This reboot may finally have actually captured the spirit of the franchise.
By Patrick Stafford on June 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm
Fighting zombies is as much a part of video games as collecting coins in Mario, or madly trying everything in your inventory in a point-and-click adventure. Wolfenstein, as one of the first and most popular FPS titles, represents a huge steppingstone for the industry.
The team behind the latest iteration of the franchise, Machine Games, is attempting to recapture that same sense of joy gamers had when they first encountered the original in the early 1990s.
Based on a hands-on demo played by games.on.net on the show floor, we believe they’re showing good signs of succeeding.
The demo we saw had the series’ main character, William B.J. Blazkowicz, attempt to infiltrate some sort of Nazi compound. The setting was out of context and couldn’t be discerned, but it doesn’t matter – for now, what really matters is the combat.
It feels good. It feels more than good – it feels powerful. Stealthy melee kills are all well and good, but when the action gets going, you’ll be happy to have dual-wielded weapons on your side. Given this game is set in an alternate 1960, the weapons are a little futuristic and strange. It doesn’t matter, however, as they all work well and make you feel like you can own the battlefield. The fact you can dual-wield immediately places you back in the early 1990s with the series’ original. It feels nostalgic, but it’s just different enough to stand on its own feet.
But the combat feels good not just because of the powerful, old-school weapons. The level design itself is open and complex, allowing multiple pathways in skirmishes. We died several times – the game was on a PC but only a gamepad was available to play – and each time the fights occurred differently. AI was smart enough to flank us from various points in the room.
So while the combat was fun enough, a hands-off demo also showed us another perspective of what Machine Games is attempting to accomplish with the new game.
The game is set in a universe where the Nazis successfully developed an atomic bomb, and won the second world war – eventually conquering the entire world using an unknown technology. Whatever it is, it’s given them the ability to have mechs and all sorts of modern-day gizmos in the 1960s.
The first scene we were shown introduced the game’s antagonist, Frau Engle, a Nazi officer, in which the player sits down across from her and is grilled on whether they are a true Aryan or not by playing a little game.
It’s a tense scene, all spoken in German, and really added a sense of palpable dread amongst the crazy setting.
But not all of Machine Games’ emotional points quite hit the mark. A subsequent cutscene also revealed a hint of romance between the player and another character, but it felt out of place in the slightly wacky world.
The sense of humour feels much more at home. After the player derails a train with a scientist inside, he quips to himself, “I’m coming to find you…you fucking Nazi spaceman”.
This is when the new Wolfenstein feels comfortable – when it’s juxtaposing modern design against old-school humour. Machine Games is keen on delivering an entirely singleplayer experience – there is no competitive multiplayer here – but at this point it’s hard to see the story’s more slightly serious fare stacking up against the ridiculous.
From what we’ve seen, though, there’s a strong sense of what made the original game so fun encased in this reimagining. Just don’t expect anything too deep.