“In my dream, I smell a barbecue, I hear children, a dog, and I see someone…I think I see someone. These things, none of it for me. I move by roaring engines, among warriors. We come from the night.” —William Blazkowicz
It’s July 1946, and with their advanced technologies, the Third Reich began tuning the tide against the Allied forces. With the aim of stopping the war, the US Special forces launch a desperate raid against General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse’s fortress. After his aircraft is shot down, Blazkowicz manages to regroup with his forces and infiltrates the castle, but before they can find Strasse, they are captured. Blazkowicz manages to escape, but shrapnel pierces his skull, rendering him unconconscious. This is the prologue of Wolfenstein: The New Order, but despite being a first person shooter enthusiast, initially, I had little interest in this title; I am not particularly familiar with the Wolfenstein universe, and prior to The New Order, the only classic shooters I had finished were Doom and Doom 2. However, checking out the gameplay footage, I was soon persuaded to reconsider and pick this title up for myself, to try my hand at helping the Resistance in a world where the Third Reich has achieved total power. What changed my mind? The realisation that Wolfenstein: The New Order featured an incredibly diverse set of locales for Blazkowicz to fight in, which, amongst other locations, includes combat inside of a cutting-edge lunar research facility.
The first mission acts as a prologue that sets the stage for what is to happen, and admittedly, it feels quite similar to most of the modern military shooters out there. However, all of this changes once Blazkowicz leaves the trenches and enters Deathshead’s castle itself; by this point in the game, Wolfenstein: The New Order screams “classic arcade shooter”, featuring the ability to fashion armour from helmets and metal plates in the environment, a lack of fully regenerating health that forces players to find health pick-ups in the levels, the capacity to carry a full arsenal of awesome weapons and the power to dual-wield almost any weapon in the game for twice the firepower (and double the reload time, with a slightly reduced accuracy). These old-school mechanics bring back gameplay mechanics from earlier shooters: I’ve been playing first person shooters since GoldenEye 64 was released, and callbacks to shooters of this age (most noticeably, the dual-wielding and vast array of weapons players could access) complement the modern generation visuals quite nicely; having played games like Halo, Crysis and Battlefield, it can be restricting at times to only carry two weapons around if ammunition for them are scarce: having access to everything plus the kitchen sink really allows players to approach a situation from the manner of their choosing, whether it be to quietly take out enemies one at a time with the knife and silenced pistol, methodically pick them off from a distance or charge into an enemy emplacement with grenades and both guns blazing.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game that defies the conventions set by modern military shooters. Gone is the notion of fully regenerating health, omni-present military jargon, doors that only squadmates can open and so on; instead, players are immersed a world that saw the Third Reich winning the Second World War. The pilot here is Fergus Reid, a Scottish airman who worked at a shipyard before joining the air force.
- The opening mission actually does take after games like the Battlefield and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchises; Blazkowicz is ordered to carry out several tasks in a very linear fashion, such as manning a gun to down enemy fighters. However, even this sense of familiarity is dwarfed by the inclusion of fantastical elements, such as the Horten Ho 229 jet fighter: towards the end of the Second World War, the Third Reich began diverting more resources into the development of Wunderwaffe in a desperate bid to turn the tides back in their favour against the Allied forces.
- Historically, this effort was too little too late, and for their ingenuity, superior German weapons were overwhelmed by simpler, more numerous Allied weapons. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, this is not the case, as the Third Reich was able to develop exceptionally advanced weapons that outmatched anything the Allies had. This first mission is intended at infiltrating the central research centre with the intent of taking out Deathshead and ending the war.
- I’ll dispense with the sub-machine gun in favour of the 1946 Assault Rifle, the mainstay of the Wehrmacht. With a thirty-round magazine, this weapon hits hard but also has a substantial amount of vertical recoil that can be controlled by firing in short bursts. After the first automatic machine gun nest is destroyed, Blazkowicz enters the trenches surrounding Deathshead’s compound.
- I’m not sure if there’s an upper limit to how much health can be picked up: the overcharge mechanic is a simple but brilliant addition to Wolfenstein, where health packs will boost Blazkowicz’s health past 100 if he’s already at full health. Unlike most shooters that cap the player’s health and forcing them to leave additional health packs on the map, this mechanic allows extra health packs to become useful even if a player already has full health.
- I have not properly dual-wielded weapons since the days of Halo 2. The dual-wielding system in Wolfenstein: The New Order is not as versatile as the one in Halo 2 and in fact, is quite similar to that of GoldenEye 64, which allowed players to dual-wield any weapon in the game, from pistols and assault rifles to even rocket launchers and laser rifles. The New Order brings this back, and at the expense of accuracy, doubles Blazkowicz’s firepower.
- Compared to most shooters, where pistols remain as sidearms or weaker weapons to be switched out when better weapons are acquired, the pistols of Wolfenstein: The New Order are remarkably powerful and can down most basic enemies with a headshot. Moreover, attaching a suppressor does not appear to limit their damage output or bullet velocity, increasing their usefulness as an excellent ranged stealth ewapon.
