2009 Reviews


  • Review Date: 2014-01
  • Release Date: 2009-08
  • Developer: Raven Software
  • Rating: 8.5

Raven Software has always been one of my favourite developers. They have a simple approch to video games and haven't changed that much to suit the industry.

That is, making action-focused games that are simply fun. Never epic, never more than ten hours, but always enjoyable.

With Wolfenstein they've tried to integrate some of the things that are becoming common in action games; collectibles, upgrades and a non-linear approach. But it's only done to a small degree. At it's core, Wolfenstein is still just a fun first person shooter, and that's all I was really hoping for.

I honestly can't remember the last time I played a game where each weapon picked up I actually got to keep and use whenever I want. It's one thing I hate in current games, where you really just stick to the best couple of weapons and the rest get ignored. But Wolfenstein allows you to keep them all. The rifles, machine guns, particle cannon, Panzerschreck, flame thrower, Tesla gun and Leichenfaust 44. I failed at showing some variety, because I really only used the MP40 and MP43 anyway, since there was always plenty of ammo. Once fully upgraded with a scope, the MP43 was awesome fun and at a distance, probably the most effective weapon in the game. The final boss battle all I used was the MP43 and Leichenfaust 44, which fires a massive energy projectile.

You also get the Veil, a powerup with three different types; Mire which slows time down like bullet-time, an energy shield and Empower which multiplies-damage. The combination of Empower and Mire was great, especially when upgraded and you could turn nearby weaker enemies to stone just by turning it on. The shield was a bit useless and I didn't use it at all, there's only so many keys I can manage at once and two was enough, since you always switch it on as soon as you enter combat. Your powers are also limited and need recharging, although recharge spots are in large supply. There were a good variety of enemies in Wolfenstein, as you'd expect from Raven. I won't go into them all, but some are quite tough and all very fun. This is no Call of Duty where you face the same damn human enemy throughout the entire game.

There's also a number of bosses, who weren't that difficult. Which brings me to difficulty levels. I've seen the odd comment that the game is a bit easy. I've played a lot of games recently that I found were over the top. When you have difficulty settings like Easy/Normal/Hard, that's exactly what it should be. Not Difficult/Fucking Difficult/Impossibly Difficult.

Resident Evil 5, Prototype, Dragon Age; all recent games I've played where some parts of them were very poorly balanced. I played Wolfenstein on normal, and that's pretty much exactly what it was. Not too easy, I died probably a dozen times overall, usually through a grenade I didn't notice or getting trapped by one of the bigger enemies, but not too difficult either. If I want to be challenged, I'd play on Hard or even the next difficulty up.

Raven's attempts at a less linear game were slightly phoned in. You get three town levels that are very non-linear, and select your missions from there. However the missions (10 in total) were one after another. There were also side missions poked in (6 in total), but only at certain times and they were very short, usually 10-20 minutes completion. Most of them were actually just in the central hub rather than their own levels. So the game only appears sandboxy, but it's not really. The main missions are all completely linear levels.

Wolfenstein looks great. It might be on the now aging id Tech 4, but it seems to have been kept up to date pretty well. Compared to Wolverine, Raven's other 2009 game but based on Unreal Engine 3.0, Wolfenstein is probably slightly better looking. So anyone who claims the game looks bad is just talking shit. Unreal Engine 3.0 would be the most used engine even today, in 2014. Unreal Engine 4.0 is now taking over, but no games have been released in this yet. The levels in Wolfenstein are well detailed, atmospheric, and give a good amount of variety, from churches, castles, airfields, archaeological digs, even a zeppelin. It's not the best looking game of 2009, or the best engine, but the detail packed into some of the levels makes up for it.

My only complaint, I suppose, would be that there could have been more of a story going on.

Unfortunately because this and Wolverine didn't sell so well, and then Singularity didn't achieve much success in 2010, Raven's team was cut to a third as Activision
lay the rest off. They haven't released a game since then, in over three years, which is their longest stretch since their inception in 1992. A damn shame really, because I really enjoyed Wolfenstein. Does every single game have to either be big on multiplayer or be a GTA-clone or huge RPG to be a success?