MachineGames’ Wolfenstein: The New Order drew massive crowds this past weekend at PAX East thanks to the storied history of the franchise, and an impressive gameplay demo and swag bag giveaway. I was fortunate enough to get a private media session with the game, which afforded me an uninterrupted gameplay session that featured the first two hours of the single-player campaign, and by the time I put my headphones down I was completely enamored with Wolfenstein: The New Order. This game is definitely not just another WWII Nazi shoot em’ up, nor is it just another Wolfenstein game. The New Order boasts an impressive mix of high-end visuals and gore, tight shooting controls, and an engaging plot that will keep you unlocking checkpoints at a fevered pace.
The demo started from the beginning of the game as Captain BJ Blazkowicz is awakened on an airplane that has been struck by Nazi flak en route to a daring assault on Deathshead’s Compound. The year is 1946 and the Allies are getting their asses handed to them by the Nazi forces, which now have mysterious advanced weaponry such as Stealth Bomber-like attack fighters, and massive armored transports that look like three-legged AT-ATs from the Star Wars franchise. The outlook is grim, which is why the Allies, with the help of all around badass BJ Blazkowicz, are risking everything by storming Deathshead’s base, who is one of the main antagonists in The New Order.
After BJ is awoken by Fergus Reid, one of the game’s main NPCs, he’s quickly tasked with fixing a fuel leak on the plane and releasing its cargo so it doesn’t nosedive into the sea. These moments play out like typical mini-missions, and helped to get oriented with the standard FPS controls. Soon after BJ fixes the plane it comes under fire from the advanced Nazi jet fighters. This provides the first bit of actual gameplay as BJ must climb into the belly of the plane to try and gun down as many attack fighters as possible.
The shooting controls felt very familiar during this action set piece, and the chaos of the moment really sucks you into the game’s world. Unfortunately for BJ and Fergus, the Nazi fighters are just too strong and they must jump planes (literally from one wing to another mid-flight) to save themselves from death. There are more than a few Hollywood blockbuster moments like this in the early hours of the game, which help to highlight the insane skills that BJ has, and allow him to be a wrecking ball of force against the Nazi war machine.
After jumping planes things get worse for BJ and his squad as the plane they just jumped to gets shot down and crashes into the ocean. BJ and the survivors eventually make it to a beach to mount an offensive, but they’re immediately pounced on by a mechanical beast that looks like something you’d see at a monster truck rally. BJ must once again save the day, so I had to navigate him through an underwater passage to reach another plane wreck that had a working turret. Once strapped in I made short work of the chomping mecha-dog and freed my remaining soldiers from its trap.
While all of this is going on it’s hard not to soak in the sounds of war that are taking place around you. MachineGames’ sound designers made sure to pack in as many realistic, and futuristic weapon sounds along with the usual foley tracks that give a video game, or movie life. Deathshead beach sounded like a mix of Saving Private Ryan’s opening scene and the Empire’s attack on Hoth, thanks to the mix of both real world weapons, and the mysteriously advanced weaponry that the Nazis have at their disposal. While speaking with one of the MachineGames reps at the private demo he did hint that players will eventually learn why the Nazis have this advanced technology, so like I mentioned before there’s a rather deep and intriguing narrative wrapped around Wolfenstein: The New Order’s shiny and very violent visuals and rich sound design.
Speaking of visuals, The New Order boasts some of the smoothest looking graphics in town, which is quite impressive considering that the game isn’t just being developed for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One platforms. I was playing the PS4 version of the game, and it looked surprisingly wonderful. The character models offer realistic movements and lip syncing packaged with high quality textures and shading. The game world is a vibrant mix of death and destruction with amazing uses of light to give the world a bit of life. I didn’t notice any severe framerate issues, and the demo definitely throws some high octane shoot outs at you with upwards of 10-15 active enemy AI at a time (with many more background AI), so the id Tech 5 engine more than capably handles The New Order’s visual systems.
The demo continues to follow BJ and his squad as they make their way to General Deathshead’s compound, where they hope to take him out and end the war with the Nazis. Things don’t go so well as the team begins to stumble upon some horrific experiments being done to Allied soldiers at the hands of Deathshead. Many of the gun fights that ensue along the way are frantic and in tight corridors, so strategy and tactics must be employed to survive. The shooting mechanics feel tight and very familiar to other FPS games, but The New Order does offer a perk system and some interesting dual-wielding capabilities to change things up a bit.
Depending on how you play you can unlock perks in the following categories: Stealth, Assault, Tactical, and Demolition. With each kill you can work towards unlocking new perks in any of the four categories, so they’re not unlocked using any sort of XP system. They’ll be tailored to how you like to play, which I found to be pretty useful since my style of FPS gameplay is rooted in the Assault/Tactical categories. Once a specific perk has been unlocked additional bonuses can also be achieved through killing Nazis a certain way, such as performing a stealth kill with BJ’s Rambo knife. I also was a huge fan of being able to dual-wield assault rifles, which was a first for me in a FPS game.
BJ and his squad do eventually make it to Deathshead’s location, but things don’t go as planned and our hero gets put into a comatose state for nearly 14 years after making a fateful decision that will have lasting impacts on the campaign. He’s placed into a Polish ran insane asylum and is watched over by a Polish family of doctors. He eventually awakens in the year 1960 to a horrific scene at the asylum, and after a brutally gory escape thanks to a strategically placed shotgun (this game easily has some of the best looking gore of all-time), BJ manages to save one of his caretakers who gets him up to speed on what is going on in the world. BJ learns that the Nazis won WWII and have taken over the world with an iron grip. The US surrendered, and all resistance factions have been put down or captured. Considering that BJ is an All-American hero he doesn’t take this news lightly, and vows to seek revenge on Deathshead and the Nazis by helping to rally any remaining resistance fighters.
Once he learns about the new world order the campaign transitions into a 1960s feel, which afforded a few new foes for BJ to deal with, such as flying drones and mech-like tanks, and other weaponry that you’d expect to see in a Modern Warfare title. That’s what makes The New Order so intriguing though, it’s the mix of old school and new school tech that help to set it apart from other Wolfenstein games, but also other FPS games that have flooded the market since the Call of Duty explosion. It feels more like a science fiction shooter than a WWII/Cold War era game, so the mix of genres really work well, and definitely piqued my interests.
Going into PAX East I can honestly say that Wolfenstein: The New Order wasn’t too high on my games to play list in 2014, but after spending two hours with it I can’t wait to control BJ once again. It’s not just another typical WWII era shooter, or any FPS for that matter. I credit this to its engaging science fiction infused narrative, badass main character, and the supporting cast of NPCs and demonically evil antagonists. It’s easy to hate the Nazis, and The New Order does a fine job of reenforcing this within the game’s impressive 45-minute long prologue.
For a game that is being developed for nearly all relevant platforms it looked marvelous on the PS4, albeit not as shiny and perfect as Infamous: Second Son, but it looked noticeably better than the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. I can promise you that you haven’t seen next-gen giblets until you pop off a Nazi’s head with a shotgun, or even better, blast a Nazi with an .80 cal cannon; it’s the most glorious use of video game gore I’ve ever witnessed. If you have had any doubts about Wolfenstein: The New Order please put them to bed, because after playing through its opening missions I can tell you it’s shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable FPS releases of 2014. Make sure to pre-order it today to get in on the DOOM beta, and to experience one of the more memorable takes on WWII and beyond.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is set to hit the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC on May 20, 2014 in the States.
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