Wolfenstein: The New OrderWritten by: / / 3 Comments
- platform: PC PS3 PS4 Xbox 360 Xbox One
- genre: First Person Shooter
- developer: MachineGames
- publisher: Bethesda Softworks
The influence of the original Wolfenstein 3D on the world of videogames is important and incredibly far-reaching – this can’t be denied. Popularising the idea of a fast-paced first-person shooter, the game spawned a genre and acts as the granddaddy to industry-stomping solo campaigns seen in games like Bioshock and multiplayer behemoths like Call of Duty and Battlefield.
It’s also the reason that a number of developers at MachineGames became involved in game development in the first place, so it’s fitting that the Swedish studio partnered with Bethesda Softworks in October of 2010 to begin work on an all-new Wolfenstein first-person shooter for current and next-gen consoles, Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Wolfenstein: The New Order – E3 2013 Trailer
Creative director Jens Matthies says that the new Wolfenstein is more of an action adventure shooter owing to the studio’s focus on narrative in games. In fact, a good number of the original members of MachineGames came from Starbreeze, creator of two games that delved heavily into story and characters, Chronicles of Riddick and the original The Darkness.
During an El33tonline-attended presentation at E3 2013, Matthies provided the set up for Wolfenstein: The New Order with a bit of backstory, saying how in this alternate history version of the world the Nazis had ultimately won World War II using mysterious technologies. Over fifteen years later, and in 1960, the Nazis control the world in all forms and stamp their authority whenever possible.
An underground resistance force has sprung up to wrest this control back from the tyrannical rule, with help from Wolfenstein’s series-long protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz, who Matthies describes as “a muscle-bound, Nazi-killing action hero.” With the war over, Blazkowicz has no army backing his actions but instead works with the resistance group to damage the Nazi’s influence and power where possible, and in the mission introduced to us we met up with one Anya Oliwa in a rambling train car before getting hands-on time with the shooting.
Before delivering a cup of coffee to Oliwa and meeting her further down the train using a false identity to get there, Blazkowicz is stopped by an overzealous Nazi enforcer, Frau Engel and her peculiar male companion, Bubi, who are keen to put our hero to the test and determine how pure his allegiance to the Nazi party really is. This brief and simple sequence put the excellent voice acting and facial animations of Wolfenstein on display, and even though the pair were speaking in German the tension and gravity of the situation was made very clear – if you fail, Blazkowicz is dead.
After the scenario played out, and Blazkowicz had made it past Frau Engel and a nearby mechanical guard threatening to turn him into a bloody sieve, we moved on to a gameplay demonstration where the booming machine guns, shotguns and rocket launcher of Wolfestein: The New Order made a devastating appearance, and a deadly impression on the range of soldiers (both human and robotic) and at least on gigantic motorized beast that was ready to leap and gnaw at Blazkowicz at the slightest opportunity.
We punched through these enemies with countless rounds of ammunition using weaponry that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1960’s depiction of the future of warfare: Imaginatively designed renditions of World War II-era weaponry retro-fitted with sci-fi accoutrements that add both fantastic flair and personality, as well as modern-day functionality and might. The sound effects are deliciously potent.
Before mounting our assault on these doomed Nazi soldiers who were currently scrambling over the debris and aftermath of a derailed train (which had handily ruined a suspension bridge and reduced the place to an unrecognisable wreck), Blazkowicz uttered (just above a whisper) the player’s next objective complete with a peculiarly placed expletive, before exclaiming:
“Twisted metal, ruptured concrete, Nazis screaming in pain – pretty as a postcard.”
Maybe it’s just me, but these sorts of monologues (which are liberally sprinkled throughout Wolfenstein) seem out of place and when they’re delivered with the current level of grit and at this volume (just above audible), they’re kind of pointless. Blazkowicz is a no-nonsense kind of guy and probably as grizzled as they come, but I’ve always thought of him as a ‘strong but silent’ type without the need to project his thoughts on the situation. I’m hoping his comments steer clear of Duke Nukem territory in the final game.
