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Wolfenstein: The New Order

The Wolf of FPS: Wolfenstein Hands-On

Machine Games know how to make attention-grabbing cutscenes.

In the span of our two hour hands-on, The ex-Darkness and Riddick devs deliver no less than four of these. Three are distinctly uncomfortable viewing; slaughter and torture brutally delivered, and even cutaways can't stop the twisting of your stomach.

It's one of our overriding memories of our time with the game, but it's not the only headline. Brilliant though the team have proven in crafting stories in previous works, past gunplay felt competent at best, lacking the punch of other developer works.

The New Order feels like id Software have been looking over their shoulder and offering encouragement the entire time. Combat is meaty, guns have heft. You'll need to tweak the volume down to avoid blowing your ears during bullet storms.

The studio's resurrection of the FPS genre granddaddy previously had our curiosity. Now it's got our full attention.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

It feels like pure 80s action flick aggression viewed through the dark and twisted landscape of war movie cinema. We've a hero with the chin of Schwarzenegger and the mumbled one-liner delivery of Stallone, and who rarely lets go of a gun trigger. We've an unpleasant villain, and an active pursuit of a 18-rating by way of continual heavy doses of violence.

We chew through bullets and scenery for two solid hours, taking in the game's opening (a sci-fi take on the Normandy Landing set during WWII) and ending near the start of our jaunt across Europe in an alternate future in which Germany had won the war.

We see it all through the eyes of B.J Blazkowicz, injured at the climax of his squad's attempts to down the Third Reich and who spends most of the next fifteen years and change hospitalised, an invalid watching the years pass until the threat of death pulls him out of his stupor, and he rejoins a war already lost in the hope of revenge.

Outside the very start, with a tutorial set inside a bomber plane and surviving its crash landing amid a beachfront attack, Wolfenstein fragments the linearity of the corridor shooter by way of a handful of paths and a choice of attack strategies. If the latter may only be split between frontal assault or stealth, and the paths are more the odd alternate route, they're still both welcome additions.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

And they're choices that aren't hammered into you. Wolfenstein leaves a lot to be discovered. No extensive tutorials for takedowns and move sets, no five minute schooling about what's buried in the sub-menus. It's only in our last fifteen minutes that we discover a perk system tucked away in the menus, with the completion of challenges, sets of which are applied to different play styles, and all award you additional abilities that you'd actually benefit from. There's more than a brainless shooter here; yet Machine Games don't emphasise these distinctions.

Bigger, better weapons are quickly acquired (some in dual-wielding variety), but bullets remain few. It doesn't pay to spray in Wolfenstein. In the prologue, as we make our way through the trenches and into the corridors of the enemy base, we're hoovering up supplies from bullet-ridden corpses and manage to keep one step ahead of an empty clip. But there's two distinct points in the later sections - both which can be considered mini-boss encounters - that we run dry, and foraging for ammo becomes a frustration.

Despite that, the action remains enjoyable enough for us to happily reload and try again (and this is on the mid-tier difficulty, one of five the game offers). We're seeing enough variety in gameplay and locations already to look forward to what comes next.

The one disconcerting element is the story's tone. The game does feel like 80s action movie excess overlaid onto a serious war piece. Blazkowicz's drive feels more psychopathic than patriotic, the one liners less ironically funny, more disturbingly crazed.

Machine Games may be crafting the indistinct tone intentionally; perhaps a third act reveal will pass comment on his motivations and character. We hope so, because at the moment we're enjoying the action, but not the man who's pulling the trigger. We're left waiting to see if there's going to be more to this war-scarred hero than what the developer's let us in on so far.

Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein: The New OrderWolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein: The New Order