Wolfenstein: The New Order Preview – Herr to the Empire
In my life there are a few watershed moments that I refer to when talking to people about gaming, such as the first time I gamed online, my first home console, or the jump from standard to HD graphics. But my first and therefore most memorable gaming revelation came in 1992 when I walked into a Dixons store at Marble Arch (now a Primark) and played the shareware version of the original Wolfenstein.
This was the first real FPS of its time and placed you in the boots of one BJ. Blazkowicz, who had to escape his prison and save the world, whilst sticking it into fritz on his way out. Wolfenstein was a balls to the walls shooter that pitted you as the square-jawed hero up against insurmountable odds and a heinous amounts of enemies. It was an experience that changed my gaming life from that point forward.
Wolfenstein laid the ground work for so many games that came after it, introducing health, ammo and armour pickups, secret chambers, a damage direction indicator and everyone’s favourite bad guys – the Nazis. These would become the staple in nearly every FPS from that day until now, with possibly the only difference being Zombies are the new beloved (read less controversial) bad guys.
Since then, the FPS genre has moved on, building on the fundamental groundwork laid down by Wolfenstein and adding in complex stories and new features. It’s a genre bursting with franchises trying to outdo each other with various new gimmicks like wall-running or K9 companions, where multiplayer is king and single player (in most cases) is an afterthought. Where the player is a fragile thing that must learn to out-think rather than out-gun his opponents. As such, it is a genre that has in some ways forgotten its roots.
Step up Wolfenstein New Order. Set in 1960 in an alternate universe where Nazi Germany has prevailed and the world is trembling before its mechanised jackboot, you again reprise the role of BJ. Blazkowicz – this time waking from 14-year amnesia-inducing slumber, trying to work out just what the Sam hell has happened. Now I am sure you have seen some of the trailers dotted about the internet (and indeed on this page) and will be able to work out that any game that features mechanised enemies, robot dogs, and Nazis on the moon is not going to be shooting for most realistic story of the year. However, the story is gloriously silly whilst at the same time played straight, with engaging and well voiced lead characters and cut scenes that are expertly put together; in short the story serves its purpose in pushing you through a roller coaster ride of death and destruction.
The game is beautiful. The environments, be it Nazi controlled London or labs buried deep within the bowls of a secret research facility, are fantastically realised and even better erupt like steel piñata when you unleash with your weapons – sparks fly, paper is tossed in the air, glass shatters and walls crumble as you unload your boom sticks into them. It is a cacophony of destruction the likes of which has not been seen in a long, long time.
Speaking of boom sticks – New Order certainly does not scrimp with these! There are shotguns, rifles to pistols, lasers to mounted machine guns and grenades – there is no end to the ways you can dispatch the endless flow of Nazi foot soldiers. Again, the shooting is firmly old school and whilst you can aim down the sights in controlled bursts most of the time will see you blasting away for the hip watching as Hitler’s finest are dispatched with wanton abandon. Guns can be fired as normal or in glorious stereo as dual wielding is back… and back in a big way. Blazkowicz has absolutely no issue dual wielding pretty much any weapon, including assault rifles and shotguns, blasting away at everything and anyone in view. Couple this with the destructible environments and it’s like being dropped directly into an Arnold Schwarzenegger wet dream.
Enemies are varied and much like the original are distinct enough so that at a glance you can tell if you are facing a rifle-wielding Nazi who requires an immediate introduction to your bullet hoses or simply an officer with nothing more than a pistol who can wait. There are also giant mech soldiers who are heavily armoured and armed to the teeth; these again are beautifully animated and add an extra layer of depth to each battle. Do you swing down, guns blazing like the world’s angriest one-man firework display and eliminate the greatest threat first then mop up, or do you dispatch the foot soldiers first before using cover and preserving health as you take it apart from distance? Wolfenstein is not a dumb shooter by any means – it simply allows you to play the game how you want to.
I approached New Order with some degree of trepidation. Having seen some horrific reboots recently (Duke, I am looking at you), I was worried that yet another of my childhood heroes was about to be destroyed by a quick cash-in on a famous name. But I was wrong, so very, very wrong. Wolfenstein is a glorious return to form and a breath of fresh air in a genre that in some ways has become a little stale. I had a huge amount of fun running through the level I had access to and can’t wait to get my hands on the full title.
Welcome back Wolfenstein, I have missed you.