Wolfenstein’s New Order is to Combine Old School with New
Human, but Also a Bad-Ass
As it turns out, BJ is an interesting mix of human and superhuman, at least when it comes to gameplay.
In the playable portion of the demo, I get a taste of what Wolfenstein: The New Order is really all about — reimagining Wolfenstein by going back to its roots.
“Those are some of our goals for the game, to try to combine the good stuff from old-school and the best from new-school game design,” Öjerfors said. “Because we believe there were some things that were left behind by game designers that were old-school design principles, and maybe shouldn’t have been left behind. So some of those we bring back and try to marry with the modern school of design.”
Among those elements brought back are a speedy ability to run-and-gun through Wolfenstein’s levels. BJ moves fast, picks up targets quickly, and is capable of taking a fair amount of punishment, especially, it seems, in the service of moving between safe bits of cover. He also packs some fast movement mechanics, such as a sprint-slide and the ability to mantle over low objects at speed, that help him stay highly mobile.
Wolfenstein includes cover mechanics and regenerating health, as well — two elements that don’t necessarily mix with your traditional first-person shooter. In practice, however, MachineGames uses the old school and the new to great effect: for example, your health regenerates, but only to the nearest multiple of 20. Healing fully requires med packs, but finding additional packs allows you to amp BJ’s health beyond 100, although it slowly drops back to 100 over time. The regeneration is just enough, however, to keep you in a fight after you find safety and hide for a second or two. More protection can be added with armor pickups, and you’ll often be able to loot dead enemies for both armor and health as well as ammo.
The end result is that BJ isn’t unstoppable, but he is powerful, and the moment-to-moment experience of The New Order is often a balance between taking on enemies head-on and using cover tactics to keep yourself alive. But utilizing any of those various mechanics only creates a list of possibilities in any given scenario; you won’t be forced into using any of them.
“For example, if you look at the cover system — you can use it, but it’s not always something you want to use, and you’re never required to use it, right?” Öjerfors said. “I remember playing Wolfenstein 3D as a kid … and I remember that I wanted to take cover behind walls — sometimes, in some firefights — and it just didn’t, you know, work. You could just strafe behind walls. So we sort of amended that, that original wish to be able to take cover behind a wall sometimes and in certain situations.”
Assaulting the Moon Base
The hands-on takes BJ to London, where he meets up with a resistance fighter who drives him toward a huge facility called the London Nautica. The mission is to capture a number of experimental helicopters the Nazis are developing, and the Nautica is apparently something of an aeronautics research facility. BJ’s in radio contact, via a bulky headset, with Anya and some resistance pilots who are standing by to take the choppers.
In something of a poignant moment, though, BJ’s ability to enter the facility at all is made possible by his resistance liaison and driver crashing through the front door, triggering a huge explosion from bombs hidden in the car. The suicide attack ravages the outside of the building, disorienting or killing just about everyone in the area, and giving BJ the distraction he needs. The trek through the rubble is punctuated by attacks from a dog-like robot that very nearly takes BJ out on several occasions as it tries to punch through holes in the piled concrete and steel.
“Because we believe there were some things that were left behind by game designers that were old-school design principles, and maybe shouldn’t have been left behind.”
Working through the rubble, I’m eventually tasked with fleeing the dog outright as BJ narrates in a gruff whisper; when it falls in behind me, I sprint for the safety of a low block of concrete and slide beneath it, narrowly avoiding its jaws and slipping clear before the concrete collapses on the machine’s head and destroys it. BJ exudes a little quiet confidence through whispered narration, informing the destroyed dog-bot that it was never the hunter, but the prey.
The robots, by the way, are another part of the new direction of The New Order. Whereas previous Wolfenstein games found themselves focusing on the Nazis’ obsession with occult artifacts, MachineGames is swinging more sci-fi — but, as Öjerfors explains, “You could say there’s a mysticism approach to technology.” It seems at some point in the past, the Nazis stumbled upon some tech that helped them win the war and subsequently subjugate the world. We get some light hints as to what that tech is and where it came from later in the demo, but for right now, MachineGames is pretty mum in terms of story.
Next it’s into the Nautica facility. The entranceway is destroyed, and I get a chance to stealth-stab a few of the Nazis there along the way. After a few more minor encounters, it’s into an entrance hallway, where one of the ED-209 mechs shows up for a one-on-one brawl. Luckily, it’s a bit damaged, and I’m able to dodge back and forth behind cover, blasting it in between volleys with an assault rifle. The machine isn’t infallible and falls without too much effort, but it’s clear the technology employed by various Nazi units is going to require various approaches to battles to defeat.