Thursday, 19 June 2014

Book Review - The Art of Wolfenstein: The New Order

Review by Richard Williams

by Machine Games

Published by Dark Horse

I didn't know what to expect when I pre-ordered The Art of Wolfenstein. On the one hand it was being published by Dark Horse, the people behind some excellent concept art books (such as Remember Me and Mass Effect), but on the other hand I didn't know if I liked what I was seeing about the upcoming game. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the book. But man, oh man, am I glad that I bought The Art of Wolfenstein. Straight away, just by flipping through the pages, I could already see that this was going to be one of the better items on my concept art bookshelf. For starters there is such an abundance of fantastic art on display here. This is one of the areas where Dark Horse really excel with their artbooks, giving pride of place to the art itself rather than reams of text, and once again they have produced something really quite special.

The areas covered in this book are as you would hope and expect to see; Character designs, level designs, key art, and plenty of weapons and vehicles. Added to this is all the design work for the world itself including everything from gadgets to posters and even door locks. Interestingly what they have done this time, however, is to place the chapters in the order of the levels of the game. The contents list in the front of the book is broken down into 'Art of level 01', 'art of level 02', etc, ending with the last chapter: 'Marketing art'. I like this approach because it means you are introduced to all the elements of the game in the order in which they appear, rather than just lumping everything together by category. This would come in handy if you wanted to get the book but didn't want any spoilers whilst playing the game and could therefore read the book as you progress through the levels. Would anybody actually do that? I don't know but if they wanted to they could.

It's hard to say what I like most about this book. I'm leaning fairly hard in favour of the location designs. Firstly because there's so much of it (as you should expect from an artbook about an FPS) but mostly because it is fun to look at. I have already looked though this book three times and I know I'm going to be looking through it a good number of times more because the art draws you in. I would even go as far as saying that it is exciting to look at. It is also almost entirely detailed colour work (although the city sketches are superb) and none of the pieces are so small that you can't get a sense for the details. It makes me want to take a walk in the Nazi Berlin they have envisioned. Seriously, cities should be built this way.

But really, picking a favourite feature about this book is a futile game of nit-picking. Why futile? Because you would have to be pretty damn stringent in your marking to find anything wrong here. Maybe you're the type of person who likes to see a lot of information from the creative talent about what they've drawn, in which case you might wish the book was a little wordier, but I really like the minimalist approach to explanations. A hundred words is about the limit to any caption contained herein and most are much shorter and I favour that style.

So in conclusion: do you want this book? Yes! It is superb. The art is of the highest quality, the book itself is of the highest quality and the subject matter is interesting and fun. Anybody looking for inspiration regarding evil technologically advanced Nazis may look upon this book as the only visual source material you'll ever need. If you're a lover of concept art books then there is no way in hell that you don't want this book. If you don't like concept art books.... why are you reading this review?