Nerd Reactor’s Chris and I were invited to try out the new Wolfenstein: The New Order, the franchise that paved the way for first-person shooters. Loaded onto a vacant console, I had to get adjusted to the PlayStation 4 controller, as I haven’t handled any PlayStation pads in over a year. I was trying to switch weapons and throw grenades, not sure which of the myriad of buttons/triggers could save my life or end my game.
Wolfenstein: The New Order starts you off in a plane among many others in 1946. You get an immediate idea of the era you’re in based on the attire and vehicular design around you. As for the Germans, they show up with technology that is different from history. I mean, their planes look like the U.S. Stealth Bombers. At that point, you get a taste for the opposition you’re against.
Soon you’re assaulting a beach where a titanic mech is patrolling the area and picking off invading soldiers while you’ll be fighting off robotic canines and black-armored Nazi soldiers. While I was still fumbling with my controller, I appreciated that I still had time to adjust to the environment, even though there was a high possibility of death at any second. I’m not saying the game is slow from the start, as I did die at a few points, but you are not under so much pressure that you cannot enjoy the details of the scenery or the mech that is slaughtering your friends.
You are B.J. Blazkowicz, the protagonist of the Wolfenstein series. While some speculate this as being a reboot, it can be experienced as a new story without prior knowledge of the games before it. This is a sequel to 2009′s Wolfenstein, with the story taking place in 1943. Yes, Wolfenstein: The New Order starts three years later!
As though that wasn’t already a time jump, I did notice that as soon as I collected weapons which brandished a 1946 on their name, it foreshadowed the loss of time that was to occur. The experience of the assault on the beach and encountering antagonist Wilhem “Deathshead” Strausse was a grounding feature to the story that would lead to a transition to the 1960s. And while there was some evidence that the Nazis had a technological edge in the past, you see a stronger technological advancement in the 1960s era, with flying attack drones, Tesla weapons and smaller attack mechs.
The use of the idTech5 engine lends itself well to the environmental design and lighting, empowering a narrative which is strong but does not feel as rail-driven as a certain Call of Duty game. Although sometimes there are points where you could get lost, it does not feel suffocating. Although the Wolfenstein franchise has its roots in being a corridor shooter, the elaborate set pieces do not feel dull or repetitive. And because of this lack of repetition, you also see interactions and situations that are unique to a particular area. Whether it’s using a machine gun in a ruined multi-story rotunda, disabling an anti-personnel cannon, or clearing out a courtyard of drones, there is something about its orchestration that doesn’t feel like I’ve done it before.
What is deeply satisfying about this first-person shooter is that it takes small details like gun recoil, ricochet sparks, and really mauling your enemies in a gunfight. And while some first-person shooters may be conservative about enemies or ammo, there are many times in Wolfenstein: The New Order where you’ll have an engaging experience in combat. The performance of the game was smooth, with no skips or glitches during my gameplay, so the experience seemed very seamless.
By the end of the final mech battle in the demonstration, a pivotal encounter with a Nazi commander on a train left a strong impression about the deep characters the writers have established among their antagonists. Between the brutality of Deathshead and the femme fatale Nazi commander, there was a very strong sense of danger, not just from the people whom you could silence with a gun, but from enemies that could bare your soul.
The Wolfenstein saga continues and is coming soon to North America on May 20, 2014, then throughout Europe on May 23, 2014. Wolfenstein: The New Order heads will be available for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.