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Published on April 17th, 2014 | by Justin Smith

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Wolfenstein: The New Order Hands On Preview At PAX East

I was fortunate enough to get to play a hands-on demo of the upcoming “Wolfenstein: The New Order” at the Bethesda booth. Early buzz was lukewarm about this upcoming sequel. There were a lot that praised its cinematic atmosphere but others that criticized it for being generic. After playing a decently long demo of the game I can say both sides are a little bit right. Yeah, it is a bit generic. But then again it is Wolfenstein, I honestly think its identity is best suited in the classic FPS mold that has been considered “generic” for some time. However, I do think that ‘run-and-gun’ quality that many consider outdated for the genre is actually pretty refreshing. It was indeed influenced by the newer trend of giant set-pieces and blockbuster-esque ridiculousness, but it is still firmly grounded in the framework id Software and its companion’s value so dearly: satisfying combat instead of an entirely controlled experience.

It was linear like an older FPS game would be, but it was not all tight corridors (at least, what I got to play). While linear, its level design was well done enough to not feel linear. In fact, I found myself at times not exactly knowing where to go, which is admittedly a frustrating quality that was common in older games in the genre. That said, I have to applaud the developers for making such a good looking environment, brimming with detail and extremely high production values. I cannot praise the id Tech 5 engine enough (Rage’s graphical launch issues on PC aside), as the texture work and physics are beautiful in this title.

I couldn’t really grasp the quality of the story but it seemed decently acted from what I saw. I do know most of the game is supposed to take place in the 1960s in a Third Reich dominated alternate history, which seems interesting enough of a setting and a change for the Wolfenstein franchise. That said, the part I played was set during the latter parts of World War 2, and got across the idea of a desperate and losing situation fairly well.

The most impressive aspect of what I played was its shooting mechanics. Every FPS game has shooting, sure, but as mentioned id Tech 5 enabled the developers to really put that extra bit of effort to really make the shooting feel perfectly right. From the weight of the weapons, their sound, control, visual effects, and their impact on targets – it all feels just right. It was the aspect of Rage I commended most and it shows here too… Shooting just feels better than most other contemporaries out there. So much effort goes into those tiny details to make your shooting feel satisfying. That said, on a controller it can be hard to get used to considering you have to get accustomed to leaning in all different directions. On the PS4 controller you hold down a button and with the thumb-stick you can lean in any direction, including up or down. It can be a bit much but the lean mechanics are extremely useful in certain situations.

The FPS genre has increasingly put a greater emphasis on set-pieces and cinematic presentation over gameplay. I think this new Wolfenstein game is honestly a good middle-ground from what I played. It still has that AAA cinematic quality and high production values, but its shooting mechanics are also incredibly solid and notably so. If you’re a classic FPS fan I really think this is one to keep an eye on for its May 2014 release.

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