Today was the ceremonious announcement from Bethesda that yet another installment in the Wolfenstein series would be hitting screens everywhere come the end of this year, brought to you by MachineGames. It is set in an alternate 1960’s America, assuming that the Nazis won World War II and has B.J. Blazkowicz back in action with his guns ready to blaze all over what looks like an army of mecha-Nazis. The highly-stylized trailer shows how desolate the world looks post-Nazi overrun, and of course features Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of All Along the Watchtower as B.J. Blazkowicz stands heroically in the face of an army descending upon him.
I guess the question that has to be posed right now is; where exactly does Wolfenstein fit in the current game landscape? Without a doubt Wolfenstein is of historic significance as the original first person shooter game that captivated the world and helped to spawn one of the most successful genres of games ever. Wolfenstein 3D really showed what games could be, walking through a quasi-3D castle and firing off round after round into evil Nazis. Games could be a release and run on very simple premises like killing Nazis, whom we all know are evil. The thing is, that simple premise of a soldier against the evil Nazis worked at the time, but as we’ve seen in subsequent Wolfenstein games, it hasn’t always resonated with gamers as the series has strived to become more than it was in the past with mixed results.
Of course we have industry heavies like Warren Spector weighing in on the announcement of a new Wolfenstein with his usual “enough is enough” attitude, which many gamers might not share, but should be reflected upon. He does have a valid point that this is yet another testosterone-fueled FPS game being released into a market that is oversaturated, the say the least, with very similar games. It doesn’t matter if the license is one that helped to spark the genre all those years ago, because it has been surpassed many times over by other games. This fall Wolfenstein: The New Order will see competition from the likes of Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts as well as many more games that feel more relevant. There is still room for Wolfenstein: The New Order, but it would have to be truly exceptional to make a real impact, something that the last few games have not done.
Sad to say, but Wolfenstein’s own brand of historical fiction might itself be history for the time being and this might simply be beating a dead horse, much like Duke Nukem Forever was in 2011 to the Duke Nukem series. The market has moved past World War II as even the Battlefield and Call of Duty games have been steadfast on focusing on modern warfare for a few installments now.
A good game can absolutely buck the market trends, but it would take a lot at this point to really push the Wolfenstein series back into prominence after some mediocre offerings have essentially dragged the name down from a gold standard into an endless series of rehashes and reboots. It might be time for B.J. Blazkowicz to lay down his guns and take a much-needed rest.