Wolfenstein: The New Order – Gamescom Preview

Title   Wolfenstein: The New Order
Developer  MachineGames
Publisher  Bethesda Softworks
Platform  PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 (Previewed), Xbox One
Genre  First-Person Shooter, Adventure
Release Date  2014

After reading Ed’s preview of Wolfenstein: The New Order from  E3, I found myself looking forward to the latest remake of the classic series more than ever. So, when the opportunity arose to check it out at Gamescom, I leaped at the chance. I was a little worried that I would play the same build that Ed had experienced but, as soon as I sat down and started the demo, I realised that we were being given access to a whole new part of the game.

The action kicked off with a small squad of soldiers storming the beach by a castle, where an enigmatic (and foul-mouthed) captain gave a rousing speech, and the main character, BJ Blazkowicz, was tasked with scaling the castle to open the gate below. From there I was thrown straight into the action, walking up the side of the wall while picking off baddies who popped out of windows. It was a pretty grandiose opening, and did a good job of getting me pumped up and ready to kill some Nazi scum.

After jumping in through a window, I was informed that perhaps stealth might be a better option. Crouching makes your movement almost impossible to hear, allowing you to sneak up behind enemies and stab them in the throat for a silent kill. Annoyingly, it appeared that you had to be crouched in just the right spot for the execution to occur, which led to numerous occasions of me slicing the enemy in the back rather than triggering an execution, instantly alerting everyone in the area. It was only a small problem, however, and one that will most likely be fixed by launch.

Having alerted the entire Nazi squad to my presence, I proceeded to tackle them head on, guns blazing. The team running the demo mentioned something about a cover button, but for some reason I could never get it to work. Thankfully, however, combat was really quite easy. You can dual-wield assault rifles (somehow), and I did so with a large grin on my face as the bodycount rose in seconds. The pistol also proved pretty satisfying, although perhaps a little over-powered – even on Normal difficulty, enemies went down after only two bullets in the leg.

Regardless, I still managed to take a couple of hits myself, and took the time to heal by eating some food. Your health only regenerates to the nearest multiple of 20, so if you drop below 80 then you can’t fully heal, and so on. Food was fairly plentiful, however, and enemies dropped health pick-ups that were automatically gained by walking over their bodies, so I never had any issues preventing myself from dying. You can even go over the maximum health of 100 using the pick-ups, but your health will slowly deteriorate until you return to 100HP, so you can’t just stuff yourself with food and become an unstoppable killing machine.

Having opened the gate and traversed through a number of set-pieces, including walking along a balcony taking out enemies above, and a turret sequence that we see so often in the shooter genre, I finally met up with my squad, and we all took turns jumping a gap to progress. Sadly, the floor collapsed around us, landing us in a laboratory where someone had been conducting horrific experiments on people. This introduced me nicely to the darker side of Wolfenstein – and it only got darker from there. After narrowly escaping incineration, my squad had to take down a huge scientific experiment gone wrong, and found ourselves trapped in a room where the walls literally closed in on us. It was then that we met Doctor Deathshead, who, along with a stupid name, had an almost-comic evil smile, and stood grinning at the door as my entire team were slowly squished.

Awakening back in the lab I had already escaped from once before, I found myself facing a choice – which one of my team should Doctor Deathshead brutally murder while I watched? Luckily I had my mind made up in seconds, and chose my captain, who had already spoken about it being a soldier’s job to die for what they believe in (idiot). The choice will apparently affect the game’s story, but it felt awfully binary and entirely pointless, and just another device to get across the dark tone of the game. It was effective for that purpose, sure, but a little ham-handed in the way it was done.

Naturally, after the evil doctor had finished brutalising my captain, the remaining squad and I dived out the window and escaped, but not before BJ suffered a severe case of shrapnel to the back of the head. Time skips ahead in a montage of about fourteen years, and I regained control of BJ, now awake from his coma and having just witnessed Nazis kill almost all the staff at the asylum he was held in, and instantly set to work offing more bad guys. The gameplay was exactly the same as before, and the use of lighting to punctuate the murder of asylum patients was strangely beautiful, and I hope to see more of that in the full game.

Sadly, as BJ drove away from the asylum to discover whatever new world awaited him, I was sent back to the title screen; my time with Wolfenstein over. It’s certainly a fun game, if you’re a fan of shooters, and the seriously-dark tone helps set it aside from being just another FPS. However, the opening hour of the game that we were shown is just your bog-standard World War II shooter, and doesn’t include any of the cool toys that will likely make Wolfenstein: The New Order a far more interesting alternative to its fellow murder simulators. We’ll have to wait until the full game launches some time in 2014 to really know.

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