If you have any fear that the upcoming Wolfenstein: The New Order from developer MachineGames won’t honor id’s original property, we have two words for you: automatic shotguns.
The Wolfenstein series has always been over the top. Cybernetic dogs, zombie-Nazis, and robo-Hitlers – the series was big, bombastic, and created plenty of wild memories that have influenced an entire generation of gamers with its 3D gunplay. It is no exaggeration to say that without Wolfenstein 3D, the first-person shooter genre would look very, very different.
MachineGames’ fresh take on the franchise is steeped in these fundamentals of the series, even as it breaks new ground. The story is a bit more serious than a man in a castle huntin’ Nazis, but series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz still cracks wise throughout, giving it just a touch of cheekiness to offset all the blood, guts, and Nazi oppression. At one point in Wolfenstein: The New Order, he even threatens the moon. That might sound a bit weird, but it is perfectly in tone for the character.
The setting is an alternate Earth in the year 1960. Thanks to the advanced Nazi-developed technology seen in previous Wolfenstein games, Nazis have won WWII and now firmly control the Earth. Things look bleak, but there is a dwindling, yet effective resistance, of which Blazkowicz is a prime operative. The story takes place throughout the re-imagined Europe, as Blazkowicz and crew attempt to launch a counter offensive.
Beyond that, details are scare, but what more do you really need to know? Nazi = bad. They are a problem, and the best solution is a massive arsenal.
Bethesda and MachineGames recently showed off two sections – one we could play and one we could watch – that gave us a better impression of what to expect.
In the first, set on a train somewhere in Europe, Blazkowicz is travelling with his partner Anya deep undercover. As he heads back from grabbing coffee, he is stopped by Frau Engel, a deeply disturbing and bizarre Nazi, who travels with armed guards, a robotic sentry, and her twenty-something boy-toy Bubi.
Before letting you pass, she demands that Blazkowicz sit for a moment to discuss racial purity. Blazkowicz’s blonde hair and blue eyes give him an advantage here, but Frau Engel wishes to test him. She lays a gun on the table within reach, and shows him three sets of images; the player chooses the responses to each. You are asked to choose a preference: The first contains one of a man and one of a woman; the second set is a flower and a butterfly; the third is a spider and a skull.
Frau Engel is a wee bit insane, it appears. After a tense moment filled with both flirtation and threats, she allows you to return to Anya. It is a surreal scene that highlights the insanity of unchecked fascism, and it gives you a taste of the twisted enemies you should have no remorse in killing. The scene also has a Tarantino-esque feeling, which helps to explain some of the juxtaposed flair of the game. One minute you are reminiscing over the death of a friend, the next you are cracking jokes about shooting people in the face. It’s odd, but it works.
The Nazi controlled world is one of oppression, and although Blazkowicz is always game for a round of blowing Nazis into pieces, he has also been changed by losing the war.
The second, playable section was set in a London unlike any we’ve seen before. The heart of old London Town has been razed, leaving only a scattering of iconic landmarks silhouetted against a massive Nazi structure known as “London Nautica.”
After showing your papers (naturally), you and a friend approach the structure. After saying goodbye, the driver sacrifices himself in a fiery explosion that creates a path for Blazkowicz. After killing a few Nazi stragglers, a robotic dog chases Blazkowicz through the rubble. He crushes the robo-hound, then quips that he wasn’t the dog’s prey, the dog was his. Then the fun begins.
The developers from MachineGames originally started off with Starbreeze, the makers of the exceptional Riddick games, as well as the original Darkness. That pedigree is obvious here, although it has been refocused for a more “in your face” experience. Still, the prerequisite air ducts and secret passages return. The levels are linear, but there are multiple ways to progress through each section.
Unlike many games that limit the number of weapons you can carry – generally to two or four –The New Order allows you to carry as many weapons as you can find. Switching through them is surprisingly easy: just hold down a bumper on the controller and cycle through. You can “favorite” a weapon of your choice as well, that you can bring up with the touch of a button.
Health remains a numbers game, with 100 units of health joined by an additional 100 of body armor, just like the old days. The game isn’t easy, though. It may be tempting to equip double pistols and run into a crowd, but you will die quickly. A leaning mechanism helps to encourage you to use cover, and the relentless enemies, both human and mechanical, will never let up. Destructible environments also force you to be fluid. You can’t just hide behind a cement pillar and wait for the enemies to stick their heads up. You need to move and constantly fight.
Once you clear a room, there are secrets and collectibles to be found, and most environments contain a piece of background to help flesh out the world. For instance, the London Nautica doubles as a space museum. It’s here that you discover that the Nazis landed on the moon in the 50s, hence Blazkowicz’s aforementioned animosity.
Your objective in the Nautica is to steal a new type of advanced helicopter. To do this you need to blaze your way through several levels of enemies – stealth is not an option here, although there will be levels where it is. For this though, you collect a mini-arsenal that includes pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, and even the maniacal double shotguns. There is just something satisfying, and possibly deeply wrong, about running down a confined hallway filled with Nazi while wielding double shotguns.
Upon entering your final destination, a hangar filled with helicopters, a massive battle begins. Guards are joined by robotic sentry robots, double the size of a man. Thankfully you have plenty of turrets on the helicopters at your disposal, as well as a prototype Nazi weapon that can cut through grates and boxes and doubles as an energy weapon that needs to be recharged after a few shots. It comes in handy when the Daddy sentry, a two-story-tall robot, crashes into the hangar.
The demo ended after the robot was destroyed, but it highlighted the feel of the continuing adventures of B.J. Blazkowicz – and yes, the story is related to the previous titles, but we’ll have to wait to see exactly how.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a wild, loud, and unapologetic orgy of violence that harkens back to the tone of the original games while creating something new. It’s slightly twisted, challenging, and gives you a continual burst of instant gratification. The id Tech 5 engine running the game hums, and it looks incredible. Although scheduled for release on the PC, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One, it should also look solid on the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well when it is released this December.