PAX East 2014 | Wolfenstein: The New Order Preview – Old Dog, New(ish) Tricks

Before diving into my hands-on experience with Wolfenstein: The New Order, I need to come clean about something: Return to Castle Wolfenstein is one of my favorite games of all time.

While it’s single player was absolutely nothing to write home about, the multiplayer was truly fantastic. Its expansion, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, had me hooked to the point where I’d be constantly skipping class to play. (Sorry, Mom and Dad) Sufficed to say, the notion of a new Wolfenstein title greatly interested me…up until the point where developer MachineGames announced that The New Order would have no multiplayer.

What. The. Heck.

All they truly had to do to earn my money is take Enemy Territory and release it in HD. Sure, there were probably licensing issues (Activision was the publisher of the franchise back then, Bethesda is now), but logic has no room to walk when we’re dealing with emotions. I begrudgingly grumbled my way through the demo back at E3 and kinda sorta enjoyed the game, my hear broken over the lack of multiplayer still winning out.

Just why am I bringing all of this up? I mentioned my love affair with Enemy Territory during my play session this morning at PAX East. The Bethesda rep told me that there’s a reason for it; they’re doing something special with the campaign. Truthfully, there are glimpses of just that. Wolfenstein: The New Order feels like one part classic FPS, one part modern day shooter, one part sci-fi thriller. Whether or not the recipe will succeed remains to be seen. For now, we have to take what we’re given: an oddly paced demo that soars on the highest of highs and burns on the lowest of lows.

We open with our hero B.J. Blazkowicz in the 1940s. In an obvious bad to worse scenario, you’ll spend your opening moments of the game slowly attempting to salvage doomed aircraft, manning the gun and shooting down enemies, and eventually swimming ashore to safety as you dodge a swarm of incoming bullets. They say the first impression is the most important one, yet I feel like Wolfenstein: The New Order didn’t get the memo. Sure, what will unfold after the game’s opening sets the pace for what could be an enjoyable game, but when the first missions, which lasts about fifteen minutes or so, drags on for what feels like 45 minutes to an hour, something’s wrong.

That being said, when The New Order gets going, it truly gets going. The game is able to switch pacing on the fly, combining creeping up behind your enemies and assassinating them to simply running, gunning, and picking up armor and health. It results in a highly enjoyable experience. And yet…

I shouldn’t really be both bored and entertained with the game within the first hour. Maybe my emotions are playing too much into my opinion. Maybe I really need to see the whole package, though some of the later portions of the game from E3 last year didn’t do too much to inspire me. Maybe I need to just have faith in Wolfenstein: The New Order that it will all come together. I will say this, though: it’s obvious MachineGames and Bethesda are pulling out all the stops when it comes to the game’s narrative. Whether or not it all comes together, though, remains to be seen.

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