Developer: Techland | Released: 2009 | Genre: FPS, Western
I actually didn’t like this much at first. The game threw me into the trenches of the civil war and pushed me from point to point with little time to stop and smell the roses. The static HUD was also gone, replaced with temporary UI elements whenever a key was held down. It felt like the developers wanted it to be Call of Duty: Bound in Blood rather than a proper sequel to Call of Juarez.
Also, it was a prequel – telling the story of the three McCall brothers.
I did eventually get used to the different style and the game was indeed much more slick than the first one. Both loading and saving was now very fast, the Chrome Engine looked competitive, and the cutscenes were now much more cinematic. The troublesome stealth sequences of the first game were gone. Instead, shootouts now pretty much dominated the game.
But I must say, I never really liked the HUD-less UI with no health bar or action slots. Having the border of the screen glow red, perhaps with a squirt of blood sprayed, has always been way too ambiguous to me. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve always wanted to have the vital information displayed at all times.
That’s what I really liked about Wolfenstein: The New Order.
The game was about Ray, Thomas and the young preacher William riding together, shortly after the end of the civil war. Ray and Thomas soon got dirty – much to William’s chagrin – and both also fell in love with a gorgeous girl. Only Ray or Thomas could be controlled, but contrary to the first game, almost all of the chapters started with a free choice between either one.
Ray was close up and duel wielding, while Thomas was about knifes, rifles, a lasso and climbing. I always chose to play with Ray. Thomas then did the jump puzzles automatically, and sometimes lend me a hand for hoisting me up. William was usually just sort of tagging along. He could do his own climbing.
Concentration and duel mode was still there, both refined a little bit. A new addition was a seamless cover mode. When kissing a wall or a crate, I could use the mouse to peek out and shoot. Ray and Thomas could also gather up in front of double doors and then barge into the room, shooting everyone in a slow motion sequence slightly different from the usual concentration mode.
Most of the fifteen chapters were linear like in the first game, except for two. Those two exceptions were miniature open world levels each with three wanted posters with optional missions, typically about finding and eliminating a villain and his gang. Lots of riding towards a star icon in the horizon, indicating where to find the objective. These chapters and a few more also had a shop.
I thought I would hate those exceptions, but they actually ended up being my favorite chapters.
I could pick up or earn money during the chapters, and this could be spent on better weapons in a shop. The weapons were just strewn all over tables and crates in the shop, and as soon as I picked one of them up, I immediately bought it. Guns, rifles and other weaponry had stats such as power, reload speed and rate of fire. I quickly learned that my style of playing favored the last two stats.
- The first two chapters didn’t offer a choice – it was Ray and then Thomas. Probably to let the player get a taste of both. Made good sense. Thomas could throw knifes while in stealth, and he could rotate a lasso (circling the mouse) for catching e.g. a branch and then hoisting himself up.
- I shot a cannon in the first chapter to blow out rafts crossing a river.
- The duels now allowed me to move slightly to the sides, and I had to move the mouse to the gun as soon as a bell rang. I often fumbled this last part, typically not grabbing the gun immediately.
- The brothers had to stay together. If I tried to run away for too long, a message ordered me to go back. If I still continued, the mission failed. Most of the time this was not really a problem – they were best together anyway. But it did put a damper on crazy explorations.
- One of the enemy death screams sounded like Arnold howling in one of this movies.
- The horse was now much more balanced with regards to its speed. Holding down a key to speed it up felt perfect. Oddly, the run speed of Ray was off, though. Holding down the same key there didn’t look like it made any difference. He just waved his guns differently.
- Concentration mode could be regained by killing enemies, but acquiring it also started a countdown. If I didn’t make use of it before the countdown, it was lost and I had to start over regaining it again. I thought that was a bit harsh, but perhaps it would have been exploited too easily otherwise.
- Chapter 10 about escorting wagons felt unpolished. The first time a wagon was stuck in a river, I couldn’t push it as was required. I had to reload a save game to fix that. There was also some doubt about what to do later in the same chapter.
- Slightly unusual that I wasn’t steering the canoe at any point. Only shooting from it.
- I’ve seen many water levels drop in cisterns and tombs during my video game years, but never an entire lake after blowing up a dam. If only they had shown it from above too.
- Chapter 14 didn’t have a choice of brother, but I got to play as them both anyway. First as Thomas, with a lasso for sneaking inside the fort, and then Ray, rescuing William from being executed.
- I was disappointed that the last chapter took place in the crypt with gold again. Somehow it made the discovery of the same crypt in the first game less awesome. Also – Barnsby. I knew it was a bad sign that we didn’t hear him scream as the brothers left the building.
- Chrome Engine looks great at a distance – big vistas and pretty buildings.
- Loading is fast and saving is almost instantaneous.
- Professional voice acting, and the same actor is playing Ray as in the first game.
- Brotherly banter and cinematic cutscenes makes for an engaging story.
- The stealth sequences of the first game are gone – it’s mostly just shootouts now.
- Horses are easy to use and can turn on a dime.
- Two of the chapters offer an open world experience with optional missions.
- Some blurry textures close up, and the vegetation tends to pop up.
- HUD-less console-friendly design without visible action slots and health bar.
- Slightly stressful pushing of objectives, especially in the first chapter.
- The duel mode and the lasso can both feel a little imprecise.
- When concentration mode has been attained, it has a countdown.