In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil explains the thrill of shooting Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
I don't really have any anecdotes from Wolfenstein: The New Order. An anecdote suggests specifics: a place, a time, an action. What I have is a sort of Wolfenstein super-anecdote—an amalgam of overlapping actions merged into a after-image of specific violence that exists independent of setting.
It goes like this: There is a large room filled with guards. I silently approach, crouch-walking my way to the first target. Careful. Deliberate. Confident.
Guard #1 has his back to me. Then there is a knife in it.
This is when things get blurry, as the individual parts of the layered memory diverge. Maybe a second guard is quickly dispatched. Maybe a third. Maybe there's a dog. Always, inevitably, I'll be spotted, and things come back into focus.
Wolfenstein doesn't let you go loud; it lets you go deafening. Its stealth systems are robust and satisfying, but its firefights are absurd. Shotgun. Twin shotguns. Twin assault rifles. Big laser-gun thing. Assault rifles fire rockets. Sniper rifles fire fully automatic lasers. Shotguns fire chunks of metal that bounce on every surface.
This is fucking Video Games, son. Capital-V. Capital-G.
Assault rifles should be boring. Valve supposedly kept them out of Team Fortress 2 because holding the mouse cursor over another player while bullets chip away at their health isn't interesting. Wolfenstein solves this by letting me sprint at an enemy while holding both mouse buttons—obliterating them in a cacophony of pumping lead.
There's a tendency for games in the modern-military-shooter subgenre to include guns simply because they exist. I've played numerous Battlefields and Call of Duties and I still barely know the difference between M16A1 and an M4A1. Granularity strips a game's weapons of their personality, because what makes them unique is unremarkable.
In Wolfenstein, I feel like an extension of the gun because I know what that gun is about. Not what it can do, but what it is. A fully upgraded Laserkraftwerk is not a laser rifle. It's a statement—one that closes with multiple exclamation marks. A charged scope shot disintegrates an enemy. Solid form becomes a fine blood mist.
If phase one of my amalgadote is stealth and phase two is action, phase three is recovery. Again, The New Order functions as a breath of fresh air blowing away years of accepted shooter design. The problem with regenerating health is it naturally breeds caution. If I'm near death, I'll take cover. I'll retreat. In Wolfenstein, if I retreat, I die. The areas behind me were picked clean by obsessive collecting. If I need health, I push forward or around—circumventing the remaining enemies in a burst of speed and a slide into temporary safety.
Health? Armour? Dog food? Find it, grab it, and keep shooting.
It's the fluidity of all this that makes The New Order exhilarating. In stealth games, I quickload when I'm spotted. In shooters, I'm cautious when pushing forward. In Wolfenstein, I'm bouncing between tempos—sending rockets into a big metal robo-man, sprinting into a corridor, grabbing ammo, obliterating a heavy with the LKW, and, finally, unloading twin shotguns into whatever has the sheer audacity to still be moving. I love this. Who wouldn't?