Hands-On Preview: Pulling Back the Iron Curtain on ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’

By February 27, 2014

A week ago, Bethesda Softworks announced that the newest rendition of the classic video game Wolfenstein would be released this coming May. In my piece about that announcement, I alluded to the fact that I’d been invited by Bethesda to demo “some” of the game. The fact is, by “some,” I meant more like “three levels worth” of Nazi-slaying excitement. Read on for my hands-on preview.

From the start of the game, you’re thrown head-first into 1947 World War II action. You are (of course) B.J. Blaskowicz, hero of every Wolfenstein game to date. The game starts with Blaskowicz co-piloting a plane with British solider Probst Wyatt III. The beginning starts out fairly simply, teaching you how to maneuver throughout the game by crouching and fixing random parts of the plane in order to keep it in flight. The control scheme is pretty much your normal First Person Shooter setup, which – if you’ve played enough of them – becomes second nature almost instantly. Eventually, you get to experience some air-to-air combat and help rescue a neighboring plane, which you end up boarding.

The second half of level one takes place on the ground. You infiltrate a Nazi stronghold in order to take down one of the main villains of the game, General Deathshead (a bit more menacing a name than Dr. Schabbs, I suppose). On your way to Deathshead, you encounter both Nazi shocktroopers, some dogs, as well as some more mechanized foes that look like really big dogs (something you wouldn’t expect in this day and age, let alone late 1940s Germany). Once you’ve made it into the bowels of the Nazi stronghold, past all the enemies you’ve already faced, you also get a glimpse of something I have to imagine you face later on, a giant walker-type robot that looks and sounds like it came straight out of a Terminator movie.

Wolfenstein TNO 5

Eventually, you run into Deathshead, but you’re captured and forced to make a choice between your British friend and the rookie Private you saved from certain doom when you saved the second plane earlier. From the look of the trailer, I’m guessing whichever you choose ends up being your sidekick throughout the remainder of the game. As hard as a choice as it was (another person playing the demo cursed the BethSoft reps for making us choose), I decided on the private, since Probst more or less mentions he’s ready to die after a previous scene in which certain doom looks imminent. After escaping said doom from Deathshead’s clearly genetically altered/deranged super mutant robots, B.J. and his teammate escape…but not before some explosions and havoc, which cause B.J. some head trauma, knocking him unconscious. We then get a quick roll of the credits, and progress to level two.

The scene opens with a bit of dialogue from B.J. (which is kind of a fresh change from the original game) wherein he explains that he ended up in a mental hospital in Poland, cared for by a young woman named Anya (whose parents run the hospital.) You also learn that the looney bin has a contract with the German army, who every so often show up to take random patients away (no doubt to be experimented on by Deathshead). You flash forward to the 1960s and the action readies as the Nazis arrive and notify the doctor that Deathshead has cut their funding. This leads to the Nazis incapacitating Anya as they dispatch her parents. Once they’ve cleared the room, the solider turns his attention on you/B.J. Obviously, after witnessing such a heinous act on people who were so kind for over a decade, something kicks in and B.J. is back on his feet, doing what he does best (take a wild guess). After a quick firefight involving Nazis (and some flying robot drones), you rescue Anya and escape to her grandparents. B.J. also manages to take a Nazi captive whom he later questions in a rather Inglourious Basterds-type way.

Wolfenstein TNO 4

Prior to the start of the third level, Anya’s grandparents inform you that the Nazis won World War II, and that any remaining U.S. resistance has been captured. From the late Nazi general you questioned, you learn the resistance is located in Berlin…so off you go in grandpa’s truck. As far as old folks go, they’re rather spry and bump off a couple of soldiers as you travel from checkpoint to checkpoint. The goal in this level is definitely stealth, as you don’t want to trip any alarms and notify more troopers in the area. Once you’ve snuck past (or gunned down, depending on how sneaky or not you are) the army, and you think you’re home free, the Third Reich has one more “treat” for you in the form of two ginormous robots. At first, I thought the fight would be incredibly tough, especially considering my lack of health. But it definitely helps that there’s plenty of cover around. When all is said and done, B.J. and Anya escape on a Berlin-bound train, and before the end of the demo, you meet the game’s other antagonist, the clearly sadistic and deranged Frau Engel.

All in all, the game play is super intense (in a good way). From the trenches of Nazi Germany to the otherworldly alternate 1960s Poland, you encounter robots, madmen (and women), and much more. And don’t forget: pre-orders for Wolfenstein: The New Order get you into the beta for the next Doom game. May’s going to be a good month for Nazi hunting.

Wolfenstein: The New Order hits shelves on May 20th. Watch the trailer below:

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New York-based John J. is the creator/Chief Operating Officer of [adult swim] central as well as the co-founder of ACPN. He is also the host of The Swimcast, co-host of Adventure Club Podcast, and writes for various outlets such as The Other View and GeekNation. John J's favorite movie of all time is Back to the Future and his favorite color is blue. John J. is available for podcast fill-ins, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs. Never submerge John J. in warm water. Email.
  • Vince Vazquez

    A Stealth Section? Feh. This is WOLFENSTEIN! BJ Blascowiscz is the original one-man army of gaming! I understand the temptation to vary your campaign these days, but this better be “run and gunnable”. You can’t ship a game called Wolfenstein and not cater to the inner Commando (the film where Arnold Schwarzanagger guns down hundreds of dudes?) in us all 🙂

    Still, I’m quite looking forward to this game, as I find the “alternate history” take on things to be pretty refreshing for the WWII/Nazi FPS sub-genre. Plus, Machinegames has ex-Starbreeze guys there, so – for Riddick – I have to pay attention to this. It also doesn’t hurt that it looks really cool visually; these are some great settings and there are some fantastic mechanical designs on the enemies & weapons. The whole package is a lot more exciting than the last time Raven took a crack at this series.

    And of course, I’m super interested in what this “Doom beta” nonsense is all about. Doom isn’t known for multiplayer, and Doom 4 is up to it’s – what – fourth iteration by now? This seems weird… almost like an attempt on Bethesda to force id to get serious about shipping that thing. After the situation with Human Head & Prey 2, I’m worried about some of the moves the Elder Scrolls publisher is making with regards to their action games & shooters…