Wolfenstein: The New Order preview: storming Berlin

The Wolfenstein series is largely recognized for its different take on World War II and Wolfenstein: The New Order, the latest entry from Bethesda and MachineGames, is no different. One of the major differences this time around involves moving the timeline forward and asking the burning question, "What would have happened if the Nazi war machine had won WWII?"

The answer is grim, but a brief hands-on of the game's first few chapters show that players will have plenty at their disposal to take out the Nazi scum. Of course, while the setting is somewhat different, at heart, The New Order feels very much like a familiar FPS experience.


Players control William 'BJ' Blazkowicz, an American soldier that begins the game infiltrating General Deathshead's castle, alongside his allies, during the latter end of the ongoing war. This portion of the game serves as a lengthy tutorial, teaching shooting, dual-wielding, lock-picking, and stealth takedown mechanics, as Blazkowicz is rushed by Nazi soldiers and mechanically-enhanced dogs. Stealth turns out to be somewhat of a misnomer, given how often you'll be shooting at Nazis, dogs, drones, and giant robots. But it does offer the chance to save some headaches, since Nazi commanders will not hesitate to call in reinforcements if they spot you or hear you firing from a distance.

The tutorial level concludes with Blazkowicz taking on a Super Soldaten, a hulking Nazi super soldier machine. The soldier will charge at you and take a lot of punishment, making it one of the game's more formidable enemies. After the Soldaten is dispatched, Deathshead will successfully capture your compatriots, requiring Blazkowicz to choose which of his two friends should be spared. While his selection won't alter the timeline drastically, it will offer up some noticeable differences that players will encounter later in the story.

The ordeal in the castle will ultimately fast-forward the story to 1960, where the Nazis have won the war and taken over the world, leaving Blazkowicz as one of the few Resistance members left to stop them. This leads to a harrowing fight to escape the confines of an asylum, where I had to be a little more careful about shooting, since I had limited ammo during this sequence. Difficulty ramped up slightly as I made it outside, where Nazis deployed pesky recon drones that would fly into tight spaces and fire away, while maneuvering to avoid my own shots.

Most of what I played was standard FPS fare. However, The New Order does attempt to mix up an otherwise linear FPS formula through the addition of perks, the kind of thing typically spotted in an FPS multiplayer mode. As the game progresses, players can opt to aim for Stealth, Tactical, Assault, or Demolition perks in order to unlock corresponding upgrades, like extra ammo and new weapons. This encourages trying out more than one play style and adds a semblance of variety. However, I didn't have enough time with the game to try out many of the cooler perks.

The New Order looks to veer on the side of classic shooters. It doesn't offer a lot in the way of fresh ideas and its stealth option didn't work out so well for me in the face of towering robots. However, the game does competently pull off many of its old-school shooting mechanics, while the story carries a consistently engaging tone. Just be wary that this tone can be pretty gruesome and some of the visuals, such as the scene where the Nazis purge the asylum, may not be for the squeamish. The PlayStation 4 version that I tried out also looks pretty solid, consistently running at a smooth framerate, though there were numerous instances of screen tearing that left me feeling a bit disappointed.

The Wolfenstein story ventures into the future on May 20 when it releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.