Machine Games, Arkane, and Bethesda are all keeping themselves busy when it comes to the Wolfenstein franchise right now, as not only have all three been working on Youngblood to deliver us a co-op shooter next month, but at the same time we're also getting a VR game called Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, which offers a slightly different take on the franchise compared to what we've seen in the previous FPS games since New Order.
We were given a demonstration of this at E3 this past week, and we got to see exactly how this changes things up. For a start, you don't play as a person as such - as we've seen with BJ Blazkowicz and will soon be seeing with his daughters - instead, you're in control of a giant armoured mech that's capable of superhuman levels of destruction.
This is actually a Nazi mech (they've got quite a few in the Wolfenstein universe, as you might have noticed), and you play as a hacker who is using these giant metallic brutes to punish the bad guys from the inside. With rockets and machine guns at your disposal, you might have thought this was little more than a power fantasy, but there's much more of a challenge here than you might have expected.
In the demo we played, we died almost instantly in our first few goes, and we couldn't understand why, but we soon came to realise that the power of your mech is offset by the sheer volume of soldiers, mechanised warriors, and other Nazi instruments of war that are all firing back. You may be a hulking metal beast, but 20 people raining bullets at you will reduce you to shrapnel quickly, so you can't just run in there and pulverise everything. It's a hard lesson to learn, but we remember learning the same one in the previous Wolfenstein games.
So what do you do? It's all about keeping a safe distance, and you do this by moving left and right with the pad in your left hand (we played using the HTC Vive and accompanying controllers). Moving your right hands shifts your perspective and lets you fire one of your weapons, while your left-hand fires the other weapon, which takes a bit of getting used to, although after a few minutes of action and gunfire becomes a lot more manageable.
Then you have your crucial defensive options, as there's a button on your left that you can slam to activate a temporary shield. This has a cooldown, so timing is of the utmost importance, and it saved us from death on more than one occasion. When this is active you can keep firing, or you can plug the control in your right hand into a port on the right of the mech to regenerate some health, which actually can be done at any time. Using all of these simple features in unison is the key to success, and the rest of the challenge comes from relying on your own accuracy when raining destruction down on your enemies.
In terms of the environments at play here, we only got to see a training area and then a street similar to the ones we've seen in many a Wolfenstein game before (i.e. overrun with garish metal Nazi structures and oppressive architecture), but it all looks as we wanted it too, with soldiers coming out of the woodwork to shoot at us in the various linear streets we progressed through. There was even a giant mech rivalling us in size at the end, which took all our skill to defeat.
We didn't get to see a whole lot of Cyberpilot in action, as the demo was more to show us the controls and gameplay rather than a big reveal of the story, but what we did see offered a more significant challenge than we expected. This isn't just a tech demo to bring the world of Wolfenstein to VR, but a genuine challenge with 'easy to learn but hard to master' mechanics. It should be a significant addition to the Wolfenstein catalogue, and we're looking forward to seeing how it plays out when it hits VR headsets next month.
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