The lights are on
Developer Machine Games has an uphill battle ahead with Wolfenstein: The New Order. Not only does the title need to stand apart from the glut of other first-person shooters out there, it has to lure folks back to the genre-defining franchise after Raven Software’s mediocre Wolfenstein entry. I played through a section of the game during a pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, California, and came away with five reasons why Wolfenstein: The New Order stands apart from other shooters.
Well, almost everything. During my hands-on time with the game I could dual wield nearly every weapon, from pistols to shotguns. Most weapons feature two fire types, allowing you to blast down Nazis with a set of automatic pistols or machine guns. My favorite tools of destruction are a set of twin shotguns with 20-round clips and an insane fire rate. Individual triggers fire each gun, which makes leaning around cover a little awkward at first. After some practice the technique comes naturally. I can’t wait to see how dual wielding feels with the Xbox One’s controller, which supports specific rumble hardware for each trigger.
A Promising Developer
Machine Games is comprised of the founding members from Starbreeze Studios. Starbreeze is responsible for cult classics like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness. Those games won praise for their inventive first-person gameplay and storytelling, and Wolfenstein: The New Order looks set to continue that legacy under a new roof.
Clever Environmental Puzzles
As fun as mowing down waves of Nazis is, sometimes you need a break. The action is broken up with exploration, which often involves a handy laser tool. Like James Bond using his laser watch to melt open a shortcut, players find inventive ways to get through the environment. In the demo, I could trace a rectangle along an air duct, watch the metal clatter to the floor, and sneak inside. My favorite instance involves creating an impromptu bridge between two walkways by frying the chain holding a model satellite. Not all the environmental puzzles require the laser, however. In one sequence players stand on an elevator’s counterweight, shoot off the brakes with their gun, and ride it to the top of the shaft.
Machine Games is ready to surprise gamers with a fun setting and intriguing tonal shifts. B.J. Blazkowicz is back killing Nazis in an alternate-history version of 1960 where the Nazis won WWII and took over the world with mechs and other sci-fi weaponry. Don’t expect the story to be driven purely by big, dumb action, however. In one unsettling sequence Blazkowicz is interrogated by a high-ranking female Nazi. She and her young, overtly sexual male escort make for some disturbing company. She gives Blazkowicz an improvised test for “impure blood,” which shifts between light-hearted to life-threatening without warning. This loosely interactive conversation takes place in first-person, adding to the tension of the situation.
Not every memorable story moment is about grim, gun-point interactions with Nazis, however. Blazkowicz frequently mutters cheesy one-liners that lighten the mood. A gigantic robot dog stalks our hero in one sequence, which prompts B.J. to mutter taunts. “Got you stalking prey,” says Blazkowicz. “I’m not your prey. You’re mine.” This dialogue is eye roll-inducing at first, but the unapologetic shifts between the serious and absurd become entertaining.
Mechs aren’t anything new to video games, so I’m not saying that’s what makes Wolfenstein unique. Yes, battling heavily armed, bipedal machines is harrowing, and reducing them to useless hunks of metal is satisfying. Yes, Machine Games hints that players will probably be able to pilot these walking terrors and cause destruction of their own. What I’m excited for is far more alluring. This is all just speculation, but we can safely assume Hitler is still alive in this alternative history. With that in mind, there is a strong chance that Wolfenstein: The New Order could include a boss battle against a mech-driving Hitler, which would be an entertaining throwback to the original game. It’s nothing concrete, but the possibility is enough to keep this game on my radar.
With or without a mecha-Hitler, Wolfenstein: The New Order is due out for next- and current-gen consoles towards the end of the year.
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