Yup, it sure is a first-person shooter alright
Bethesda is bringing back Wolfenstein, the first-person shooter that lets you kill countless Nazi bastards. The New Order takes place during the 1960s in an alternate history Earth where the Nazis have taken over the entire planet with their highly advance robot fighting force. It all looks hopeless, that is, until William "B.J." Blazkowicz finally awakens from his coma.
I got to see a good chunk of the game at a recent preview showing, and story wise, Wolfenstein has this very campy, almost Quentin Tarantino style going for it. Gameplay wise, well, it's looking like the standard FPS experience that I'm quite frankly just getting tired of.
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Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
The Wolfenstien presentation opened up very strong. B.J. is on a train heading to Berlin with a fellow resistance fighter. B.J. is off getting coffee for themselves when he encounters the main antagonist of The New Order, Frau Engel, and her sexual boy toy, Bubi. Frau orders you to sit down, and you don't really have much choice, as there's a guard along with a hulking big robot in the train car with you.
Frau and Bubi are speaking in German throughout this scene, and she wants to test you to make sure you are a true-blooded Aryan. So she proceeds to pull out a set of pictures and ask you a series of questions, and you have to pick between two different options each time. For example, one set is of skulls and spiders, and she asks which one makes you feel the most disgusted.
All throughout this test, she makes it obvious that if you pick the wrong cards you will be shot immediately. The final pictures come, you select one, and then ... nothing. She throws the pictures away, laughing, saying that they really mean nothing and that if you were really not of pure Aryan blood you would have reached for your gun long before the final pictures came.
The level of tension was palpable, very reminiscent of the first 15 minutes of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds where Christoph Waltz's character was interrogating the farmer. This scene got me really excited for what the new Wolfenstein was going to offer, but that excitement quickly faded when the actual gameplay kicked in.
The next portion put us a third of the way into the game, as another resistance fighter is driving you to a top Nazi research facility in London, where a prototype helicopter you need to steal is located. You're dropped off near the front entrance of the base and watch helplessly as your friend suicide bombs the main entrance with his car, packed with a thousand kilos of explosives.
From here, you have to fight your way in, taking on hordes of Nazi soldiers and their big robots. BJ's health is presented in that old-school way with 100 displayed on the bottom of the screen when you're at full health and another 100 for full armor. The health number dwindles as you get hit but will regenerate over time. It only regenerates so much, and you need to grab health packs to get back to 100 or above (and anything above will always dwindle down to 100 over time).
There's a wide variety of weaponry at your disposal, though most of it is the standard stuff. You know: assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, and the like. You can pretty much dual wield anything, including shotguns. There is also some advanced futuristic weaponry, such as a laser that can cut through objects. You'll find a far more advanced version of this laser later in the game that can actually obliterate human enemies into red mist.
Fighting humans is your standard affair, so I was pretty excited by the idea of fighting robots as well. I was hoping that the robots would make the FPS combat feel fresh again, as killing humans over and over does wear thin. Unfortunately, the robot battles are dull. They're just big, hulking bullet sponges, and defeating them doesn't have that same satisfying feeling as taking out humans.
The level design also appears pretty linear and straightforward, with cutscenes triggered at various points. And for once, I wish a first-person shooter protagonist was actually mute. BJ talks, and during gameplay at least he speaks in a very hushed, whispered voice, as if he was in a public library. It made zero sense. When he's talking, he's spitting out one-liners that feel more flat than camp. There was one point where BJ exclaimed, "Fuck you, Moon," upon seeing that Nazi's had stepped foot on the Moon in the base's space exhibit. That got a chuckle out of me, more from how out of place it felt rather than it actually being funny.
At least the visuals are lovely. The game was being demoed on a PC on par with next-gen tech, and it was like pure eye candy seeing the game in motion. The awesome heavy metal soundtrack is a nice compliment to the experience as well.
I think what it comes down to is that I'm just finally exhausted with the first-person shooter genre in general. Perhaps I'm faulting The New Order too much, as I was hoping it'd offer something more unique over just yet another tried-and-true FPS. I'm certainly interested to play through it if the entire story presentation is as strong as the opening with Frau Engel was. That said, this is one experience I won't be rushing to get upon release.
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