PAX East 2014: Wolfenstein: The New Order hands-on preview
Bethesda sure as hell knows how to make a cinematic that draws you in. From the very first trailer to the latest one that starts with a soccer (I live in America... I call it soccer) referee shooting a player that yellow cards, it's getting every first-person shooter fan back in the mindset that we need to be killing Nazis. And yet, since E3, I've heard mixed reviews, with a lot of journalists calling it 'just another fps.'
So what did I think of the game with my hands-on time at PAX East today? It is another first-person shooter, but there are some things I really liked and others that didn't resonate with me.
The demo starts me off as the main character, BJ Blazkowicz, in an allied plane that flying right into more advanced German planes. And things aren't looking good. Our allied planes are being destroyed, and my own plane is on fire. I'm tasked with running to put out a fire, cutting loose our cargo so we don't crash into the water below us, and manning a cockpit turret. Finally, I'm forced to abandon our shot up plane and jump onto another one. And then that one crashes into the beach. Needless to say, nothing is going right for the Allied forces against a superiorly armed Nazi army.
We wake up on the beach split up from the rest of our squad, who are in another part of the plane being stalked by giant, mechanical dogs. I'm a huge fan of steampunk, and the advanced technology, weapons, suits, armor and machines that the Nazis are utilizing look killer. I take a second to appreciate the design of the machine until I gun it down with a turret, then it's off to join my squad. I'm tasked with taking out mounted machine guns, scaling a tower wall while enemies pop out of windows, take out officers and so much more. The whole time enemies are trying to take me out. The scale of this battle as we storm the fortress is what I'd expect from a WWII set piece. Particle effects and explosions looks great, texts are above average but hold their own, and you feel like you're in the middle of a war. MachineGames has absolutely nailed the atmosphere.
Eventually, my team and I reach a room where there are humans/creatures/Idon'tknowwhattheywere strung up after being dissected and operated on. Here's the big problem: while we're stuck in this room that reeks of ashes, an ignition sequence starts. We escape from that room before being roasted, and enter another enclosed room where a heavily armored soldier-robot busts out of the ground. Being the badass I am, the enemy is defeated. As we go to approach an exit, we come face to face with one of the most disturbingly creepy villains I've seen (in a maniacal sense) -- Wilhelm "Deathshread" Strasse. The walls move in on us, trapping as and threatening to crush us like Luke, Han and Leia in the Death Star.
Next thing I know, Deathshread has us captured. He's obsessing over my squad mates, admiring one's eyes. Then he asks me who he should kill for his experiments, Wyatt or Reid. Depending on whom you choose, some things will change in the story. Obviously, one character will be in the story, the other dead, but you get different puzzles and gameplay elements. The story isn't too affected though, as the game focuses on BJ Blazkowicz. Either way, there's two timelines, so you'll have to play the game twice to experience both.
So, I like the villains, the story seems cool with this re-imagined alternate history, and the combat is your standard FPS fare -- it doesn't reinvent the wheel. What do I not like so much? For one, while the controls are generally good, the way you cycle through weapons isn't tintuitive. It's awkward and I don't care for the system at all. The other thing I didn't care for was how objectives are shown to you. Multiple times -- and for about two minutes in the plane at the beginning -- I had no idea where to go. The map is helpful to a degree, but if you forget what you're tasked with doing, there's nowhere that reminds you. An objective is shown to you as a little red diamond, but at times it's barely noticeable. Sometimes I had no idea where to go and stumbled into progression.
I definitely enjoyed my hands-on time with Wolfenstein: The New Order, despite the couple of issues I had. Who wouldn't enjoy gunning down steampunk Nazis who won WWII instead of the allied forces? I wish I could have experienced what it was like playing in the 1960s instead of WWII, but at least I have something to look forward to now.
Wolfenstein: The New Order releases on May 20, 2014.