Eurogamer Expo 2013: Wolfenstein: The New Order hands-on
I probably should have listened to the guy at the stand. As we queued, he gave the basics to those about to get hands-on time, recommending that no one increased the difficulty. Though and behold, like some giant ‘do not press’ button, I bumped the difficulty up a notch and paid for it straight away. MachineGames’ Wolfenstein: New Order is not easy.
“Must once again defeat the Nazi army”The ninth instalment in the Wolfenstein series, New Order takes place in an alternate history where Nazi Germany built the nuclear bomb first and won the Second World War. Cast into the role of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz – looking like the ultimate Aryan poster boy – we must once again defeat the Nazi army. This time the odds are stacked sevenfold against us.
The demo opened in what appeared to be the rubble of a collapsed building. Slowly working through the gaps led to a small area where a mechanical robot came to life, knocking B.J. back onto the ground and slowly rising to attack.
The movement in New Order feels right. B.J.’s physical actions carry a weight that Starbreeze – members of which went on to found MachineGames – made well within The Darkness. While it has evidently carried over for the most part it’s a shame the accurate use of arm perception (i.e. seeing full arm length when firing) has been lost.
Running, sliding, strafing, leaning all feel locked down to his body, avoiding the consciousness of being nothing but a floating camera in the world, having no bodily meaning to anything in passing. Interaction with the environment by physically moving objects and switches complements this further. Full body awareness is always a good inclusion.
The higher difficulty levels (there’s the traditional five) are not to be taken lightly. The first encounter put me down in two shots. Later, small encounters had to be tackled with a mix of strafe bravado and leaning around corners for pot shots. Still, an open area with enemies on both sides proved a little too tough.
Time for a better weapon.
“Going Chow Yun-Fat in an alternative Nazi-run future”The weapon selection on the controller was opened by holding a single button and then scrolling through the options. In tight situations it wasn’t responsive enough though there is a quick cycle button once the number order is memorised. It was in this menu that its ace card was played: The ability to dual wield.
From assault rifles to screen covering shotguns, going Chow Yun-Fat in an alternative Nazi-run future was daft, solid fun. The guns are fired individually via traditional primary/secondary fire inputs (the left and right triggers in this instance). This extra element of control takes a further step forward in the right direction to make you, through B.J., feel like an old school action hero.
A tight inner corridor of the compound was cleared by leaning round a corner and unleashing two full clips of shotgun rounds. The carnage was visually gratifying, running at a smooth rate throughout. This was complemented by a crunching, metallic music score that merged guitar and electronics into an industrial wall of sound. It suited the environments and cold thematic theme of the Nazi rulers.
The hands-on preview came to an end shortly following a cinematic scene. Two female rebels, one new and young, the other older and in charge, provided updates and orders on what B.J. needed to get done in the next inevitable hail of gunfire. With the developer’s history of storytelling there’s a strong possibility that New Order may craft a developed tale with twists and turns along the way.
As a first-person shooter it makes no attempt to further the genre or make a play for more grandiose ideas with the predefined expectations of what this style of gameplay should be. Shoot stuff and move forward. The key is how well it performed doing so. It’s thematically deeply rooted in B-movie mythology. The intelligence is in playing a ridiculous scenario straight-faced and using the themes here to dally in unexpected areas narratively. MachineGames have the chance and talent to exceeded expectations of what Wolfenstein has left to offer.