Wolfenstein: The New Order- The Lunar Base mission as an example of good set piece design
August 9, 2015
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“I’m on the motherfucking moon” —Blazkowicz
Each of Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s missions stand out in their own right owing to their unique level designs and settings, allowing the game to continually impress and surprise the player. In a title where each mission is memorable, the Lunar Base mission stands out for its boldness, taking Blazkowicz to a Nazi facility set on the lunar surface. In-game, it’s shown that the lunar base is a cutting-edge research facility, and its remote location makes it ideally suited for storing the nuclear launch codes: this ties in seamlessly with the story and simultaneously provides an excuse to set a mission on the moon itself. Coupled with the appropriate arsenal (read “cool space guns”), the Lunar Base truly evokes a diesel-punk feeling, incorporating high tech gimmicks with technology from the sixties and offers a full environment to explore. As I fight through the facility and down enemies with a small array of laser weapons, glimpses of the lunar surface can be caught; it hits me that this is how space missions ought to be designed. Combat and exploration in a well-organised, well-constructed space environment can effectively convey the sense that one is in space without the need to introduce the disorienting effects of zero-G and conflicting choices in the sound department (specifically, picking one of realism or theatrics).
- I mentioned back in my Wolfenstein: The New Order final reflections post that I would be returning to do a talk on the Lunar Base mission, and so, here I am at present. This is a shorter talk with fewer images, but I emphasise that this mission is without equal and is perhaps the strongest mission in the entire game. Here, I am equipped with the AR Marksman, which can only be used in automatic plasma mode while on the moon.
- Last year at around this time of year, I was going through the Battlefield 4 campaign and had just beaten the first mission after a brunch at the Chinook Restaurant at the Banff Park Lodge. It’s become somewhat of a yearly family tradition now, as are my own propensities towards obtaining a breakfast omelette of ham, cheese, tomato, peppers, mushrooms and salsa plus typical fare for a English Breakfast for my first plate, followed by roast beef, scalloped potatoes, honeyed ribs, seasonal vegetables, fried basa, citrus-seasoned cod and grilled chicken on round two.
- The Chinook Restaurant’s snow crab this year was as fantastic as I remember, and to round things off, I had a pear pie, chocolate mousse, cheesecake and chocolate fondue for desert. A stroll along the Bow River followed, under cool but sunny skies. While I’ve mentioned before that the AR Marksman was not particularly useful when dual-wielded in rifle mode, in plasma mode, the weapon becomes a powerful short to mid-range alternative that can decimate enemies at close quarters.
- The AR Marksman’s only limitation in plasma mode is that it needs to be periodically charged, but most of the enemies drop battery units that can refill the energy in small increments. By limiting players to only a pistol as having ammunition pickups, the Lunar Base mission encourages players to explore their environments to figure out where charging stations are before charging into a firefight.
- Blazkowicz dons a space suit to move between different sections of the facility, and here, the Earth can be seen. This past weekend has been quite busy, as I’ve been implementing a simplified version of my Unreal simulation for testing with MiddleVR. I also picked up a 2.5-inch SATA III hard drive enclosure so I could remove the hard disk from an older laptop, and a gamepad so I could test my simulations more thoroughly. While the gamepad’s an older one that does not support XInput (it only supports DirectInput), I’ve gotten XInput emulation working, so it should at least work where required.
- The interior design at the Lunar Base is varied and distinct enough for players to differentiate the areas: Blazkowicz fights through the living quarters, research labs and as seen in the previous screenshot, even traverses a short section of the moon. On the Lunar Base, commanders wear noticeable red uniforms that give them an appearance not too different from the costume of Street Fighter II‘s M. Bison.
- Tape reels can be seen here: while the moon base is quite futuristic, the inclusion of an iconic element from an older age clearly illustrates the divergence of technological advancement from our own world. It is subtle details such as these that set The New Order apart from other shooters, and while The Old Blood was very entertaining, atmospherically, The New Order still surpasses The Old Blood. I remember one person from AnimeSuki remarking that they were “always game for alternate history” in the Wolfenstein thread, and while I never had a chance to reply (on account of their being permanently banned), I would recommend this game to them and anyone else who loves alternate history.
- The Laserkraftwerk is perhaps the best weapon during this mission against multiple targets and Superstadten: armed with a scope, the weapon does a ridiculous amount of damage and blows enemies apart when fully charged. Back at AnimeSuki, discussion on the game and its successor, The Old Blood has dried up. At least one person cites the game’s “advanced” requirements as a deterrent, but armed with my still-powerful PC, I contend that this is a title that is definitely worth trying (it’s worth buying a GTX 760 or 960 just for this game). In fact, my decision to pick up The New Order was primarily because of the Lunar Base mission.
- Blazkowicz is riding a tram between facilities here, and more of the lunar surface is visible: the Lunar Base is built in an impact crater, hence the presence of cliff-like walls. The Apollo missions yielded photographs that presented the lunar surface as being quite flat with rolling hills, but lacking an atmosphere to provide erosion and reduce impact force, collisions with other solar bodies result in craters that are well-preserved.
- Pools of blood and meat chunks are the result after Blazkowicz fights his way back to the transport bound for Earth. A pair of Suprestadten show up, but they can be dealt with quickly enough. I’ll be returning to regular programming this week: Non Non Biyori‘s halfway point will be discussed, along with the whole of the Sabagebu! and Shirobako OVAs.
In choosing to keep the gameplay consistent with the remainder of Wolfenstein: The New Order, but setting the mission in a completely foreign environment, the Lunar Base offers the developers to construct a completely different environment that can tell a very rich story about how different the universe in The New Order is relative to ours. The amalgamation of the decidedly futuristic aspects of a fully operational moon base with old-school computers and tape reels illustrate just how technology has advanced in their world. The choices in level design result in a mission that serves as one of the most enjoyable set pieces in the game, without sacrificing any exploration or player freedom. In comparison to the space missions of 007 Nightfire and Call of Duty: Ghosts, The New Order offers a familiar gameplay experience that accommodates for exploration: there’s no punishment for taking time to explore the level and really marvel at just how different the Lunar Base is from the other missions, and the weapon selection has been diversified to include plasma and laser weapons that are iconic with space fiction from an older age.