The E3 demo for the upcoming Wolfenstein--an alternative history tale set in the ‘60s after the Nazis won the war--got us giddy like drunken jesters. A startlingly modern old-school kick in the arse, its heady blend of fast action, insane sci-fi weapons and smart, open level-design turned us into 12-year-olds within minutes. For the Gamescom demo, Bethesda has selected something a little different, but something just as smile-inducing.
Spanning BJ Blazkowicz’ last World War II mission and subsequent arrival in the ‘60s, it’s a rollicking run-and-gun bloodbath set in a gorgeous modern recreation of the series’ classic Nazi castle settings. There’s something wonderful about seeing the long worn-out visual tropes of the WWII FPS run through the gleeful madness filter of Wolfenstein’s high-octane action. One moment things are typically gritty, grey and morose, the next we’re ascending the side of a tower, climbing rope in one hand, impossibly large machine gun in the other, blowing Nazis out of the windows as the world flips 90 degrees straight up.
Once inside, the combination of tight corridors and open-plan, non-linear map design makes it impossible not to flash straight back to the breakneck fun we had with the original Wolfenstein 3D back in the early ‘90s. Despite his hulking stature, old BJ controls like a nitrous-injected tank, hurtling around corners, whipping through cover and regrouping to change tactics on a second-to-second basis.
Even better, developer MachineGames seems to be channeling original dev iD’s legendary talent for creating satisfying gunplay. There’s just a wonderful immediacy and sense of instant tactile feedback to Wolfenstein’s weapons. Pulling the trigger is a thrill every time, whether you hit anything or not. But given the intensity of the opposition and BJ’s unerring penchant for carrying two of those massive machine guns whenever not occupied with defying gravity, you’re going to be hitting things a hell of a lot. And those things all die gloriously.
Based on today’s playthrough, The New Order could be the most genuine, most satisfying follow-up the original games have ever had. It looks, sounds and feels completely modern, but the staunch dedication to creating fast, smooth, brutal fun on a moment-to-moment basis resurrects Wolfenstein’s spirit as efficiently as its occult Nazis resurrect their own dead.
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