Posted on August 2, 2013 AT 01:07pm
Full disclosure: I haven’t played a Wolfenstein game since Wolfenstein 3D, so I might not be the best judge of the franchise’s trajectory. I mean, I can definitely tell you that the move to polygons was the right call, but I don’t think I have much business speaking to fineries of continuity or tone. Keep that in mind.
A quick bit research informs me that The New Order is essentially a direct sequel to the 2009 Wolfenstein, complete with the same ridiculously named baddie, General Deathshead. The biggest difference, this time around, is that the bulk of the action takes place during the 1960s, after the Nazis won World War II and successfully conquered the globe. Oh, videogame Nazis. Will you ever change?
But I suppose I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I got a chance to go hands-on with the game’s first two levels, the first set in 1946, and the second set sometime in the early ’60s. As you might expect, that 16-plus-year gap means my first mission didn’t go so smoothly. Indeed, after scaling the castle walls of burn victim, mad scientist, and generally unlikeable fellow General Deathshead, poor B.J. Blazkowicz found himself with a head full of shrapnel and enough brain damage to put him in a comatose state (and an insane asylum) for more than a decade. A few cutscenes later, and our hero was back on his feet doing what he does best: filling Krauts with piping hot lead.
As far as basic premises go, it’s a fairly neat one. The demo cut out before I got to see too much that was overtly ’60s, but I’m, in principle, a fan of the Nazis being overwhelming top dogs. The only real problem I have with it is how ridiculous B.J.’s comeback is. After 15-odd years sitting immobile in the same wheelchair in the same spot of the same room, he gets up, has a quick wobbly moment where he talks about how weak his legs and arms are, then gets up like nothing ever happened. I literally went straight from that cutscene to sprinting across the room and stabbing a Nazi in the heart. Physical therapy is for cowards.
I mean, it’d be one thing if the game were universally a little on the silly side, but even with its hulking, iron clad supersoldiers and robo-demon-dog-things, The New Order still seems to be taking itself pretty seriously. B.J. will regularly spout off in his Midwestern drawl about how hard it is to watch his friends die time and again. I get it, hayseed. War sucks. Let’s kill more Nazis.
Thankfully, when B.J. did shut his yap and let me kick some S.S. ass, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the game blended modern gaming conventions with features from way back in Wolfenstein 3D. Your health regenerates, but only slightly—up to the nearest multiple of ten. You can aim down sights, but you don’t really have to in order to succeed, at least not in most of the cases I encountered. There’s a forced moral choice where you have to choose which one of your buddies lives and which one dies, but…OK, I’m not exactly sure what to make of that one. Still, apart from that, it’s a surprisingly un-gimmicky first-person shooter. Everything else I played was just a whole lot of shooting bad guys in the face with different types of guns. Sometimes I had two guns at once. No superpowers, no parkour, no quick-time events, no talking-dog sidekick. It was just an old-fashioned FPS with a gorgeous next-gen sheen.
In my small taste, I found that lack of contrivance refreshing. I’m not sure how it’ll hold up over the course of an entire game, but I’m actually kind of excited to find out. I’m sure The New Order won’t be winning any awards for innovation, but hey, not every game can be Seaman. Sometimes, you just want to shoot a Nazi in the face.
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