Wolfenstein: The New Order Performance Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order is out on PC. It utilizes the id Tech 5 game engine and sports fast paced first-person shooter gameplay. We look at some video card performance, make some comparisons, and look at image quality as well. Can this game overcome the stigma associated with RAGE since its the same engine?


Wolfenstein: The New Order Summary

The word of the day for Wolfenstein: The New Order on the PC is "restrictive." We have learned a lot about this game, and what we've learned is that this game suffers in many ways. It suffers as a game that reminds us of a focus on the console experience, rather than the PC gaming experience. It suffers as a game that reminds us of RAGE again, with many issues not learned, or ignored from that game three years ago. It's best if we break each topic down, then we will talk about performance, and then about what video cards play best at what settings. In no particular order:

60 FPS Cap - Wolfenstein: The New Order suffers from an imposed 60 FPS game cap. It is not disabled by turning off VSYNC, and there are no in-game options to turn off or increase the maximum framerate from within the game. This is normally a thing we see on console ported games, but sometimes it is done for other reasons. The fact stands that this is not a PC oriented option and in no way helps PC gaming. There are gamers with 120Hz displays who enjoy that level of gameplay. There are users of SLI and CrossFire who want all the performance they paid for to be there when they play games. This imposed FPS cap is unacceptable for PC gaming.

No AA Options - A staple in any PC game, antialiasing. This game lacks AA options or unique forms of AA to push the gaming industry forward. No control over shader AA, traditional MSAA, or SSAA. No alpha transparency AA options either. This is a common sense feature that should be in any PC game.

Graphics Options linked to VRAM Capacity - This game suffers from having its graphics options linked to VRAM capacity. On video cards with 3GB of VRAM, or more, the "Ultra" setting and optional customize graphics to maximum values are present. If you have a video card with 2GB of VRAM, "Ultra" is no longer there. We can imagine if you have less than that, it will decrease optional settings even more.

When a game like this sets itself by VRAM, rather than performance, what ends up happening is exactly what we've experienced. All the performance, for every video card, will be close to that 60 FPS framerate cap because one cannot push the settings higher and sacrifice performance for higher in-game settings. It's an imposed limit that forces a certain level of performance dependent on VRAM capacity, and not what the GPU is actually capable of accelerating.

No Aspect Ratio - Something as simple as forcing a different aspect ratio from inside the game is not there. Naturally, you don't need this for consoles, but for a PC this is a feature that is nothing but common sense. This game detects the aspect ratio of your display, and you are stuck to those resolution settings with in-game options. This does not favor PC gaming.

Those qualities above limit the game, now let's talk about other things this game suffers which decrease the gameplay experience.

Texture Pop-in - This one is one of the most annoying issues with this game, and it was present in RAGE. Unfortunately we cannot show you with screenshots. PC Gamer has some animations that shows this problem quite prominently. There has been three years since that game, and you would think someone would have listened and fixed this problem in a 2014 game, but nope. As you move the camera left or right, up or down you notice the textures loading in. It's so slow at doing it that sometimes you see textures loading in a quarter of a way into your screen. It is a major distraction, makes the game feel cheap, and kills the immersion of gameplay. This is a problem that cannot be ignored, we thought it was a one-off with RAGE, but apparently it's native to id Tech 5. This does not give us warm feelings about what to expect with Doom 4.

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Inconsistent Texture Quality - This is also something else we encountered in RAGE and is still a problem in this game as well. In the same scene or frame you can have some textures looking detailed, and others looking downright flat, un-detailed, and just plain bad. It's a big issue, and it makes the game look inconsistent and unfinished. One again its kills the game’s immersiveness.

OpenGL - OpenGL 3.2, really? There have been six newer OpenGL releases since 2009, yet this game uses an API based 5 years ago. NVIDIA's and AMD's video cards both support OpenGL 4.4, released in 2013 and are primed and ready to show us what modern OpenGL can do. This game does not exploit that and does not move OpenGL gaming forward.


Due to the nature of this game detecting graphics options based on VRAM capacity, most video cards will operate between 40-60 FPS. We think it breaks down like this:

AMD Radeon R9 290X and GeForce GTX 780 Ti. You will have no issue running at 2560x1600 with the highest possible settings the game supports. You will have performance to spare, and either card is a draw in terms of gameplay experience.

AMD Radeon R9 290 and GeForce GTX 780. You will have no issue running at "Ultra" settings at 2560x1600. The GTX 780 will be technically faster, but it won't matter, the gameplay experience will be the same.

AMD Radeon R9 280X and GeForce GTX 770. You will find the GeForce GTX 770 to be faster, but it will be limited to "High" settings due to VRAM. The R9 280X will be able to run at "Ultra" at 1080p and even 2560x1600, though that might be a little too graphics demanding. The best setting for the 280X will be 1080p and "Ultra" settings. The GTX 770 can run at 1080p at "High" settings, or 2560x1600 at "High". 280X can also run 2560x1600 at "High".

For video cards below the 280X and 770 1080p is going to be the sweet spot. If the card has 2GB of VRAM, "High" settings will be playable down to a certain level of GPU, and we think it will be pretty far down the value tree. If you have a 3GB card you might find "Ultra" playable at 1080p.

Overall, this game is not a huge burden on video cards, nor does it require the latest and greatest and most expensive to have a good gameplay experience. In our experience an AMD Radeon R9 280X is probably your best value, that extra RAM will allow "Ultra" at 1080p and allow you to play at higher resolutions at "High" settings.

The Bottom Line

We hate to be harsh, we had hopes that Wolfenstein: The New Order would be better. We had hopes that the issues discovered in RAGE would be fixed. We had hopes this would be a forward looking, PC oriented game. In all cases, we were let down.

This game is not a forward looking PC game. It lacks basic settings and features PC games need. It has too many restrictions and too many negative graphical issues that harm gameplay. This game has the same issues RAGE had, it is as if nothing was learned, or no one cared. The gameplay is somewhat fun if you are looking for a fast paced first-person shooter, with a hollow storyline and immersion breaking graphics.

We have been itching and scratching to update our gaming suite, waiting for a game here in 2014 that is worthy to add. We are still waiting. We are now five months into the year, and there has yet to be a game that seems next generation to us on the PC gaming platform. Wolfenstein: The New Order will not be evaluated further from us, nor is it worth to add to our gameplay suite. That said, I'll play through the rest of it on my own gaming time just to complete the experience and nostalgia of this series, and that's about all there is to say about this game. All of us here say save your money as the new Wolf is only suitable as a bargain bin purchase.