I coughed and spluttered my way through the last iteration of the classic Wolfenstein franchise. The PlayStation 3 game, just called Wolfenstein, was a capable effort that just lacked something. When I heard that Bethesda were going to have another go at it I rolled my eyes. Then I actually had a go on it at a recent preview event in Sydney.
Wolfenstein: The New Order continues the story of “Office of Secret Actions” operative William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, from the previous games, as he battles against the dark forces of the Nazi SS Paranormal Division.
The game starts towards the end of WW2, in the thick of it, with B.J. aboard an allied aircraft that I can only describe as a B17 bomber on steroids. Under heavy fire from both AA guns and bizarre German fighter planes, it was up to me – under the guidance of the bomber’s gruff Scottish pilot Fergus Reid – to man the guns, put out fires and generally keep the thing in the air.
It was only after an hour of trench warfare- battling against nasty K9 robo-dog Pazerhunds, infiltrating a very familiar-looking castle, and coming face to face with the evil Nazi scientist Deathshead himself that the game’s opening credits rolled. Even then I had to fight a few of the Nazi’s more “experimental” units before getting caught in an explosion and blown out a window.
What sets this Wolfenstein apart from its predecessors is that the bulk of the game is set in the 1960s. On escaping the castle B.J. is left catatonic and institutionalised in an asylum for sixteen years. He awakens to a world where the allies failed and the Germans won the war.
Hats off to the developers, MachineGames, for taking Wolfenstein: The New Order out of the Second World War, but at the same time giving us permission to shot Nazis again.
Placing B.J. in a world under Nazi domination, where his American dream has been squashed under the fascist jackboot, changes his motivation from that of a sure-thing victory to almost an act of futility. As a player we get to experience a nightmare reality that thankfully never was.
But the award for most unnerving Nazi encounter in the preview has to go to aging SS officer Frau Engel and her impromptu personality test on B.J. with a pistol pointed at him. As she cackles in amusement, her young boyfriend, Bubi, fawns over her- his hands wandering suggestively out of sight beneath the table. It’s repulsive, vulgar and downright unnerving; but at the same time perfectly executed.
During the preview the game revealed itself as very capable shooter, with some well executed stealth sequences and some nice set-pieces. Visually on the PS4, it looked very nice with a very cinematic feel. There’s also a hint of black humour about proceedings that will probably raise a laugh or two.
Sadly for me, even though it had been a few hours, the preview was over all too soon. With our hero on his way to Berlin and into the jaws of the beast, I wanted more. But I’ll just have to wait.
Wolfenstein: The New Order will be available for Xbox 360, PS3, Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on 20 May.