The weapons and perks upgrades are both automatic. Weapons upgrade through the course of the story, and skill perks are earned by completing specific challenges as you play. Since these are fairly passive, they don't impact on the game too much. Stealth, meanwhile let's you perform silent takedowns when enemies are turned away from you, and combines this with Nazi officers who patrol certain areas and call in streams of reinforcements unless dealt with. But the game is obviously not built with stealth in mind, so this is difficult to achieve. As for the mission hub, the idea is to give the player a break between missions so they might interact with characters and investigate the history of events between 1946 and 1960, but it's all superfluous detail that only serves to slow the game down.
This all ties back into The New Order's strive to entertain, but the thing is none of the above is necessary, because of the simple fact that the game has excellent gunplay. It combines satisfying weapons and speedy movement with intelligent enemies and smartly designed levels. Although Wolfenstein is a linear shooter, it's corridors are usually broad and complex enough to let you outflank the enemy and just as importantly, let the enemy outflank you. What's equally vital is your opponents are capable of doing this, alongside flushing you out with grenades and generally being tough little blighters.
Fortunately, The New Order gives you plentiful firepower to deal with them. All the weapons have their uses. The standard machinegun has a real weight to it, and later comes equipped with a rocket-launching alternate fire, making it useful against both light and heavy opponents. The shotgun is initially a bit of a letdown, but later on you can load it with bouncing flak shells that can rip through multiple enemies and enables you to fire around corners. Most weapons can be dual-wielded too, extremely handy when facing some of the tougher adversaries.
It's also a lovely game to look at. MachineGames have made fantastic use of id-tech 5, and it's great to see the engine rendering something other than a monotonous red desert. Environments are expansive both vertically and horizontally, look complex and feel solid In addition, the whole game moves with that wonderful slickness you expect from id-designed technology.
Moreover, MachineGames have avoided the trap of making a World War II themed game that is all grey concrete and red Nazi banners (although both make appearances, naturally). Instead this dystopian future is a surprisingly colourful one. The resistance fighters are quite literally a motley crew, while environments range from the dazzling blue of the deep ocean to crisp whites, oranges and blues of the Nazi Moon base. This globetrotting adventure does risk suffering from that unpleasant staccato rhythm which has afflicted the most recent Call of Duty games, but the Reich's bombastic architecture lends just enough familiarity to environments to make it work.
There are a few issues which dog the otherwise impressive gunplay. The New Order makes the double FPS error of featuring both checkpoint saves and floating enemies. The latter are an infrequent nuisance, the former a constant pain in the meat-cushion. It's a tough game without repeatedly losing ten minutes' worth of progress due to badly meted out saves. Just because Dark Souls is popular now doesn't make this kind of nonsense excusable. Also, MachineGames have made the weird decision of forcing you to manually pick up weapons, items and health, and there are an awful lot of these to pick up. This again has the effect of slowing the game down, as you wander around each area hoovering up equipment after a battle before moving on.
One other thing that needs pointing out is that other critics and players have reported some pretty severe performance issues, specifically on ATI cards. We tested it on Nvidia hardware and, aside from a couple of graphical and AI glitches, had a pretty smooth ride on high-settings. Either way, it's probably worth checking patch notes and so forth before investing.
I feel like The New Order lacks confidence in itself. It's constantly trying to justify your investment by introducing new features and mechanics which don't really need to be in there, and its clearly concerned about being interpreted as crass by not treating the subject matter with sufficient gravitas. The good news is hidden amid all this uncertainty is a wickedly entertaining shooter, but all that bloat and baggage does at times make it a little difficult to spot.