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E3 2009: Wolfenstein

E3 2009Wolfenstein

Anthony and I spent quite a bit of time discussing Wolfenstein today before I went and saw the game demonstrated at Activision’s booth on E3’s first day. The historic franchise has long been celebrated by gamers as the granddaddy of FPS, but as the series hasn’t aged quite that well. Return to Castle Wolfenstein, though good, was an unremarkable game with the exception of its multiplayer modes. FPS games have advanced in the 20 years since Wolfenstein 3D hit the scene and the gameplay that made the original game famous isn’t the favorite flavor anymore.

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After our brief glimpse at the game, I’m not entirely sure if Wolfenstein is going to win accolades, but it is certainly a different game than past incarnations. Players once again assume the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he works to stop a Nazi plot to capture and harness the energy of the Black Sun, an infinite power source. On a mission to prevent the Nazis from bombing London, B.J. uncovers the plot and is sent on a solo mission to stop the Nazis from gaining control of the energy source.

The Nazis believe that they can tip the scales of the war with the Black Sun energy, but the problem is that they need to cross into the Veil, an alternate dimension, in order to acquire it. The Veil is filled with demons and when Nazi soldiers cross into the Veil, they come out mutated and changed. Through the use of an amulet he acquires during his spying, B.J. is able to harness the powers of the Black Sun, which essentially gives him a shield, bullet time and the ability to see enemies in the dark. Your enemies can also use the powers of the Veil dimension against you, which means that you’ll be pitted against enemies with powers similar to your own.

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While I’m hesitant to endorse the amulet and Veil powers, the shooting elements of the game are classic Wolfenstein. The gameplay is fast-paced and ammo never seemed to be scarce. As the game progresses, B.J. encounters increasingly tougher enemies, but his arsenal receives substantial upgrades. In addition to his classic machine gun, B.J. eventually gains access to exotic weapons like a lightening gun and also a particle cannon. How these items came to exist in 1943 was never explained, but watching them rip apart Nazis is eternally entertaining.

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Whether the Veil powers will prove to be a useless gimmick or something greater than that remains to be seen, but so far, the game seems to try to faithfully reproduce the gameplay of the original. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good idea, given how much FPS games have progressed in the last few years, but that’s the direction that Raven has taken and that’s what we’re getting. We’re going to try to get our hands on the game later this week, but until you hear from us on it, you should probably stay skeptical.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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