Wolfenstein First Look

By Nick Breckon, Jul 31, 2008 9:43am PDT Wolfenstein is shaping up to be another Raven first person shooter.

Of course, this is not a bad thing, depending on your disposition: Raven has a made a name for itself as a dependable, if predictable studio. They typically manage to polish their shooters to an even finish, whether it be Jedi Outcast or Quake 4.

That being said, Wolfenstein (PC, 360, PS3) already seems a thoroughly developed title. As fans will expect, American hero B.J. Blazkowicz is back, along with Hitler, his Nazi crew, and plenty of supernatural weapons and enemies.

The producers are focusing on delivering a more story-driven experience in this entry to the series. At one point during a short single player demo, B.J. made his way to a resistance hideout, where he was briefed on a Nazi project to tunnel into another dimension. These resistance leaders talked around B.J., detailing current events as he quietly listened a la Half-Life 2.

This large scale approach is also reflected in the level design. Rather than a mess of dank corridors, the demo level took place in a large urban environment. And rather than presenting a static, linear map, each level will have several alternate pathways that lead to the same objective, allowing for a greater sense of freedom. Even the background reflects this angle: off in the distance, an immense spire of green alien light marked a Nazi work site, again reminiscent of Half-Life 2 and its looming citadel.

But while the scope may be increasing, the game is still rooted in World War II ambiance. Wolfenstein takes place at the height of the war, with Hitler once again on a quest to seize power via supernatural weaponry. Under these orders, the Third Reich is attempting to tap into an energy source called the Black Sun, which resides inside another dimension dubbed the "Veil"--presumably giving the Nazis an edge over the Allies, while also leaving room for a Soundgarden soundtrack.

The demo began with a machinegun-armed B.J. blasting away at swastika-bearing soldiers, making his way to an objective amidst an urban battlefield. After some standard gun play, we got a taste of the "Veil" powers, special abilities that B.J. can activate to give him an edge in combat. The first revealed was a time-stopping power, which naturally slowed combat down to a snail's pace.

When used, these powers will shift B.J. into the Veil world, the green-hued, energy-filled realm that Hitler is after. The Nazis are the only ones who have been meddling in this world, so enemy structures will exist in the Veil--a sort of Soul Reaver-esque changing of level geometry.

Strange bee-like aliens also inhabit the Veil, collecting some kind of energy for a mysterious purpose. These fat alien bees can be shot and killed, their amassed energy exploding outward and damaging the soldiers around them. While the bees were all we saw, Raven noted that other types of creatures will show up later in the game, and they may be utilized to accomplish objectives.

Outside of the Veil, combat seemed to be typical Wolfenstein fare, though enemy AI is now smart enough to make use of cover. As such, that cover can be exploded and dispersed via Havok physics. B.J. can also get hands on with enemies, using weapons in melee fashion. A Raven rep made mention of a sledgehammer weapon, indicating that pure melee arms will be featured.

The presentation ended with a short boss fight featuring a "heavy trooper," an armored humanoid with an impenetrable forcefield protecting him. To defeat him, B.J. had to enter the Veil to bypass the shield, then attack several weak points on the hulking trooper. After killing him, our hero picked up the enemy's weapon, a Ghostbusters-like laser beam that incinerated enemies on contact, blasting cover out of the way.

Raven is keeping the game's multiplayer mode to itself for now. We do know that it will be class-based, and that Veil powers will be carried over. A co-op mode for the single player campaign was neither confirmed nor denied by representatives. Modding support for the PC has been confirmed, but cross-platform play is not planned.

And that's pretty much it. From what I saw, Wolfenstein is a Raven game. No one piece of the puzzle stuck out; the graphics are clean, and the gameplay is tested. Nothing revolutionary, but nothing to worry about.

Wolfenstein is set for a PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release.

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