Wolfenstein Review

The simply named Wolfenstein is a game that serves up the basic gameplay that you'd expect from the long-running but sparsely-populated series. In case you missed one of the game's rare incarnations over the past couple of decades, what's to be expected is fast-paced shooter gameplay, occult-dabbling Nazis, and perpetual hero B.J. Blaskowicz. This time out the Nazis are tapping into an ancient and mystical power source called the Black Sun and it's up to you as Blaskowicz to stop them, as well as blast them with a bit of their own medicine.

The Black Sun provides the power to cross between our dimension and a dark parallel universe known as The Veil, as well as to tap into The Veil's energy to impart special powers on those who know how to use it. Fairly early on in the game you'll gain access to a talisman that will grant you the ability to pass into and out of The Veil, and you'll also gradually unlock new Veil powers and increase their power. While in The Veil you'll be able to see nearby enemies in much the same way as you would if you were wearing IR goggles, and you'll notice other things that you're not able to see from our reality. The Veil is inhabited by floating gasbags with teeth known as geists. Most of the time they simply float around minding their own business, but if you shoot one it will explode in a burst of energy zapping any nearby enemies. If there are other geists close by, then you may even set off a chain reaction and take out a whole host of Nazis. Geists are a convenient airburst grenade but if you shoot too many of them or spend too long recharging your Veil powers at a power source, they'll turn nasty and begin enthusiastically attacking you with those big teeth of theirs. Luckily they can't seem to attack you when you leave The Veil, so a quick drop back to reality is enough to keep them at bay. While in The Veil you'll also be able to see secret doorways, ladder rungs, and other features that will lead to shortcuts or secret areas, so even when not drawing on The Veil's powers to defeat Nazis it pays to drop in on The Veil at regular intervals. You can't stay there all of the time, though, as just being in The Veil draws energy, and this energy can only be recharged at the aforementioned power sources or by using bottled Black Sun energy that the Nazis like to leave lying around. The bottled energy has another benefit - shoot one of the containers and the energy released will negate gravity for a short time, leaving nearby Nazis dangling helplessly in the air and ripe for the picking.

The Veil is not just a place to look for secrets and hidden Nazis; it also bestows special powers on you. One power will allow you to slow down time, allowing you to make your way past traps and machine gun nests, or to simply charge up to a couple of enemies and take them out with melee attacks before they know what hit them. Another power will cover you with a protective and impenetrable shield for a short period of time. And lastly, you'll be able to give your bullets more power so that they can penetrate objects and even the shields of the Nazis who themselves dabble in Veil powers.

So that, in a nutshell, is The Veil. I liked the concept and it is fun to pop back and forth between two parallel dimensions, but the game's overall use of The Veil and its powers left me somewhat disappointed. The game never requires you to use you powers in creative ways. You slow down time to make a break between moving walls intent on crushing you in puzzles straight out of a platform game or to approach a well-positioned and fortified machine gun nest, but that's about as far as the game goes in providing you with the opportunity to use your powers. There's no thinking and not much timing required to make your way past these ho-hum obstacles. Also, the ability to see every enemy in a bright highlight takes a lot of the challenge out of the firefights. The game attempts to compensate for this by throwing more enemies at you and making you a bit on the frail side, but those looking for a challenging shooter certainly won't find it here. The Veil is basically a good idea in need of good ideas of how to apply it to a game, and left me feeling that it could have been used to make the game far more engrossing than it is.