It's been 20 years since we first met William "B.J." Blazkowicz in the original Wolfenstein game. Since then, he has returned numerous times over the years but never in such a in-depth story as he is given in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Wolfenstein: The New Order isn't just another run around shoot everything game. It's an engaging, deep story about love, family and religion... Where you then run around and kill Nazis.
The game starts in a bomber making a run over a German-occupied area mid-World War II. Your situation takes a turn for the worse, and you find yourself crashed and infiltrating a castle, shutting down Nazi cannons and opening gates to allow more allied forces to progress. You move through a number of trenches and then into the castle itself. This of course includes all the things you would expect to see, like Nazi soldiers and guard dogs, plus a few more unusual residents. The Nazis have been experimenting with both robots and enhancing humans to create some interesting monsters. And then it all goes wrong for you again, leaving you in a coma floating in the sea.
Then I was presented with one of the prettiest, most well put together cut scenes I have ever seen. Think Metallica's Enter Sandman video, stuck in a body that won't function, with a mind that is working 100%, watching the room you are stuck in and the nurses and doctors who look after you, watching them for 20 years, everything changing yet everything staying the same. It was epically gorgeous. And then the slow-down, watching your nurse, Anya (who you have become very fond of over the years), being dragged off by the Nazi new order. Turns out, that's just the thing you need to snap yourself out of the coma and "kick some ass".
Insert the 1960's Nazi occupied territory. The Nazi party won the war thanks to a US-focussed atom bomb, and are now the leaders of the world - obviously, due to the fact that chief-Nazi killer B.J. was stuck in a coma. The Nazi ideals haven't changed, and their wartime speed of weapon development has not stopped. The morale of the world is shattered, and the freedom fighters have all but disappeared. After a nasty moment of torturing someone, B.J. discovers where the last of the freedom fighters are and off he goes looking for them. It's time for checkpoints, Nazis, and robots a-go-go! (See my 60's reference there?)
I think I find myself saying every game I play is now "truly beautiful", and that is because they are. The new generation of consoles is really allowing both the PC and console games to step up and utilise what can currently be done with the new hardware. The cut scenes are stylized and use focus in a way that really makes you feel like you are watching one of those epic war movies. And the maps are gorgeous, just as you would expect. But here is the thing that makes it different. The maps aren't linear. They are like old school FPS games, with multiple routes to get to where you need to be. If you like stealth, sneak around the back or through a tunnel. Prefer to snipe? Find a high spot and go for it.
Yes, you still need to complete tasks or get from A to B, but unlike many modern day shooters, you aren't forced to go down this particular road to do it, stopped by invisible walls, or randomly placed cars, or doors to stop you taking the wrong route. This is really one of the things that stood out for me.
Back to the game, though. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a delightful throwback to the series' roots. There's collectables dotted around the place (letters, gold, concept art) to reward you for exploration. More excitingly: B.J.'s still dual-wielding like a mad man, a machine gun gripped in each fist as he runs through crowds of angry Germans. If you'd prefer assault rifles, you can carry two of those, too - but unfortunately, even B.J. can only manage one Gatling gun at a time. This time around, our hero has also gotten his hands on a new laser tool, useful as a weapon, but more handy as a puzzle-solving tool. (Yes, there are physics puzzles, as well as some more standard lock-picking fare.)
But that's not all of the new content. The team at Machine Games (many of them former Starbreeze Studios employees who worked on The Darkness and the Riddick series) have thrown in some handy perks that you can unlock as the game progresses. These perks come in four categories - Stealth, Tactical, Assault and Demolition - and can improve a variety of elements of the game, ranging from knife skills, quick draw speed or bulls-eye targeting.
Technically speaking, we're facing an advanced version of idTech 5. I played on PC, and it was everything I wanted it to be. Gone are the sterile corridors of yester-year, The New Order is packed with inky shadows, natural lighting and a destructible world that splinters around you, throwing dust and debris into an already chaotic space. The game engine also handles the element of cover intelligently, a simple matter of standing near something and hitting a key. Having something that just works is a nice change.
This is a story driven game in the very essence of the word. From the combination of tasks to complete, to the Band of Brothers-style cut scenes, what we saw was engrossing, elegant and really made you feel for the characters and situations. I admit, I was a little apprehensive when I heard there was another Wolfenstein game in the works. After the recent run of re-releases, re-boots and dead horse-flogging sequels, I was expecting this one to be just another cash-in. After spending just a short while with The New Order, however, I was left wanting more.
This is definitely one to watch out for: B.J. is back.
I'm what you get when you cross a Pig and an Elephant. I like Video Games, Video, and tormenting small creatures. Twitter me, Punkley