Internet, I have a confession to make: I trashed a game that turned out to be pretty good. Actually, trashed might be too soft of a verb; I crucified this particular title. Its world seemed bland, ugly, and clichéd; I loathed the trope-heavy gameplay that pitted me against what appeared to be the universe’s second-dumbest enemies (Titanfall, you still take the cake). I annihilated it using both speech and prose, urging everyone I could not to buy it, only to purchase it myself and thoroughly enjoy it. Simply put, I was wrong.
That game? Wolfenstein: The New Order.
After spending a short amount of time with Wolfenstein: The New Order at PAX East just over a month ago, I completely wrote off MachineGames’ debut title. Before being hired at Hardcore Gamer, I wrote a preview for Big Red Barrel spewing as much hateful bile about the game as my editors would allow. These, in all their glory, were the most brutal quotes in my Wolfenstein: The New Order preview:
The load times I witnessed were somewhere between obtrusive and obnoxious.
The enemy AI in Wolfenstein: The New Order is woefully stupid. Arguably the biggest complaint with Killzone: Shadow Fall was the lack of intelligent AI; after playing this demo, I feel as though Wolfenstein’s AI is considerably dumber.
After witnessing the brilliant emotional awareness of Below‘s enemies, [Wolfenstein: The New Order’s] AI idiocy was nothing short of baffling.
This is clearly not a game where you stop and smell the roses, so do not bother to explore if you pick it up.
I was extremely close to giving up on this demo, as getting lost in a completely linear game is exceedingly maddening.
…Wolfenstein: The New Order was the most disappointing game I played all weekend.
Yeah, it was bad. I don’t think I will ever forget the moment that made me think Wolfenstein: The New Order would be a steaming pile of hot garbage, as it was perhaps the most egregious example of terrible AI that I’ve ever seen. During what turned out to be the second chapter of the game, Nazi soldiers attacked the main character, B.J. Blazkowicz, from behind strategically-placed wooden panels. It was your standard shooter stuff: enemies popped out of hiding and fired whenever you exited cover. After I had destroyed one of these wooden-panels, I noticed that one silly little fellow continued to crouch behind the empty space once occupied by said panel. Flabbergasted, I nearly dropped the controller and walked away on the spot. I figured that I was done with Wolfenstein: The New Order forever, as the figurative bad taste in my mouth was as strong as could be. I told numerous friends to stay away. I ranted about it on The Hardcore Gamer Show. I even posted a scathing Facebook status about how much I hated my demo:
Favorite games I played at PAX: (1) Below (2) Child of Light (3) Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (4) The Crew (5) Vertiginous Golf
Least favorite games I played at PAX: (1) Wolfenstein: The New Order (2) Wolfenstein: The New Order (3) Wolfenstein: The New Order (4) Wolfenstein: The New Order (5) Classroom Aquatic
“Okay, Matt, we get it: you hated Wolfenstein. What’s the point?” Well, audience, I am here to say that Wolfenstein: The New Order actually turned out to be a pretty fun game. Is it Game of the Year quality? No, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy my time with it. I played through the campaign on the highest difficulty setting (cool story, bro), which essentially erased my concern with the game’s AI. Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s campy moments and strangely grounded alternate history made me smile constantly. However, it is not my job to list everything great about the game, as we already have a well-written, detailed review. This is my personal crow-eating session; it’s my open apology letter to Bethesda, MachineGames, and the readers who will miss out on a good video game because of my past statements. I’m sorry.
So what sold me on Wolfenstein: The New Order? Those who know me know that I often laugh alone at bizarre things, as I am essentially on my own planet (where they still have Pepsi Blue). One particular in-game structure made me laugh so hard, I had tears running down my face: Nazi Moon escalators. That’s right, at some point in this alternate history timeline, the Nazis built escalators on the damn Moon. What else can I really say?
Don’t worry, I can assure you that my jumbled confessional manifesto has a point. My message is simple: never let your expectations be set in stone. It’s absolutely okay to expect an upcoming game, or any future life event, to be a certain way. Hell, what would Christmas be without anticipation? The second you let your expectations paint your reality, you’re in for a world of trouble. The next time you start up a game for the first time, I urge you to set any expectations to the side before experiencing the actual product. Who knows? You might just find a Nazi moon escalator.