Hands-on preview: Wolfenstein: The New Order mixes the old school, the modern, and the badass
Wolfenstein is one of the oldest first-person shooter franchises around, and though it may not be as prolific as it once was, it's an iconic series nonetheless. A few weeks ago, Bethesda announced that it was publishing Wolfenstein: The New Order, the next chapter in the long-running IP. In development by MachineGames, this upcoming FPS looks to not only deliver solid shooting gameplay, but also some nicely paced action-adventure mechanics. I recently played the game for myself, and though I was already kind of excited about it beforehand, getting hands-on time with The New Order only served to pique my interest in the game.
Prior to me actually playing the game, MachineGames made it clear that this Wolfenstein adventure took place in an alternate history within the series. It's the 1960s and the Nazis have won World War II through the use of advanced technology, effectively taking over the whole world. B.J. is back to reprise his role as the series lead, but this time around he's dealing with a different world, and after being in a coma, he wakes up to a threat that's a danger to his very well-being.
One of the first scenes in the demo I played featured a conversation between B.J. and a woman named Anya, who was responsible for watching over the protagonist during his comatose state. MachineGames stated that Anya would be B.J.'s partner over the course of the game, and given that the short cutscene I watched involved quite a bit of sexual tension (at least that's what it looked like to me), it's possible that we'll see some dramatic events unfold between the two.
The first bits of shooting gameplay tossed me right in the middle of a wreckage. Here I battled with robot dog creatures and clueless enemies who never saw B.J. coming. After getting past these obstacles I was quickly thrown into a challenging battle with a mech, which required me to take cover and pick my moments to strike as the mech was quick to fire a powerful spread of bullets. It's here that I got my first taste of the cover mechanics in The New Order.
B.J. can crouch to hide behind cover, but holding down the right bumper allows you to peek from behind structures without moving. This allows you to spot your enemies' locations and shoot those suckers down without having to get too beat up by their fire. Admittedly, this element took a little getting used to, but I found that it was essential for picking off bad guys one by one while protecting B.J. from taking too much damage. I ended up utilizing this cover feature not only against mechs (because there were plenty of 'em), but also against groups of Nazi soldiers.
MachineGames is out to create a Wolfenstein game that offers up action-adventure elements in addition to all of the shooting. This was evident following intense firefights, where I had to perform smaller tasks to progress. This included navigating through some tight corridors and using a laser gun to burn through specific walls, doing a bit of minor platforming to access new weapons, and shooting wires that held up elevators to open up new paths. These small puzzle-like tasks helped provide a break in the action, and they offered respite after really heavy gun battles.
There are also a few stealth moments thrown in for good measure, as was indicated when I approached enemies from behind and immediately disposed of them with a knife attack. MachineGames revealed that the final game would feature vehicle-based gampelay, too. Additionally, while the studio didn't exactly confirm this, there's a “very high chance” that players will be able to control a mech. Makes sense, right? Seriously, why not control a huge attack robot?
You'd think that a game dealing with a plot revolving around global domination at the hands of the Nazis would offer some serious overtones, but The New Order doesn't take itself too seriously (thank goodness). The weapons are a huge example of this. Sure, you can use a Gatling gun to mow down hordes of enemies, but once you're through with that, you can disconnect the thing from its turret and take it with you, because ya never know when you're going to need it. One element that got a good chuckle from other folks in attendance was the dual-wielding. If you come across a double of a gun you already own, you can take it with you and dual-wield the damn thing regardless of whether it's a regular pistol, shotgun, or assault rifle. It's chuckle-worthy, indeed, but it's also pretty badass.
B.J.'s demeanor is also pretty comical despite the fact that he's a hardened soldier taking on a serious task. While taking out enemies and performing objectives, the main character seems to always have something to say. One of the best lines occurred when he witnessed a promotional poster of an astronaut in space, to which B.J. replied, “You put a Nazi on the moon. F*ck you, moon.” It's not exactly riveting, but these script elements — as well as the host of other cheesy dialogue moments — added a nice '80s action movie feel to the game. Well, the crazy rock music that played right on cue helped, too.
During my time with The New Order, I noticed a nice mix of both old school and contemporary FPS tropes. Because this is a standalone title, even newcomers will be able to enjoy the experience, though longtime veterans will certainly notice some nods to past entries. The crazy weapon variety is undoubtedly one of the main selling points, and the fact that you'll be able to hold a bunch of weapons at once (as opposed to, like, only two) pretty much goes in line with what MachineGames expressed during the demo session: “It's fun to blow sh*t up.”
Watch out for The New Order when it hits the scene on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and next-gen hardware this holiday season.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.