I have to say that I was scared that this game might stink on ice based on the job Raven did on Quake 4. But good on ya Raven, you made a class act game here. The singleplayer portion of this game, which is the portion Raven created, is just great. So far I'd put it at just sub The Darkness in a lot of ways.
Like The Darkness, Wolfenstein focuses on a certain aspect of the FPS that most FPS games these days seem to think is a secondary issue; the shooting. The gunplay here is GREAT. The weapons feel tight, and the ability to upgrade each of them in a whole bunch of ways adds a great deal of personalization to the game. Bad guys have wonderful death animations. They writhe around in appropriate agony before ragdolling, and they shed body parts just enough to not make it ridiculous. Also, the gunshot wound decals are the best I've ever seen. The baddies appropriately take cover and strategically attack you, a first for a Raven game, and it all comes together to make the shooting just feel right. Sure enough, while the story is more than the usual ID type offerings, it still just feels like a mindless summer action flick that may not make sense some of the time. One thing that sticks out is how BJ is supposed to be this super spy, yet the moment you arrive in the town of Isenstadt literally EVERYONE knows you by name. But so what? So this isn't a Bioshock or Half-Life quality story, the shooting here is better than what you find in both of those games combined. This is fun stuff folks.
Now, the not so great stuff:
- The voice acting. While BJ's voice actor is recognizeable and gives the character a great feeling of action movie baddassery, the rest of the cast is not quite so good. My biggest problem is that they are in Germany, yet none of the characters ever speak German (save for a peppering of "scheissen!" and the like, for ethnic flavor). Instead they all put on these awful nasally accents and say things like "Ve have vayz uv makinck you zpeak!" Awful.
- The Veil... Sort of. On the one hand I really appreciate the Veil game dynamic and think it adds a lot to the game. The post processing Veil effects are nifty in their own right, however the levels in this game are gorgeous, very detailed, and full of color; none of which can you see when you are in the Veil and everything is turned green. The designers encourage you to be in the Veil so much that it is easy to miss how great things look like when you are out of the Veil. As it is, I sometimes have to remind myself to kick out of Veil for a second just so I can take in the scenery and enjoy seeing the red blood again that I would otherwise miss.
As for the multiplayer, well... This is why ID sold out to Zenimax. Activision clearly blew their entire budget on Raven and the singleplayer portion of the game. Endrant got some table scraps and threw together a messy mod full of placeholder animations and programmer art. To be fair, the gameplay (which I suppose matters the most) is pretty solid. Nothing extraordinary, but a good small step forward in the Enemy Territory style class based team-multiplayer games. But the art is so spectacularly bad. I'm not sure I've ever seen missing animations in a retail game, yet here they are. There are no death animations. Behold as I shoot my enemy and in an instant he teleports to the ground. The animations that did make it into the multiplayer are choppy and awkward. Hopefully this stuff will get patched... But I wouldn't count on it.
More to come.
*: I feel I should add that The Darkness managed to have great shooting AND possibly the best story I've seen in an action FPS game.