Wolfenstein: The New Order Hands-on
We like 'what ifs' in the games industry. What if Hitler died before he got elected? What if the last Star Trek game had actually been good?
These questions reverberate around the community sparking debate and plenty of sparks to boot between the hardest of the hardcore fanboys.
With that in mind MachineGames have been given the task of injecting new life into a venerable Wolfenstein franchise that has somewhat lost its way in the world of the occult. How do they do that you ask? They re-imagine the world if the Nazis had actually won World War II crushing the whole world under their yolk.
BJ Blaskowicz is back and he's somewhat disoriented as the trailers tell it. It's the 1960s and Hitler and the Third Reich now rule the world with an army of robots and mechanised soldiers at their command.
MachineGames is a studio formed from veterans of Starbreeze Studios. Most of these guys know how to make a good story-based FPS having worked on Riddick – Escape From Butcher Bay and The Darkness and so they wanted to apply this expertise to really breathe new life into the Wolfenstein series.
In that regards they have decided that in a refreshing move Wolfenstein: The New Order will forego the multiplayer elements usually found in modern FPS in favour of spending much more time on the single player elements. This I am all for as it feels like it's capturing the spirit of the original Wolfenstein 3D.
The demo begins in the ruins of London as BJ tries to break into a top secret Nazi research facility to disable some new high-tech stealth helicopters. His entrance is masked by a suicide attack by the resistance on the front door of the building leaving him free to get in by climbing through the rubble.
There is plenty of opportunity for stealth here and BJ has been equipped with a combat knife just for these occasions (again, harking back to Wolf 3D) and, as long as you crouch to sneak up behind enemies they are easily dispatched with a suitably bloody array of silent kill animations.
The Wolfenstein series has never eally done stealth very much and where it revels is in out and out gunplay. Running around with a chaingun that takes up most of the screen when it fires and swallows ammunition quicker than a [better not go there] was a highlight of the original game and MachineGames have taken that to the next level.
Almost every weapon in the game can be dual wielded with the exception of some of the more pseudo-futuristic weaponry available later in the game. Here we really see where MachineGames intentions lie. Dual-wielded pistols are fun but dual-wielded shotguns show that they mean business.
Before we gen a feel for this though there is the matter of a giant wounded mech to deal with. Empty a few clips of assault rifle ammo into the right spots and the giant machine clanks to an explosive halt draped over a large block of concrete rubble.
When the action really kicks off as BJ reaches the main hall in the interior of the building. Once past the mangled mess that was the entry vestibule the main hall opens out and the familiar clatter of jackboots means it's time to get serious.
This is quite tough. MachineGames have gone for a balance between creating a balls-out run-and-gun shooter and presenting some kind of realistic challenge. For instance, if you die the enemies may not approach you the same way when you restart for the last save. They're smart about adopting cover as well. You may standing there with assault rifles akimbo but the Nazis are smart enough to duck behind cover until you need to reload.
They've also gone for a combination of health pick-ups and regeneration. Health will regenerate to the nearest 20 but you'll need to find health packs restore yourself tyo full health. It's a part-baked nod to the old days when you relied on health pickups while still giving you a fighting chance to weathering the next volley of Nazi gunfire.
Visually, it's crisp, smooth, clear and well-crafted. It's everything you'd expect from a next-gen game running 1080p at 60fps and while this may be because we're playing it on a high-end gaming PC it's still fairly representative of how MachineGames want it to turn out on the PS4 and Xbox One.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is intriguing. The gameplay is sound and offers a challenge in a vein that has been absent from the FPS genre since Call Of Duty gained its ever-present stranglehold on the genre. It's different in that it is old-school in a way that only 1990s gamers will truly understand but that's no bad thing and it might just be what the series needs.
It's probably not going to be quite the new order in FPS gaming but there's enough potential there to show that Wolfenstein: The New Order could be the first decent pulpy FPS of the new hardware generation.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is in development on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and is due out in early 2014.