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Wolfenstein: The New Order Hands On Preview

A little large to download at 2400 baud.

My experience with the Wolfenstein franchise is dated at best. I played through Wolfenstein 3D when it was a shareware powerhouse and never once considered playing one of its many sequels or reboots. Then I got a chance to spend an hour with Wolfenstein: The New Order, and I think I’m about to end my abstinence from the series.

The chunk of game I played through is taken from a segment near the beginning. Climbing back into the square-jawed persona of B.J. Blazkowicz, I stormed a towering stone building with my comrades on a quest to take out General Deathshead. Clambering up the side of the building and blasting away at Nazis stationed in the windows along the way was stressful, but proved that the shooting mechanics were in good shape, even when using them in a fairly awkward situation.

Once I’d gotten my squad mates into the tower, we started tracking down Deathshead in earnest. After coming across some disturbing Nazi experiments on humans, we found the demented general – or rather he found us. Following some fairly unsettling events – including a battle against an augmented soldier in a huge suit of battle armor – Baskowicz gets out of this situation but awakens wheelchair-bound in an asylum. You regain your ability to walk just as the Nazis march in ready to torch the place.

This situation gave me a chance to try out some sneakier maneuvers to clear the hospital of soldiers on my way to rescue the sole surviving nurse. Crouching and moving around felt stealthy and tense. I don’t think you could clear out the hospital entirely unseen, which is a little disappointing at first blush, but makes sense considering the game’s pedigree. This is Wolfenstein after all, and it’s clear the creators know what that entails.

In many ways, it feels as though creative director Jens Matthies and the crew at Machine Games may have figured out the perfect blend of that very first first-person-shooter and what we all expect from the genre today. There is some amount of regenerating health, for instance, but it will only click back up 20% of the way or so if you get out of the line of fire long enough. This is just enough of a refresher to allow you to scramble around and locate another vest of body armor or health pack. Design decisions like this force you to keep moving and keep shooting – even if it you aren’t just charging out into the open, you’ll at least be pressing forward at all times. At least that’s how I felt trying to wend my way out the front door of the asylum. Never once did I feel like I could just sit tight and pick someone off from afar; I was always on the move.

The assortment of enemies I encountered during the couple of levels available helped to keep me mobile the entire time too. There were the standard soldier types, but also the heavily armored biological mishap that was charging after B.J. and his pals full bore--that is, until someone could finally cut in behind him to cause some damage. Sure, that’s not a revolutionary way to take on a tank-like enemy, but relative to the general issue troops strutting around it was a big challenge and really put me on edge. Some jet-driven drones zipping around outside of the asylum also kept me keyed up after loading my back full of lead before I even realized they existed. I was constantly on the lookout and on the go.

Since you’re no futuristic super soldier in Wolfenstein, Machine Games didn’t slap a radar on the screen to see nearby baddies. In fact, they actually kept the HUD to a bare minimum. That’s pretty surprising since the original game had a distinctive and necessary HUD displayed at all times. In this series reboot, health and weapon indicators are subtle and convenient. I was never searching for the information I needed, but when I was focused on the action it all disappeared. Pulling up the weapons selection with the Xbox 360 controller was easy to do, and let me see everything I had available – even those luscious dual-wielded machine guns. Once I had that double-trouble option available to me, I didn’t look back. It was easy to expend one gun and swap to the other until I had a chance to reload, unless of course I decided to blast away with both at once which was always a ton of fun.

Sadly, the demo unit I was playing on got hung up right as I was nearing the end of the asylum level. I was actually looking forward to seeing what might happen in the story. The nauseating encounter with General Deathshead along with an opening cutscene clued me in that the story of Wolfenstein: The New Order might actually be worth paying attention to as well. Once I reached the insane asylum, I was convinced that there wasn’t going to be just a throwaway set of motivations to shoot Nazis. Yeah, you can tell they’re going to work in all the things we expect from Wolfenstein, hopefully including Mecha-Hitler, but it seems like they have found a way to make it all feel genuine.Just an hour of time with the demo has turned my indifference completely around. We’ll have to see if the rest of Wolfenstein: The New Order can live up to my brand new lofty expectations when it’s released later this year.


 

Comments

Michael117

08/08/2013 at 04:52 PM

Mecha Hitler? I'm in.

I'm excited for the new game, excited to dual weild, excited to fight Nazis and see some weird retro sci fi stuff happen. Some of the screenshots are pleasantly surprising because it's not always a cold gray pallete. Some of the screens have a warm bright pallete to them that's reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite. There's trees and autumn colors. There's color and at least some visual variety in the game which is a nice thing to contrast with the dark narrative of seeing the results of Nazis having conquered America, as well as their twisted experiments.

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

08/08/2013 at 09:30 PM

Of the parts I got to play, there was a gray, dank fortress and the sunny, autumnal asylum areas. It certainly doesn't look like your typical visual design.

Jonathan Drake

08/09/2013 at 12:15 AM

This one is looking sharp. Machine Games seems to be putting a lot of dedication to this game. FPS get a bad rap for being repetitive and boring, but hopefully  The New Order will shake things u :)   

KnightDriver

09/15/2013 at 03:17 AM

I loved the last two Wolfenstein games: Wolfenstein on 360, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein on original Xbox. Those screen shots for New Order look amazing! So realistic it's scary in the one with the Uzis. I'm watching this closely as it could pull me in to a Xbox One purchase.

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