games / Previews

Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4) Preview

February 27, 2014 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

During E3 2013, 411mania got the chance to take an early look at Bethesda Softworks’ and MachineGames’ new installment/reboot of the Wolfenstein franchise with Wolfenstein: The New Order. The hands on demo I was able to play last time was the Xbox 360 version of the game. This time, at a special Wolfenstein: The New Order preview event in Los Angeles, Bethesda Softworks gave us the chance to play the PS4 version of the game, and this demo included the very start of the game through the first three chapters. The last version of the demo I played was actually quite difficult, and thankfully this one had multiple difficulty settings that weren’t ratcheted up to 11. This new vision of Wolfenstein brings back the franchise’s classic protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz, thrust into what appears to be an alternate timeline in which the Nazi regime, armed with highly advanced technology and weapons, is able to win World War II and take over the world. The last attempt at a modern Wolfenstein update was the 2009 game released by Activision and developed by id Software and Raven Software. The game was a failure, but it looks like MachineGames and Bethesda are taking the franchise in a bold, interesting new direction how. We’ll see how it works.

The demo starts in 1946. Blazkowicz and his team of Allied soldiers are on a mission to the compound of General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, a villain in previous Wolfenstein games. Somehow Deathshead, now horrendously scarred, has been able to unlock the secrets of highly advanced technology which has empowered the Nazi regime in WWII, and the Allied Forces are struggling in a losing battle. The mission of Blazkowicz and his team is a last ditch effort to cut out the heart of the Nazi war machine, that being Deathshead. The game starts with some aerial combat as you take the turret guns of your fighter and shoot down some advanced Nazi fighter planes. Eventually. you have to make a daring escape from the plane onto another jet before you eventually make landfall with your team. There’s a very neat, type of classic war/action movie mash-up style here, sort of like Where Eagles Dare meets The Dirty Dozen meets the Quentin Tarantino stylings of Inglorious Basterds. BJ battles Nazis who carry some advanced weapons, cyborg dogs, and some mecha robots as he infiltrates deeper and deeper into Deathshead’s compound. Like the last demo, the first-person shooter gameplay allows for dual wielding guns, which adds a lot to the fun pacing of the shootout sequences.

Eventually, BJ and his team are trapped by Deathshead. In a playable cinematic type sequence, Deathshead and his horrific, Frankenstein’s monster-type creations hold you captive and force you to choose between your living comrades. It’s a tense, grisly moment. You do get the chance to fight out of the crematorium-like room before it’s engulfed in flames, but in the process BJ is wounded by shrapnel and falls into the ocean. He drifts to Polish waters and is taken to a sanitarium, watched over by a benevolent family. However, the shrapnel injury puts BJ in a catatonic coma, and he’s stuck that way for 14 years. Yes, that’s right. 14 years. BJ awakens in 1960 when the Nazis arrive to clean out the hospital. He fights back against the Nazi soldiers and procures their weapons. BJ then has to fight his way out of the ruined hospital to save Anya, the nurse and daughter of the family who owned the sanitarium. After taking out all the enemies on the front lawn of the hospital, you make escape with Anya to her grandparents’ home in the country. They fill BJ in on what’s been happening in recent years and the Nazis taking over the world. BJ’s next move? To get to Berlin to free any of the remaining resistance soldiers. Now seemingly back to life and with a renewed purpose, BJ goes on the road with Anya and her grandparents. The next gameplay sequence has BJ take out a Nazi border or checkpoint base so that Anya’s grandparents can safely make it to the train station to get to Berlin. Here you get to fight some of the Nazi army’s new mecha robots and also aerial drones. They pack quite a punch, and you really want to take your cover and approach them carefully. This level also allows for some fun stealth kills from behind. This is something you can pull off with your melee attack and allows you to kill an enemy with one hit if you time it right. The final sequence shows off another playable cinematic type moment that Bethesda previewed at E3. You meet the nefarious Nazi villainess, Frau Engel, and her boy toy, Bubi. Engel taunts you with a card game trick she uses to figure out the “purity” of your Aryan blood. It’s another tense, quietly scary moment. She tries to trick you with choices of the cards that really don’t matter unless you make the blatantly wrong move. A short time later, the latest demo concludes.

Based on what I was told by reps from Bethesda, this iteration of the franchise has jettisoned the supernatural and demonic aspects from previous installments of the franchise. This is interesting because there were what appeared to be some Easter eggs or at the least references to ancient, occult type artifacts and documents from the last playable demo during E3 with some levels later on in the game. It could very well be a bluff by Bethesda. There could be something more devilish, arcane, and supernatural in regards to how Deathshead and the Nazis obtained such advanced technology that was able to turn the tide of the war in their favor. This demo also did pretty much confirm that this game is a full blown reboot and not so much a sequel to the existing franchise. Or at least, this is an alternate timeline where at some point the storylines diverged.

The gameplay here was a lot of fun. Controls are overall very fluid and responsive. Using double pistols or machine guns adds a lot of extra fun to the action gameplay mechanics by being able to just mow down enemies. You can also grab extra powerful turrets or gatling guns from a mounted tripod. They cause you to move a little slower, but they carry a lot more ammo and are an excellent equalizer against groups of bad guys. The choice and playable cinematic moments were interesting. It’s my understanding that your “choices” won’t dramatically effect the story of the game, but they will purportedly offer some unique nuances later on. I suppose that means if you choose to save one of your comrades toward the beginning, only he will show up later, but other than that, the direction of the story doesn’t dramatically change that much. Now this will only have a single-player campaign, but that being said, it looks like MachineGames has clearly put a lot of work into offering a story that’s a little more unique and involved. A lot of sequences have this fun, dark sense of gallows humor that works really well for the setting, and they take some pretty obvious cues from the likes of Quentin Tarantino as well. But what does Tarantino do from his work but take inspiration from other films and material? The bits I could make out from the soundtrack were really good. There was a strong piece of BGM once you make it into the compound near the beginning and go on the hunt for Deathshead. Based on this demo and the previous one during E3, it looks like there’s a nice variety of weapons to use as well. The setting and design of this game looks awesome. The advanced Nazi regime use these really nicely designed decopunk-style robot drones and tech. On the PS4, graphics and environments looked nicely detailed, brightly-lit, and sharp. One challenging that that I like about the gameplay is that you can grab an armor attachment for your character, but it’s also timed on your HUD. So that means the health meter on your armor gradually goes down right after you fill it up, so it does make you be a little more calculated in your approach to combat if you are running low on health or armor, along with finding areas or boxes that hold more health packs.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is due out on May 20 on the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows PC. You can also check out some more screenshots, character models, and also key art from the game in the box below.

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Jeffrey Harris