Originally introduced to the world at the Microsoft X06 event in Amsterdam, Holland, Activision’s new Wolfenstein is geared to pummel gamers with familiar run-and-gun gameplay, but a newly added alternative dimension component that’s reminiscent of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver in all the best ways.
What I found interesting about the Raven Software-developed FPS combines a fictional but nifty story premise, some solid game technology, new upgradeable weapons, and the constant rush of really hideous new enemy types.
1. The Premise
Wolfenstein is the sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the single-player game which was developed by Grey Matter, and the multiplayer portion which was designed by Nerve Software, in 2001 for the PC. Picking up where the previous game left off, lead character B.J. Blazkowicz discovers a powerful amulet that’s somehow related to a new German experiment with an inter-dimensional power source called the Black Sun.
The fictional story starts with BJ and team infiltrating a train station in Germany by setting off charges in Nazi’s hidden operations base. The explosion accidentally opens up the supernatural gateway into another dimension called the Veil.
Wolfenstein’s story clearly isn’t on the level of H.P Lovecraft’s bizarre occults and imaginatively designed otherworlds, but it follows that vibe. The story also feels like the original Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Ark, with your hero and the Germans both racing to discover the dangerous alternate powers of the Black Sun. BJ Will work with several factions throughout the game that help, inform, and fight with him as the story progresses.
2. Upgradeable Weapons, Sub-missions, and Treasure
Yes, you’ll use classic (and yes, “old”) World War II weapons, such as the Kar-98 and the MP40 mounted machine gun, but you’ll be able to upgrade them with special parts specific to those weapons at a Hub level called the Black Market. Upgrades range from bayonettes to sniper scopes, bigger clips and more. You also can pick up any weapon that enemies leave on the ground, which instantly opens up possibilities. Plus, you can carry all the weapons you have purchased, are equipped with, or have found simultaneously–old-school pre-Halo-style. Furthermore, in the Hub level you can roam freely, follow-side missions, and explore for treasure.
3. Bloody Chunks
The Wolfenstein engine offers excellent lighting and particle effects and detailed characters and environments. It’s also fast and enables the team to produce an inordinate amount of explosions and bodies on the screen simultaneously, creating a dynamic sense of action and power. The engine also is built to create a regular gust of bloody visceral body parts and chunks into the air including severed hands, arms, and legs, torsos, and heads. The gameplay gives you that raw feeling of creating an immense amount of virtual carnage.
4. Kick-Ass Bosses and Creatures
Yes, of course, you’ll mostly be shooting millions of German soldiers created specifically as low-level fodder, but one of the first bosses we saw, the Heavy Trooper, was a mega-human covered with armor, armed with a particle cannon, and balls-to-the-walls tough. If this is just a taste of the bosses to come, I’m in.
We witnessed an evil paladin creature called Scribes, which fuel enemies with low energy with life, or resurrect them. And Geists, which look like giant bumblebees, only dark and “evil, hover around acting like explosive hovering barrels.
5. Special Veil Powers
Because BJ has discovered the amulet and has tapped into the Black Sun alternate universe, he has the ability to alter time using what is called the Veil. The Veil powers, initiated by pressing up on the Dpad, provide new weapons, powers, environments, and new dangers. What’s especially nice is how quickly the change from one world to the other is. The Veil look presents a sort of Dead Zone, or alternative texture world to the existing game architecture, so for instance, BJ can use the Veil powers to cross bridges, walk through doors, and bridge gaps, he previously couldn’t. BJ also can dodge enemy bullets, use weapons only found in the veil, and escape grave dangers presented by Veil bosses that he otherwise could not.
Wolfenstein will of course offer multiplayer components, but as is Activision’s way, the publisher shows off everything in trickles, starting with the single-player game. Look for more in the upcoming months.