When I walked into my local Best Buy to purchase the new Wolfenstein I was asking myself the fateful question, “what platform should I buy this game on?”. I was, after all, an Xbox 360 owner and I do have a fair gaming rig, certainly not the top tier. Truthfully, it wasn’t much of a question. “PC all the way!” Wolfenstein was born on the keyboard and raised by the mouse and Return to Castle Wolfenstein was a fun PC shooter for it’s time. It seemed like a clear progression to assume a solid PC experience. It all started when I picked up the only PC copy on the shelf and walked up to the register to pay for the game. The cashier said, “oh you get a gift card”. When I asked what the gift card was for, she only replied, “Not sure, I guess you get it when you buy this game.” It felt as if they were apologizing in advance for buying the PC version. Still, I was head strong and ready to take out some supernatural Nazis from the other world.
I got home, but before I could get around to investing some time into the game I opened up the manual to see what was in store. On the first page, after the table of contents, was a huge picture of a 360 controller and all the button mappings. On the neighboring page was a massive scrolling list of carpal tunnel inducing combination of keys to perform actions like, crouch, or melee. Even if I wanted to remap the keys I wouldn’t know where to put them. The six square inches around my left hand was taken by some kind bound action. The generic “Use” button was conveniently mapped next to the “Throw Grenade” button which meant I found myself running away from my own grenades in an empty room after trying to open a locker or door. The “Crouch” button was next to the “Melee” button which mean I spent more time trying to Teabag the enemy than pistol whip them.
Even on the above average difficulty settings, the AI would just run out into the open and stand there waiting for you to pick them off. It seemed like any shot that made contact was enough to bring down the grunts. After clearing most of the game with nothing but my insanely accurate MP40 and a handful of grenades, many of the weapons felt unnecessary; even at medium-long range. I could see how this may be appealing to a console player. Aiming is difficult in first-person and is made worse by having to use your thumbs instead of the much more sensitive mouse. It still cheapened my experience to practically walk through most of the levels, killing guys with a couple shots to the knee caps and another in the pinkie toe to finish the job.
Despite my attempts to tweak the mouse sensitivity, something just felt lagged and unresponsive. It made the mouse feel like a console thumb stick, blending, interpolating, and smoothing out the dead regions of a console controller, and yet I had a mouse in my hand. It took some getting used to, but it left me wishing there was a menu option to turn that off. It may have been related to the game running only at 30fps and not 60fps on my PC.
To add insult to an already bleeding injury I was greeted in every menu by buttons so small that I abandoned my mouse in favor of moving through the menus with the Arrow Keys. Yep, I actually had to take my hand off of the mouse every time I entered a menu. The entire experience from the purchase to the play has been laughing at me, taunting me for trusting that a game rooted in PC’s might actually make a strong argument for the PC once again. Instead, this felt like a console game looking to cash in on a quick buck from PC gamers =(.
All of this negativity is not to say that Wolfenstein was a bad game. It was a fun game. The graphics were also tight and the number of enemies, at times, was fairly high. I did appreciate Raven’s use of outdoor areas and the reworked idTech4 was really pushing the polygons and lighting. It’ seems pretty clear to me that they must have nearly replaced the entire source, including the physics system, rendering, and appending some kind of streaming technology. This begged the question, “why use idTech4 if you are going to completely rewrite it?” or “why invest all of this money and time then not use the tech for Singularity?” Both games have a very similar art style and premise and it seems like a lot of wasted code, but I suppose that question is for another time.