Last May, Bethesda Softworks teamed up with MachineGames to reveal the next installment in their wildly popular series of Wolfenstein video games. Wolfenstein: The New Order is not only being seen as the latest and greatest that the franchise has to offer, but it also carries the important task of keeping the series fresh and relevant for both old and new audiences alike.
During PAX East 2014, I spent some lengthy hands-on time with the game and ended up playing through the first three levels from start to finish. Here are a few of my thoughts on the overall experience and why The New Order may be the most engaging entry in the series yet.
Wolfenstein: The New Order takes place in Europe during the 1960’s and focuses on a dangerous alternate timeline where the Nazis have taken over after successfully winning World War II. As lead protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, players are exposed to the harsh realities of a drastically changed environment and must find allies to aid them in an all-out war against the Nazis. The dramatic tone of the premise is unforgiving in nature and is designed that way to effectively turn you into a lean, mean Nazi killing machine overnight.
The first level of the game depicts our hero and his squadmates as they attempt to infiltrate Deathshead’s compound. This mission takes place approximately 14 years before the game’s current events and serves as an introduction to the universe all before the opening credits even start rolling. There is a brief tutorial on how to do stealth kills that takes place right before the player is thrown headfirst into several intense shootout scenarios with adversaries. Both the controls and weapons are extremely satisfying thanks largely in part to the vibrating motion that you will feel every time you fire off a shot. The video demonstration below clearly illustrates these points further and gives you a deeper context as to how the finished game will turn out.
The level concludes when Blazkowicz and his men are captured and we get a glimpse of the brutality administered to others by Deathshead. One particularly disturbing scene makes you choose which one of your men should be killed next. While the sequence itself doesn’t get too explicit in detail and context, it is effective enough to make you hate the Nazis and anxious to avenge the death of your fallen comrade. Eventually, Blazkowicz manages to escape the compound by jumping out the window and into an ocean that waits below.
The second level jumped ahead in time to the 1960’s, where Blazkowicz is now in a mental hospital and being cared for by his nurse Anya. The once peaceful environment turns bloody and destructive quickly as a group of Nazi soldiers attempt to shutdown the facility and kill everyone in the vicinity. It’s at this very moment that we are thrown back into the action segments and are tasked with finding our way back to Anya. Once this level ends, we come to a realization that the world around us has changed and is fully owned and operated by the Nazis now.
The third and final level that was part of this demo featured Blazkowicz breaking into a Nazi prison camp in search of a group of resistance fighters. This proved to be the most interesting stage of the three simply because now you gain a deeper sense of just how the Nazi’s have influenced any and every aspect of the world around you. This translates to dynamics such as the musical score and historical events being altered to accommodate the new environment. It is also worth noting that the difficulty level elevates over time to emphasize the dominance of the enemies. This feature was handled with finesse and is therefore a lot more balanced and refined than most of your typical first-person shooters out today.
After spending plenty of time with the first few levels of the game, I would say that Wolfenstein: The New Order is looking very promising so far. In addition to this preview, I highly recommend that you check out our Quakecon Preview of the game that was completed by Garrett Glass last October. Fans who are looking for a challenging FPS with a slice of dramatic storytelling will easily appreciate what this game is trying to do. For a final verdict on how the game ultimately turns out, please be sure to come back here next month for our in-depth review.
Wolfenstein: The New Order launches on May 20th for the PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Xbox One. Has this preview convinced any of you to check out the game? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.