It's hard to believe the Wolfenstein series has been around for over 30 years. It first got its start in 1981 with the classic Castle Wolfenstein on the Apple II and Commodore 64. Most people, though, consider Wolfenstein 3D the pinnacle of the series, a 1992 forefather of first-person shooting.
Since that time, we've seen a few other entries in the series, including Return To Castle Wolfenstein, and more recently, Activision's modern Wolfenstein game, which did fairly well amidst more popular shooters. Next year, Bethesda will go back to the drawing board with an all-new take on the series, Wolfenstein: The New Order – and it's definitely looking good.
The New Order follows an alternate storyline, with the Nazis winning World War 2 and creating a robust new army consisting of soldiers and robotics. Every step you take in Nazi-ruled land, you'll find an abundance of automated dogs and giant mechs stomping around.
In the midst of all this is long-time series regular B.J. Blazkowicz. He's had a rough time the past 15 years, stuck in a Polish asylum. Now that he's up and back at full strength, he's able to bring the fight to the Nazis and reclaim his country.
This game doesn't hold back on its classic level of violence. You'll plow through The New Order using a variety of weapons, including twin assault rifles – one for each hand, in pure Blazkowicz fashion – handguns, mini-guns and even a turret. In addition, if he gets close enough without damaging them, he can also turn enemy agents into temporary allies, such as reprogramming a robot dog to do his bidding and help him fight against its former masters. Although the developer hasn't indicated whether we can do the same with the larger mech units, we don't see why not.
One primary difference you'll notice about Wolfenstein: The New Order is its level of A.I. intelligence. These soldiers are no pushovers, as they'll act aggressively and find cover, instead of standing out in the open. By the same token, you can fight just as aggressively, charging into a room with guns blazing. In some cases, though, you'll need to think tactically. The large mechs, for example, require heavier firepower to bring down – assault rifle ammunition won't do it alone. Go with a bigger and better weapon, and you'll turn them into scrap in no time.
Things get a little tough in The New Order, but thankfully, the health system is fair. Over the course of the game, you'll find plenty of health refills to pick up, along with the ability to regenerate some of your lost energy in the process. Shields are also quite useful, especially when you're about to mess with larger foes.
Wolfenstein's shooting mechanics feel perfectly intact, judging by our first hands-on with the game. The controls operate smoothly, and old-school shooter fans will have no problem getting into the game's set-up. They'll also enjoy the power of a good melee attack, stabbing a Nazi through the neck with a knife. The new "come out from cover" shooting system also works well, as you simply hold down the left bumper button and use the analog stick to peek around corners, and take potshots at enemy soldiers.
In addition to action-packed scenarios, the game also features small story segments that push things along, and force Blazkowicz to make a few tough choices. In one scene, for instance, he's undercover, serving coffee to an older female Nazi general accompanied by her "boy toy." She kicks off a game, having Blazkowicz choose from objects on a table to determine his nature – with fatal stakes. Some players may be tempted to choose the nearby gun, though the consequences could be dire. It's little decisions like these that tie the story together.
More will be revealed about Wolfenstein: The New Order in the months ahead, including information on the high-tech weapons. We'll find out what this new Nazi regime has in store when the game ships for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC in 2014.