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First Look (Sort Of): Wolfenstein: The New Order

A Chilling Experiment

Last week, RPS sent Brendan to preview MachineGames' Wolfenstein: The New Order. In a noble experiment in objective journalism, the preview you're about to read has been written by veteran RPS contributor Quintin Smith, based on nothing but the two pages of notes Brendan took during the presentation. He hasn't even seen a screenshot.

Good luck, Quinns! Everyone else should sit back, and enjoy the most unbiased preview in the history of games writing.

Hello! If you think Wolfenstein is about wolves, you're wrong. Wolfenstein: The New Order features a story, in which there is a 1960 alternate reality where the Nazis won WWII using technology. You'll be playing as BJ Blazkowicz again, who is still around because he's been in a comma! That might say “coma”, but I'm going to give this game the benefit of the doubt and assume Wolfenstein will be doing some incredible stuff with metaphysical concepts, perhaps with BJ also killing his enemies using full stops. Day one purchase, everybody. [I am not sure this was such a good idea after all – Brendan]

In Wolfenstein's story BJ will team up with “Angu” to work with a resistance movement. The question of whether Angu is an organisation, peer or love interest will have to wait until nearer release, or I find someone with better handwriting. [She is a woman and her name is Anya. I think.] But who cares about story! Not Brendan I guess because that's where he moves on to much more important issues. “Leaning still a thing,” he writes, the indentation of each letter implying excitement, or perhaps arousal. [You can lean around corners, over or under cover. It’s useful when you shoot things, which is all the time.]

The presentation itself very impressive, by the sounds of things. There was a big mech who... was there, and then BJ Blazkowicz was on a train with a scary Frau antagonist who tries to test his Aryan Purity while the player is serving coffee. Wolfenstein: The New Order will have less of an emphasis on first-person shooting and more of an action adventure-vibe.

This is exciting, logical news, since MachineGames was formed by the ex-studio heads of Starbreeze. These were the icy brains behind Riddick and The Darkness, both of which had ceaseless, ambitious and inventive non-combat asides. Riddick's simulation of prison life was wonderfully intimidating at times. The Darkness has a scene where you could just watch re-runs of (out of copyright) episodes of Flash Gordon with your girlfriend on the sofa. It was great! It's wonderful news that Wolfenstein is doing stuff like that, like stealth, which featured in the demo at one point, with BJ knifing guys and so forth. [The stealth is actually pretty basic crouch-to-not-be-seen stuff.]

The guys at MachineGames went on to state Inglourious Basterds as an inspiration [it appears my notes are just plain lies at this point, because I don’t remember the developers saying any such thing], and whether you enjoyed that movie or are sane, Tarantino did imbue WW2 with more personality than the rest of the Wolfenstein games had put together, so that's literally something you can probably expect to see from The New Order. “Gone are the archaeological dig sites of old Wolfenstein,” said a guy. [Again, what guy? I think maybe this was just me, pretending to be a boxquote.]

But maybe you're interested in the shooting! In which case let me tell you, The New Order implements various modern developments, like regenerating health and also BJ will dual-wield everything. [True about the guns. He even dual-wields giant shotguns. There is a point at which you can barrel down a corridor blasting both of them at once and see nothing but muzzle flash and smoke. Then, when you stop firing, you realize you have just murdered 6 Nazis you didn’t even know were there. The health is a little more complicated, but we’ll get to that.]

But that's not all! BJ will have a powerful laser which is half-tool, half-weapon, in a playful augmentation to your arsenal that similar to Half Life 2's gravity gun, just without the gravity. With this laser you'll be able to cut holes in cover to shoot through, or use it to laser down panels and find Wolfenstein's traditional hidden areas. You'll also be able to upgrade it several times, or use its alt-fire mode to fire it like a normal gun, which is innovative. [I definitely did not write ‘innovative’] Now, I know what you're thinking. How will I charge my laser? Don't worry. MachineGames have seen fit to place laser tool charging stations around.

But it's not all roses! “BJ's husky one-liners are pretty annoying,” Brendan says here, insensate in the face of upgradable lasers. [But I do like the way he whispers everything. It’s a nice change after Far Cry 3’s Jason Shouty.] It's not hard to imagine what might be annoying. Perhaps wartime rationing has left BJ with shoes that are too small. “God damn these tiny shoes!” he cries, huskily. “Are those even more stairs? Jesus! I hate this!” Quite why MachineGames would give BJ such impractical footwear remains to be seen, but I expect his shoes will be upgradeable too, as you pry increasingly large boots from bigger and bigger bosses. Oh my god that would be awesome. [None of this is in my notes.]

OK. I've had it easy so far, but here it gets tricky. The next part of the preview saw Brendan writing down a quote from a MachineGames designer called Find Out Name. Brendan wrote this quote in actual shorthand. I can't read shorthand, but this is the internet! We can just find a shorthand dictionary and translate it ourselves.

