If we slightly alter the definition of the word “whim” from “a sudden desire or change of mind, esp. one that is unusual or unexplained” to “the result of many hours of thought and planning,” then yes, you can say that I bought Wolfenstein on a whim this week. Seeing as though it’s a Saturday, and the rules and bylaws governing the Internet are different than they are during the workweek, I present, uncensored and unencumbered, my early reactions to the game—single player mode, that is. I can’t be bothered with multi-player modes these days.
I think I’ll preface all of this by saying that, yeah, the game is fun sometimes. It’s doesn’t do anything to reinvent the FPS genre, but you probably already assumed that when you first saw the ludicrous opening cinematic, released several months ago and summarily teased on various Web sites. (B.J. is able to single-handedly take on, and defeat, the crew of the German battleship Tirpitz, never-you-mind what actually happened to it.) If you enjoy seeing a gun bob up and down while you hold down Right Trigger, well, that’s exactly what you’ll find here. It’s like giving a child a paint-by-numbers coloring book, then being surprised when the resulting picture looks halfway decent; it’s exactly what you expected to happen.
My praise for the game ends there.
For one, can someone explain to me why, in the year 2009, we’re still playing World War II-ish video games where the German soldiers speak English? Holy Christ-on-a-pony is it annoying to be running-n-gunning, only to hear the Germans say, “Get him!” or “Vhere did zee American go?” Your comrades are equally tiresome. “So you must be zee American?” “Goot shot, American!” “Ve must locate zee artifact, ja!” (Note: I don’t remember if those are exact quotes from the game, but they capture the spirit, such as it is.) How much money does id, to say nothing of Activision, have in its coffers? Can’t it spring for one Germany-speaking voice actor? Nope! We’re treated to voice actors with inconsistent German-sounding accents—you know, pronouncing the word “weapons” like “veapons,” but then pronouncing other words as if they’d graduated from an American Perfect Diction Academy in the middle of Ohio—that hurt our ears, and souls.
Put another way, how stupid would Saving Private Ryan be if zee Germans spoke Englisch? It instantly takes me out of the setting—oh, right, I’m playing a video game.
In this “HD Era” of gaming, little things like this detract so, so much from the overall experience that’s it like, why bother sinking millions of dollars into game engines if you’re gonna throw any semblance of realism right out the window?
Am I wrong here? Is it too much to expect German soldiers to be speaking German?
That’s not my only problem with the sound, no. Take a coffee cup and lightly tap it on your knee. You hear the sound it makes? That’s the same sound the weapons make in the game. They just seem so tame. Call of Duty 4 isn’t my favorite game, but golly did it sound like I was right in the middle of
Iraq an unnamed country, fighting for my life and the life of my squad members. People in Connecticut can hear when I play Call of Duty 4; I’m not sure I’d be able to hear Wolfenstein while standing in the kitchen.
And I’m no graphics whore, but I get the feeling that my Xbox 360 is capable of being pushed a little further. I see an explosion here, and I immediately think Medal of Honor—the original one, mind you.
So, yeah. Is the game fun? Yeah, OK, in parts it is. But either I have entirely unrealistic expectations of what a video game should be, or there are a few ways in which Wolfenstein could have been improved.