Blazkowicz was right on one count, at least: Wolfenstein: The New Order is a terrific looking game and uses id Software’s id Tech 5 engine (which powered RAGE) to help add basically infinite texture detail to its world, only this time without frustrating amounts of texture pop-in while running at an uninhibited 60 frames per second. When I got to play, I was using an Xbox 360 controller most probably hooked up to a powerful PC, but I can see current-gen consoles easily being able to manage the task of rendering Wolfenstein’s world at a consistent and decent clip, too.
After a few more enemy takedowns it was finally time to get some playtime with Wolfenstein: The New Order, and what I saw was impressive indeed.
Starting out with a lowly knife and pistol, I soon swapped these out for a more effective rifle, a gut-wrenching shotgun and an extremely rapid fire machine gun. What’s great about the weapons of Wolfenstein is that not only do they each sport a secondary fire mode (like a grenade launcher on a rifle, for example), but you can double up the destruction by dual-wielding each of them to rip enemies into a mess of blood and gibs.
While stealth kills will have their place in Wolfenstein (and it is possible to move around unseen using nothing but nimble knife attacks), this enormous firepower lies at the heart of the moment-to-moment gameplay, and when guns feel this satisfying to use and the combat is as intense and challenging as in The New Order, there’s nothing wrong with leaning on explosive action set-pieces to keep the adrenaline pumping, with manoeuvrable turrets available to riddle the world with spitting hot lead.
Wolfenstein isn’t just about all-out action, though, and in my playthrough of the E3 demo I encountered a number of environment puzzles that wouldn’t be out of place in the Half-Life series, with extended sequences of leaping between platforms and using clues in the world to progress. There were a few moments of epiphany that made me feel smarter than I should have where I figured out how to manipulate the world to my advantage and clear a path forward. If there are more sections like this in Wolfenstein, MachineGames may be able to strike a perfect balance between action and thoughtful progression which is desperately lacking in first-person shooters today.
More puzzles will present themselves with the provision of a weapon that can punch through enemies with a single charged blast, or slice through thin pieces of metal like grates and barriers. This weapon can be used to carve out a piece of the world to exactly match where you aim the beam, allowing you to crawl through tight spaces or open up a vantage point through which to snipe unsuspecting enemies, and I fully expect Wolfenstein to take even greater advantage of this ability as the game goes on, hopefully with some tantalising (but logical) progression puzzles to solve.
Your approach to combat in Wolfenstein doesn’t necessarily have to be of the ‘guns blazing’ variety, though, and it’s probably recommended to take advantage of the game’s affordance of a dynamic cover-based shooting system to increase your chances of survival. Playing on the mid-level difficulty, I found The New Order to already be rather challenging so sprinting and sliding behind a wall and then peeking above, below and around cover using the cool stick-based system (locked into place with a press of the left shoulder button) will be key to assessing and defeating your enemies.
If you find yourself in danger of demise, you can loot nearby Nazi bodies or root around for additional health and armour to top up your supplies, and in a neat nod to previous id Software games, you’re allowed to collect more health than your 100 percent allotment, except the excess will slowly count down to the maximum.
Of all the games I actually got to play at E3 2013, I was most excited to get a chance to try out Wolfenstein: The New Order and other than B.J. Blazkowicz’s bizarre and out of place utterances, I came away content in the knowledge that Bethesda and MachineGames were currently crafting a brand new first-person (action adventure) shooter that I would have no qualms with picking up later this year.
With highly impressive visuals, an exceedingly detailed world and thoughtfully iconic designs, combined with punchy, explosive, challenging and satisfying set-piece gameplay to match lightly brain-teasing environmental progression puzzles, Wolfenstein: The New Order may just end up being the most well-rounded first-person shooters of modern times, and one of the best action games of 2013.
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