So, here's what Brendan's notes mean:

“Wr h Id Software f, a w (illegible) w y c u w sh c w s 'oh' - w y (illegible) s t...? W rhdh udt W th hd kl – Wolfenstein uh it (illegible) ab 100 G y d v at (nonsense) (no idea) r.”

Next, we simply apply some common sense to fill in the blanks.

“We're huge Id fans,” said the designer. He also said some other things, about games. [His name was Jens Matthies, the Creative Director, and he said: “We’re huge Id fans and when we came up with the concept we showed them. We wouldn’t do anything without telling them…” and then there’s some separate stuff about the health system. Shorthand is brilliant. Because you can show your shorthand to another shorthand writer and even they won’t know what the hell you’ve written down. It’s the most secret language you’ll ever learn.]

I'm very excited about Wolfenstein: The New Order. It looks great. Games have gone without small shoes and grammar guns for too long, and it's the visionaries at MachineGames that simply want to give us something new. Rest assured, RPS will be keeping a very, very close eye on this one, and providing the earliest possible review.

[Okay. Quinns’ summation of events was surprisingly accurate. When he mentions the action-adventure emphasis, he is half-right. Those were the marketing fella’s terms. How much time will be devoted to the story sections we don’t know yet. We only got to see a short section of story in a train’s café carriage, whereby the Nazi Frau (who will become the antagonist of the tale) plays an arbitrary game of ‘prove your purity’ with you using some picture cards. The player gets to choose which cards to pick – what makes you feel proud: blue eyes or a setting sun? Stuff like that. It is true that it’s a scene straight out of Inglorious Basterds’ tenser moments. Although it’s difficult to tell whether the uber-mech standing in the corner acts to increase this tension or dissipate it.

Again, with the gunplay, Quinns was mostly spot-on. Apart from the grammar rifles thing. There were indeed many guns to shoot with, all of which are arranged in your inventory in oldy-worldy FPS form. Since the new Wolfenstein is taking the “let’s be big and dumb on purpose because it’s funny” route, there is no possible objection to BJ’s ability to carry a billion weapons at once, rather than swapping between a paltry two. They also feel very weighty. This will undoubtedly please a lot of old-schoolers. However, the dual-wielding system is a little strange. You’ll have to find a preset ‘pair’ of the guns if you want to dual-wield, so rather than simply picking up one of the thirty rifles your dead foes have dropped and putting that in your free hand, BJ has to wait for the allotted time at which the level sees fit to grant him with the ‘rifle pair’. Wolfenstein might take pride in being old-fashioned but this might seem a little too archaic for some.

The laser gun was the centerpiece of the demo and it did look undoubtedly cool when cutting down individual bits of chicken wire. Cutting holes out of cover looks equally cool but I never did this myself during a gunfight, mostly because it would take a lot of time fiddling with weapon selection when it was quicker to just lean out and blast people. The first laser you get is a little blowtorch-sized thing. You get an upgraded weaponised version later, although the ‘weapon’ side of this simply constitutes another projectile-based gun. I was expecting the player to be able to use the laser to slice through the legs of enemy mechs, in the style of Tiny & Big or Metal Gear Rising: Revengence. With luck, they’re saving that weapon for later but, if it does exist, it wasn’t on show here.

The health system is a weird hybrid of old and new and I still don’t fully understand it. The enemy soldiers you shoot to death always seem to have some medical or armour points to scavenge and there are certainly a lot of armour vests and med packs lying around, all of which implies another nod to the Old Gods of the FPS. Indeed, the developers themselves said they wanted to stay true to Wolfensteins PC shooter heritage. However, when in the heat of battle, I noticed that health was sometimes regenerating as well. There’s some kind of metaphor to be made here about shooter genealogy, and Wolfenstein trying in vain to remain a ‘pureblood’ FPS in the age of Call of Duty: Angry Warfare. But I think we can do without such a metaphor for now, as this preview article is already stretching it in terms of ‘wacky’. {Thanks! – Quinns } I mean, look, we have to give Quinns a whole new set of brackets. {It’s mad!}

Overall, New Order is going for the same action-oriented irreverence as Bulletstorm or, in movie terms, Iron Sky. At the same time, MachineGames have put a lot of effort into making it very much one of the Old Guard. I think ‘pastiche’ is the wanky literature word for it. But then there is good pastiche and bad pastiche, and obviously it’s too early to tell which category this Wolfenstein will fall into. But we will be sure to let you know when we get a better crack at it closer to release.

{Brendan, close your brackets.}

Oh yes, of course. Sorry.]

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Wolfenstein: The New Order

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About the Author
Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell

Former Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.