Wolfenstein: The New Order hands on – I shot ALL the Nazis

Wolfenstein the new order e3 trailer ps4

Favourite bit of playing Wolfenstein: The New Order on PS3? Hero B.J. Blazkowicz discovers the Nazi’s went to the moon and hoarsely declares “F*ck you moon” like it had a choice.

Wolfenstein: The New Order hands on

Actually that’s not really the best bit. The best bit is shooting an endless procession of Nazis over and over again with ridiculously overpowered guns while laughing. But that does tend to be a really bad way to open conversations. It certainly got funny looks in the demo room while I was dual-wielding semi auto shotguns and hammering the triggers until the ammo ran out. In all honestly I couldn’t really see much on screen after the first couple of rounds – a leg here, something that might have been head there – it’s just hard to stop, you know? Two shotguns. The important thing here though is when the smoke cleared a lot things were dead and none of them were me.

Wolfenstein ps3 PS4 screensWolfenstein’s always been a bit tricky to update. The 80s original’s batsh*t crazy pantomime recreation of occult worshiping Nazi’s and mecha-Hitler is a tough starting point. Do you take a tongue-in-cheek route, play the supernatural stuff for laughs or do you go in hard with serious horror? To some extent this feels like a reboot: refreshing the series by downplaying unnatural elements in favour of a mechanised, technologically advanced Third Reich that won WW2 and now rule the world through superior technology. Robots and laser guns, mainly.

This is a more dour take than previous games initially – swapping the more colourful spiritual elements for a grim, gun metal grey world of oppression. More 1984 with Swastikas than that bit at the end of Raiders Of The Lost arc. But start shooting and the Wolfenstein blood begins to seep through – the blend of exploring and gunplay has a hint of the original game as you explore corridors, clear open areas and charge down enemies with suicidal intent.

Start shooting and the Wolfenstein
blood begins to seep through

You can dual wield just about anything – pistols are cool if you’re feeling a bit Woo. Two assault rifles are stupid but oh so much fun and twin shotguns are so much overkill that it has to be done. Not all the shooting favours charging in like a mad man, the numbers you occasionally face (and the firepower of larger enemies like the clunking, almost steam-powered robots) mean occasional moments of picking off targets from behind cover. It’s not a game that lets you hang behind a wall forever though, attackers push to keep the pressure on and what strategy there is relies deciding which direction to run in the hope of buying a few more seconds.

There is still humour but it’s subtler and far grimmer. A poster on the wall advertises a German film the title of which translates roughly as “Churchill: The Warmonger Hanged” and shows a silhouette of the Second World War icon dangling from a rope. The level in my hands on plays out in the Nazi’s science museum filled with various tributes and posters to ‘their’ space programme and visit to the moon. It’s not exactly joke material but it’s entertaining if you’re into the idea of alternate timeline stuff, and finding a gold artifact among the exhibits is a nice touch.

Wolfenstein ps3 PS4 screensA shootout around a huge building-sized model of the moon was a good set piece – panels shattering and chunks of the satellite flying off as the bullets hit. Most of the destruction is cosmetic entertainment but there is a laser gun that can slice through certain materials. Using it you can cut through doors, melt open boxes and even open small holes in cover to shoot through. And obviously it does horrible thing to people. Like much of what I played this was another large open area. It’s still basically linear but it’s nice to have to be more aware of directions beyond ‘infront’ and ‘behind’ as you move around the slowly disintegrating moon, taking on soliders on the gantries above and below. I didn’t take quite so well to the flying drones simply because they’re flying drones, they could be from just about anything. They’re not too bad and do add texture in that ‘where am I getting shot from’ kind of way. They’re just not that imaginative.

This isn’t ground breaking stuff so far but it’s big, loud and competently focused on making shooting stuff fun. I spent about half an hour playing and for the most part loved it. Weapons are satisfying enough to see you switching around for fun more than any deep tactical reason. While the kinetic, reactive combat has just enough pressure to keep you on your toes and moving rather than pushing through a target-filled tunnel. How that pans out over a longer playthrough remains to be seen – it might need a few more tricks over the hours to change up the rhythm. I also found the route through some areas unclear – even with two PRs to point helpfully – so the environmental design needs to clarify that. Plus my predominant memory of most of the game is grey. It’s a promising start though.