Gamescom 2013: Wolfenstein: The New Order Hands-On Preview – Achtung, Baby!
Written Tuesday, August 27, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
With a name like General Deathshead, he never really had a chance to be anything but evil, did he? A maniacal scar-faced Nazi doctor, Wilhelm 'Deathshead' Strasse is the primary antagonist we face during our hands-on with a next-gen build of Wolfenstein: The New Order behind closed doors at Gamescom, as BJ Blazkowicz and his platoon storm the sandy shores leading to a dark and imposing Nazi castle.
As demos go, The New Order's Gamescom showing opened with a bang and refused to slow down until the inevitable cliffhanger at the end. MachineGames managed to wow us at E3 with its Wolfenstein demo, and now the Swedish developer has done it again in Cologne. The New Order is shaping up to be one of the most exciting next-gen first-person shooters we've played, and that includes Battlefield 4 and Titanfall.
Landing on the beach with closest allies Fergus Reid, a grizzled Scots war veteran, Wyatt the cockney geezer, and a few support troops like the eyepatch-sporting Broken Feet, it's grappling hook launchers at the ready as we scale the walls of the castle, slowly edging towards the nearest convenient entry point into the stronghold. Nazi troopers lean out of windows taking potshots, and getting hit by a few stray bullets means a fatal fall onto the jagged rocks below.
Once you've finished climbing the black walls of the castle, and witnessed the spectacular plane crash whizzing mere inches away from your head, it's time for Blazkowicz and his outfit to get in, take care of Deathshead, and get out. If only it were that easy. Clambering through the window into the dark and foreboding castle, we set about stealthily dispatching the Nazi guards patrolling the corridors with a swift knife to the jugular. Holding the left bumper, you can lean out from behind corners to gauge the whereabouts of enemies, or you can do what we did and give up on stealth in favour of more traditional gung-ho tactics. After all, you can carry as many guns as you like, and overcharge your health past 100, recharging to the nearest increment of 20. You're a one-man arsenal.
And given the array of weaponry on offer, it's hard to resist dual wielding a pair of assault rifles while stalking the labyrinthine castle for Nazi scum to blast. It's almost like classic Wolfenstein 3D, draped in gorgeous, richly detailed next-gen visuals. Before long, we've ploughed through the castle's jackbooted soldiers with a hulking minigun, ducked into the wreckage of the crashed plane, and attempted to jump a gap only to fall and take a boulder to the head. Regaining consciousness in a room flanked by corpses hooked up to spidery contraptions, you have to make a hasty escape into a nearby room before the incinerators suspended from the ceiling turn you to toast.
Ensconced in the apparent safety of an empty room outside the incinerator, a heavily armoured Nazi UberSoldat mech unexpectedly bursts out of one of the pods set into the floor, grabbing and crushing the head of one of our buddies. Surviving the attack by shooting the UberSoldat in the weak point on his back, the walls start to move in, as Deathshead's grinning visage terrifyingly appears at the window, watching as the walls constrict you and your squad. It's time for another spell of unconsciousness...
Blazkowicz wakes once more to find himself tied up and naked on the cold tiles of the incinerator room floor, Deathshead holding down Wyatt and Fergus who are also restrained in front of you, surrounded by Nazi UberSoldats. You're forced to make a horrific choice at this point, which will have an impact upon the rest of the story, before breaking free and making good your escape from the confines of the incinerator and out of the hellish castle stronghold.
Leaping from the window as the incinerator room goes up in flames, Blazkowicz almost manages to clear the blast radius, but receives some high-velocity shrapnel to the back of the skull. Falling into the sea, Blazkowicz is fortunately rescued by a boat, and awakens (yet again) wheelchair-bound in a Polish asylum, trapped inside his own body, conscious but paralysed. Time lapses as Nazi commanders enter the mental facility to take away subjects for Deathshead's experiments, as Blazkowicz is powerless to do anything but watch.
Soon, the patients are no longer required, and the Nazis callously threaten to shut down the asylum. Blazkowicz soon miraculously returns to normal having witnessed relentless abuse at the hands of the Nazis, springing into action from his wheelchair and tearing through the asylum like a Nazi ass-kicking tornado. Blood stains Blazcowicz's hands as he shoots and slices through the asylum, surveying the bodies of innocent care workers slain by the Nazi troopers. The New Order pulls no punches in its depiction of violence, and in the space of half an hour, we've seen a whole litany of Nazi atrocities that Blazkowicz will have to stamp out when he takes the fight to the Axis of Evil next year.
A barnstorming demo, MachineGames has left us in no doubt that Wolfenstein: The New Order is a hot prospect, controlling like a dream and boasting a number of memorable story beats reminiscent of the best Starbreeze has offered in the past. Clearly the studio is remaining respectful to the source material while branching out in its own direction, and the result promises to be one of the most engaging, resolutely single-player first-person shooters in some time. Achtung! We'll be keeping an eye on this one.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is coming to current and next-gen consoles in 2014.