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Preview: Wolfenstein The New Order

By Ben Griffin on Friday 9th Aug 2013 at 2:10 PM UTC

Creative directors don't like comparisons with Call of Duty. After we suggest to Jens Matthias that his studio, MachineGames, is making a Wolfenstein reboot that feels uncannily similar to the Activision blockbuster, we ask if the observation was a fair one. A silent shake of the head. Great start to an interview, that.

The comparison is inescapable, however. Sixty frames-per-second visuals, stubbornly short health bars, iron sights, a Captain Price placeholder acting as tour guide, controls which mimic Call of Duty's sprinting, grenade-lobbing and knifing. Set-piece after set-piece after set-piece.

Matthias thinks differently: "We honour the original Wolfenstein a lot more. You have a lot of freedom in how you can attack. What type of tactics you use. And I think we have a really rich variety of gameplay. And it's also different from a storytelling point of view. I think modern shooters are certainly something we're influenced by, but we're equally influenced by classic game design.

"In most of our gameplay scenarios you can go in full guns blazing...you can also have a more tactical approach, and use iron sights and be a lot more cautious in your advancement. Or you can use a stealthy approach and just sneak past them, and all those approaches are supported in our game."

Our first mission is anything but softly-softly - a bombastic visual showpiece staged precariously on the side of a burning castle. As we scale the wall, Nazis emerge from baroque windows and take potshots like hateful cuckoo clocks, and moments later comes the first "holy shit" moment - a B52 bomber blasting nose-first into the building's top floor and showering smouldering plane parts overhead.

Charred hunks of engine fizz toward us and require a massive Sam-Neill-in-Jurrassic-Park lurch to the right, shifting our body weight on the fraying rope. The sound is spot-on; a cacophony of screams and gunfire, with a rogue propeller whirring and whipping past us. This, we have a feeling, is Wolfenstein's money shot.

But then, like any game pouring vast amounts of cash and man hours into one tightly-packed 30-second crescendo, the quandary emerges: where to go from here? Will The New Order run out of holy shit moments?

"I think modern shooters are certainly something we're influenced by"

"It's not very difficult for us," answers Matthias, "because it's the kind of thing we want to do. And we get bored ourselves when we don't. So on the conceptual stage we are a creative collective. We sit down and figure out what we want to do, then we are compelled to do it. Once we have ideas like that, we have to realise them. Those are the things we love when we play games, and also the kind of things we love in making games."

Zoom
"Hitler is not in this game, that's all I will say. We have other antagonists aside from him"

As we push through the besieged castle, more Nazis emerge. Shooting feels solid, and switching between the many weapons and grenades contained in your seemingly bottomless backpack was quick and easy with RB/R1, but combat lacks inventiveness - this is a game of shoot first.

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