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I remember when Wolfenstein: The New Order first came out, reception was surprisingly glowing for something I remember not getting too hot previews and just having generally low expectations due to the previous reboot from 2009, which got me interested in checking out both it and it's expansion-prequel-thingy The Old Blood! 7 years later, I've finally gotten around to making good on that interest and I think maybe waiting that long was a big mistake.
I'm talking about both New Order and Old Blood in this because I have very similar feelings towards both of them and first I'll start with the stuff I liked, which was mostly the setting! I really like the approach they made towards this reboot with taking the base of Wolfenstein (nazi killing sillyness) and placing it on top of this thought out alt-history fiction where the nazi's won WW2 and has access to ridiculous technology and ancient myth ghoulies. Stuff like the beatles songs that were recorded in german and the giant concrete cities they erected are all really cool touches and the setting rides the line between thoughtful and silly very well. They also did a good job humanising everybody and making me care about a meathead who was just a head in a box in the original's UI. AND shoutouts to whoever designed the nazi armour/tech in these games, they look super cool.
So whilst all that stuff is novel and generally the biggest pull for me, I think the rest of these games are kinda lacking in certain ways. Whilst shooting dudes with duel-wielded machine guns and blowing their limbs off with high powered rifles can feel nice in any context, there's just this stiffness to it that I can't properly explain and I think the levels just also don't accommodate that type very well. Kinda bland level design, sections that can melt you if caught off-guard for a second and forced stealth/puzzle sections really ruin the fun of playing these games for me. There seems to be this conflict with the game design where the game wants you to have fun mowing down enemies but not TOO much because either there's a stealth section that the game wants you to take slow or your forced into a cinematic section that you don't have much control over and are almost forced to appreciate the level of detail the designer put into the wall you're passing by.
In the end, it gets to the core issues I have with these games which is whilst the way they treat their characters and tone is unique to other AAA shooters on the market at the time, it also still stinks of that era of shooter in terms of the way they play. FPS games have come along way since 2014/2015, both in terms of AAA and indie, with much better level design, flow, feel and aesthetic across the board and games like The New Order/The Old Blood feel archaic to me now. Which isn't to say I still can't get something out playing something more simple and older like these but I just feel like that generation of console's FPS have aged the worst for me and I wish I'd just played them back in the day.
Cool game! Whilst I don't have real strong feelings towards the game overall, it's still something I appreciate as a passion project for the dev team with wonderfully drawn art, cute anthro designs and a lovely soundtrack set to their vision of a fake franceland full of cats and dogs at war. Ther fact they even chose a french dub over an english one shows how commited they were to their setting (and it's appreciated).
Whilst aesthetically the game is great, the gameplay felt a little to be desired. Battles kinda lost their luster for me after the ten hour mark and the S O U L C A N N O N was kinda a let down. When it got introduced, I was really excited at the possibilities of it, the gameplay narratives that would unfold from being put in situations where I might have to sacrifice one of the children, dealing with the consequences and just having that choice, that THREAT, looming over me as I played through the game! But in the end, the difficulty meant that I was generally steamrolling dudes so I never felt the need to use it at all. OP healing spells + just reloading a checkpoint if things get REALLY bad meant that the cannon was kinda wasted mechanically which is a huge bummer! I think if maybe the difficulty/gameplay had been tuned differently or something then they could've had something really special with it, in terms of both the soul cannon and just enjoyment.
Which honestly is the biggest shame, because the game is generally good and it wraps up nicely but apart from it's aesthetics it didn't really leave any lasting impression with me.