At a recent pre-E3 event hosted by Bethesda Softworks I had a chance to get my hands on a demo for the upcoming game Wolfenstein: The New Order. It was my first chance having any sort of hands-on experience with a title that will certainly be considered ‘next-gen’. I can tell you for certain that I was not disappointed and that the team from Machine Games’ hard work is quite evident in the short level I was able to rampage through.
You can consider this new Wolfenstein a reboot of the franchise although the dev team was very clear to point out that they haven’t really messed with any of the past games story arcs. This fits into the Wolfenstein canon in a different way than previous games though. You are still the prototypical badass soldier BJ Blazkowicz and you’ve come a long way from your old pixelated days. You’re now 40 yrs old and you’re waking up to a 1960 where the Nazis won the war and everything you ever held dear is pretty much gone. What would a good soldier do in a situation like this? Hook up with the nearest rebellion and start kicking ass right? Well that’s exactly what BJ sets out to do.
Opening scene we get to see some of the stunning character models that grace the game. Alongside BJ we meet his companion of sorts Anya as well as some of the main Nazi leaders. The attention to detail is exactly what everyone is expecting from the jump into next gen. Despite the fact that Wolfenstein will be releasing on current gen consoles you can tell that the focus here was to make jaws drop on a new system. I noticed that movements were much more fluid and human-like than a lot of stuff we’ve seen in the past. When someone spoke you’d damn near be able to read their lips with the sound off as far as I could tell and that is a great advancement. In addition to the human characters of course we got a solid look at some of the mechanized enemies you’ll come across in game. Huge mechs rattling off machinegun fire and snarling mechanized beasts that make you jump when you come across them and turn your back running. All in all whether it’s in the cut scenes or gameplay nothing seems to be missing at this early juncture into the game’s development.
Jumping into the gameplay that focus on detail is still very much apparent with great texturing, dynamic lighting and superbly crafted, uber-badass weaponry. Laser cutters and the ability to dual wield pretty much any weapon in the game made me smile ear to ear. Controls were responsive and intuitive. I particularly found that the weapon select and switch to single or dual wield was very well done.
Listening to the action is stellar whether it be the ricochet ping of a bullet flying off your cover or the pistons pumping on the mech that’s relentlessly hunting you down. Voice work, what little of it I heard, was of high quality and cut scenes presented themselves like a movie. BJ is awesome and has some great one liners when the action is fast and furious. In one particular situation when BJ finds out that the Nazis were the first to walk on the moon he has some choice words for both the Nazis and the moon and his reaction is genuinely humorous . The real compliment here is that with the visual advancement and the solid acting you get real emotion coming at you in both departments. It’s exciting to be on the verge of this new generation of high definition gaming.
I was lucky enough to sit down with a few of Machine Games brightest and best for a short chat with them about their game and got some fantastic insight as to what they’re hoping for when gamers get their hands on the finished project.
COG: First thing that I’m sure people will mention and comment on is the lack of a multiplayer component in The New Order. What can you tell me about the choice to forgo MP in favour of a single player only experience?
MG: Well that really is a part of the legacy of our studio. Our passion is to create great story driven first person experiences. As you may know many of our members were part of Starbreeze. Our founders were the founders of Starbreeze so we have previously worked on Riddick, Dark Athena and Darkness. Our focus is to bring story, great action, good drama, and interesting characters.
COG: I couldn’t help but notice that the presentation both in game and cut scene wise came across as very cinematic. One scene in particular had a very Quentin Tarantino like quality to it. What can you tell me about the art direction you’re going for?
MG: I think what we want to do is to really try our best to place the player in the role of Blazkowicz and to align the experience of the player experiencing this new world which is also new for BJ. Having woken from a coma he hasn’t seen the world changing. He’s, you know, part of the old world. He’s the action hero from the old Wolf 3D game who now finds himself in a whole new situation where he has no idea what the hell is going on.
COG: Do you guys feel any pressure going into making this game realizing that you’re dealing with one of the real legacies in first person shooters? Wolfenstein is one of the godfathers of the genre really.
MG: Yeah without a doubt. We really want to do it justice and to take it in a new direction where it really hasn’t gone before with this whole alternate history and merging the old school mechanics from the old games and the newer more modern mechanics. Such as we have a limited regeneration system. You can’t just drop into cover and wait for your health to regenerate. We do it in increments of 20 so if you fall to say 43 or so you’ll jump up to 60 but you’ll have to go out there and find health packs or something else to aid you.
COG: So you guys really feel that you’re bringing something old back to the new then?
MG: Yeah exactly. In that aspect and more in the game.
COG: I noticed a great attention to detail as well. Crumbling cover and lots of action going on all the time. It’s almost overwhelming. You’re pushing limits already and we don’t even have the new consoles yet!
MG: Yeah for sure. All those details take a lot of work for sure but it’s all worth it. We all know it’s a lot of fun to just go out there and blow shit up!
COG: Moving development to new consoles has notoriously been a struggle. Have you guys experienced much of a learning curve trying to adapt to the new generation of hardware?
MG: Yeah that’s always a challenge but I think it’s working out fine. We’re getting closer every day and of course we’ll tweak right up until we ship the game. The best thing is that this whole team is really passionate and excited about making games. We’ve had to take time away from being at home to come out and promote and show what we’ve got so far which is tough because we really want to just keep working. In turn, however, we really love talking about what we’ve done too and we’re really proud of it so far.
COG: If a gamer says only one thing walking away from their experience with Wolfenstein: The New Order what do you hope that would be?
MG: When’s the sequel coming out!? (laughing)
COG: Well I don’t want to sound like a fanboy this early in but even from the short snippet I got my hands on I can tell you I’m impressed. I’m certain I won’t be the only one. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for your sequel.
MG: Of course, thanks for saying such nice things!
Having seen this early glimpse into Wolfenstein: The New Order it’s obvious that the team at Machine really cares about delivering a AAA title that people will talk about after they’ve played it. Things look positive for a small peek into the game but the real test will obviously be the whole package. With any luck we’ll be able to see a little bit more just to whet our appetite at this year’s upcoming E3 but until then these screens and info will have to do. I for one cannot wait to see what else is in store for Mr. Blazkowicz.