally seek cover behind barriers, peering around corners and peeking over boxes to take their shots. I'm stuck, however, bobbing from a crouch to standing upright, or moving entirely around a corner to aim. No leaning or sneaking shots for me.
The only innovation Wolfenstein brings to its run-and-gun antics is the addition of "special powers," which are all the rage these days. Ever since Nintendo demonstrated that gravity can be altered to eerie effect in Eternal Darkness, videogames have been altering the "laws" of physics. Prey, early in the Xbox 360's run, brought a topsy-turvy perspective to shooters, and recent titles such as inFamous and Prototype base the entire game around modifying statistics like speed and defense. So with Wolfenstein's "occult" powers, I'm supposed to be excited that I can give myself a mystic shield and slow time. Big deal - I've already played games with The Force.
THE GOOD: Between missions, I'm free to wander around the fictional German city of Isenstadt. The streets are full of Nazis who want to gun me down and there are hidden enclaves of resistance fighters and underground occultists for me to seek out and assist. The level design is detailed enough to feature attics and sniper spots hidden across mazes of dark rooftops.
THE BAD: Sometimes there's gold when I get there. Rarely there's an enemy waiting for me. Never a citizen. For some reason the designers have used the brilliant idea of giving their shooter an intricate Grand Theft Auto III-style city, but they've failed to fill it with anything to do or anyone to see. What a waste of cyberspace.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A predictable and unpolished shooter that tarnishes the name Wolfenstein.
Rated Mature; PS3, 360, PC