Wolfenstein: The New Order hands-on - fighting Nazis in the Moon Dome
This article was originally published in PC Gamer UK issue 255.
BJ Blazkowicz thunders around the gantry that orbits the edge of the Moon Dome. He has an enormous shotgun in each hand, and the noise they make is more freight train than firearm – a pounding ‘CHUNKA CHUNKA CHUNKA’ that feels like it should climax in a ‘CHOO CHOO’. It doesn’t. Wolfenstein: The New Order furnishes the player with an array of ways to tackle its arena combat encounters, but I choose to deal with the Moon Dome by holding down both triggers and running fast in a straight line.
It works. BJ’s double shotguns blast bits off the model moon in the centre of the room, and send Third Reichers sailing through shattered glass to the floor.
“Ever since you got to kill Hitler in the first game, it’s been about alternate history,” senior gameplay designer Andreas Ojefors Arena tells me. “We took that and ran with it. We asked the question, ‘what would happen if the Nazis won the war?’” That’s all well and good. The question that The New Order answers more satisfactorily is, ‘If a jackhammer got to spend one night as a human, what would it do?’
Another inadvertently answered question is this: what would the first-person shooter look like in 2013 if someone had annualised Quake back in 1997? The New Order isn’t an id Software shooter, but it is deeply aware of its heritage.
BJ is delivered to the London Nautica – the Nazi research facility that houses the Moon Dome – in a car with a little Quake 3 Arena rocket launcher dangling from the key in the ignition. The game hybridises modern and retro design, mixing partially regenerating health with medpacks that can be gobbled in excess to temporarily shunt your health over 100, id-style.
“We tried to combine the best of the old-school shooter design with the new,” Ojefors continues. “There are things that shouldn’t have been left behind, and things that should.”
He’s insistent in referring to Wolfenstein as an action adventure game, rather than a shooter – but, well, it’s a shooter. Its non- combat ideas are expressed through environmental puzzle-solving and bits and bobs of linear narrative, neither of which are totally left of field for a game that also features shotguns the size of railway ties. What I saw, however, was well-executed.
Machine Games is partially made up of veterans from Starbreeze, the developer behind the quietly excellent The Darkness and Chronicles of Riddick games and, by way of contrast, the noisily crap Syndicate reboot. The stylish ultraviolence and characterful writing of those games are in evidence here, particularly in an early sequence where Blazkowicz is interrogated about his heritage by SS officer Frau Engel and her Aryan boy-toy Bubi. Think Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds by way of Bioshock, and you’ll get a sense of the tone.