- One of the best aspects about Wolfenstein: The New Order is the sheer presence of Nazi Architecture, a style that incorporates Neoclassicism and Art Deco elements in mimicry of the Roman Empire to signify the strength of a Thousand-Year Reich. The liberal application of concrete and spartan environments in more utilitarian structures can be seen here, and in fact, many of the interiors of Wolfenstein: The New Order resemble the interior of the Berlin Flak towers.
- Über Concrete is a special building material whose merits as a construction material far surpasses anything that we presently possess, and is the reason why the Third Reich is able to construct their cities and facilities so aggressively to build the structures later seen in the game. The last time I did any sort of architecture-related talk was for Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Tari Tari.
- I’ve always wanted to fire a FlaK 40 cannon: designed as an anti-aircraft gun, these weapons were large and produced only in limited numbers, being mainly used for the Flak towers of Berlin. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to destroy the Baltisches Auge (Baltic Eye, or Stomper), an early robotic weapon that Deathshead developed.
- Blazkowicz must take out the operators of two FlaK 40 cannons, before making use of the second one to clear the debris off a cliffside. It took me quite a bit of time to figure this out, and I tried to power-slide underneath the flaming wreckage first, before realising that the weapon was what was needed to progress further.
- After Blazkowicz rendezvous with his squad, they begin the ascent up Deathshead’s castle. From here on out, the game feels less like a modern military shooter and more like a classic shooter of the Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM era. He accompanies Private Probst Wyatt III, a naive and green soldier who nonetheless holds a strong sense of duty.
- The game will automatically inform players how close by the enemy commanders are. Taking them out will prevent them from summoning reinforcements, and to close the distance, making use of stealth kills is the easiest way of getting close enough to them to dispatch them. If the enemy commanders are alerted to Blazkowicz’s presence, stealth will disappear out the window on very short order.
- There are secret passages and collectible items scattered throughout many of the levels, encouraging players to explore and allow themselves to be immerse in a world filled with richly-crafted lore. Things such as this is rare in most modern titles set in our own world, so developers that take the time to build a world for players to explore are to be commended for daring to dream.
- I picked up Wolfenstein: The New Order the day I finished my multi-agent systems oral exam, and even on a connection as fast as mine, it still took a few hours to download. Spent from giving the oral exam my best performance, I opened The New Order the next day and played through this mission. I reached this point when a friend showed up with an early Birthday gift: the HGUC Stark Jegan. I’ll build that later during the summer closer to my birthday.
- Besides health packs, bread, plates of sausage and potatoes, and even dog food can be collected to restore Blazkowicz’s health. A week ago, I was out to a pub near campus to celebrate one of my friend’s birthday, and it was also game night. This marked the first time that I’ve been in a pub for a NHL playoff game, and while our team fell behind 3-0, by the time my bacon-wrapped wild boar with fried onions and demi-glace mushrooms came, we’d caught up. We won the game later that evening 7-4.
- Of course, the current team we’re playing against is a powerhouse, and the team I’m cheering on will need to be as determined and resourceful as Blazkowicz if we’re to win. Back in Wolfenstein: The New Order, I use a mounted MG46 to clear out hordes of Nazi soldiers. This is the equivalent of the chain gun seen in DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D, but for its firepower, it also reduces Blazkowicz’s mobility.
- The mission goes south when Blazkowicz and his squad are knocked out by falling rubble and reawaken in one of Deathshead’s human experimentation labs, where horrific experiments are conducted on captured individuals. Features such as drainage implements and a built-in incinerator suggests the frequency and efficiency at which these experiments are conducted, contributing to the unsettling nature inside Deathshead’s facility.
- The early supersoldiers are crude, but still remarkably powerful. Lacking any other effective weapons here, the best way to dispatch them is using dual assault rifles: at such close ranges, the loss of accuracy does not matter. However, the increased reload time may be a problem; it’s a good idea to back pedal and strafe while reloading to avoid being destroyed by the supersoldier.
- Trapped in a shrinking room, Deathshead leers at the player before everything goes black. When Blazkowicz comes to, Deathshead forces him to choose between Fergus or Wyatt. This decision affects the story to a limited extent, but otherwise does not affect gameplay or event progression, but the choice is a difficult one, forcing players to make a cruel decision that mirrors the worst aspects inherent in warfare.
Moving forwards, I am looking forwards most to exploring Machine Games’ interpretation of a world where the Third Reich has won. This is one of the aspects that I look for in a game: how well can a studio build their world so that it can immerse the players? A sufficiently good amount of world-building will be able bring out the weight of Blazkowicz’s fight against the New Order, in turn giving players a reason to be excited about seeing what happens to him next. I’ve gotten just far enough to see the cinematics for Blazkowicz’s fourteen years in a Polish institution, and knifed the first Nazi officer in 1960. It’s time to go exploring and see how much of the game’s perks, collectables and Enigma code pieces I can collect, all the while shooting everything that moves and contributing to the resistance’s efforts to undermine the Third Reich.