At E3 2013, I got a first glimpse of The New Order, and I was pretty well impressed. The demo offered up at QuakeCon has only furthered my excitement for the release, which is now slated for some time in 2014. Where the E3 demo put you directly into the post-war resistance, this one actually started you off near the end of World War II, where you’re trying to not-so-subtly assassinate the Nazi general Deathshead.
After your mission to take out Deathshead goes awry, BJ finds himself being cared for in a Polish asylum some unknown number of years later by a nurse named Anya, who will ultimately help to drive the story and BJ’s character development. I caught a glimpse of this in the demo, as the protagonist wipes out swaths of Nazi soldiers, as well as flying robotic laser drones, indicating the passage of a decent chunk of time as well as technological progress, all in a bid to save Anya from an uncertain fate.
The experience was just as enjoyable as the earlier demo, but the weaponry was a bit more traditional with a good old fashioned assault rifle being my weapon of choice. The demo took place towards the end of the prologue and lasted just under an hour, but there are apparently two more chapters preceding these events, which makes for quite an in-depth prologue to look forward to. The characters were largely comprised of your typical grizzled soldier, but the visit to the asylum introduced Anya, working alongside her parents, and offering a bit more depth of character. One interesting bit I discovered from the story side of the demo was that there are apparently choices in game, such as which soldier gets put to the knife, which will have minor impacts on the rest of the game. It’s not alternate endings or anything that in-depth, but even miniscule changes to how the game plays out tend to offer up a bit of replay value for the truly dedicated.
The controls were familiar and simple, and aiming down sights was reasonably precise, making headshots fairly easy to land. Dual wielding assault rifles to take down a Nazi-engineered monstrosity is just as thrilling as it sounds. They’ve even implemented some health regen to take the edge off of some of the more difficult encounters, but it’s probably not quite what you expect. Instead of slowly regenerating health to full, you’ll only go up to an increment of 20. If you go to 4 life in a fight, you’ll regen to 20. Similarly, if you’ve got 36 life, you’ll regen up to 40. It’s just enough to keep you in the action, without having to restart after a tough battle to get the optimum result, but not so much that it feels like your typical shooter, where you take cover for a few seconds and go back to full.
Your health is a resource in Wolfenstein, as it was traditionally. Even with the bit of regen, it is your most precious commodity. You’ll want to shoot or melee every box you see to get at the contents, such as armor, ammo, or medkits. Ammo was rarely a problem in these encounters, as I was largely pilfering weapons and ammo from the dead Nazis, so as long as I was at least pointing my gun in the right direction while holding the trigger, I always came out ahead for ammo.
In addition to an exciting one-hour demo filled with exactly the sort of over-the-top action you expect from Wolfenstein, I got to sit down with Andreas Ojerfors, Senior Gameplay Designer at Machine Games. Andreas shed some light onto the ambitions of Wolfenstein, namely that they are trying to “go back and capture the experience of when [Wolfenstein 3D] was released 20 years ago.” The New Order is being designed as an action-adventure experience, with a focus on exploration. This exploration is not necessarily the traditional sandbox world sense of the word, but rather “Exploring the world, exploring history… exploring the story, its characters, and the gameplay.”
I think it’s safe to say that Wolfenstein: The New Order, at least in its current state, will easily exceed any reasonable expectations for the game. I’ve already seen evidence of well-designed characters, like Frau Engel and her positively creepy boy toy, and, while the idea of a Nazi-run world may seem vaguely familiar from any number of sci-fi/fantasy alternate universe plotlines, I think the team has put sufficient effort into it to really set The New Order apart. The action is intense, and the enemies, like the weapons you’ll get access to later, are completely over the top. Plus, if there’s one thing you’ll feel less bad about than virtually killing a Nazi, it’s virtually killing an autonomous Nazi Death Robot.