GDC 2009: Wolfenstein Preview
Post by trog @ 04:20pm 01/04/09 | Comments
We got to check out a controlled hands-off demo for the new Wolfenstein at this year's GDC in San Francisco. Read on for our full thoughts...
Wolfenstein 3D was the game that started the FPS gold rush when it was released back in 1992.
Peter Sokal, Community Manager at id Software, presented Raven's new foray into the Wolfenstein brand to a small group of people in a private room at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel. While we didn't get a chance to go hands-on with it, we got a great presentation showcasing a big chunk of the gameplay and giving us a good grounding in the story.
Before we begin - if you're a diehard fan of Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Enemy Territory and you're mainly curious about the multiplayer - bad news. There is no news. Sorry. They're not announcing anything about multiplayer just yet, but it will involve the Veil (more about that in a minute, but it's basically the sci-fi glowing stuff you've seen in the screenshots). "We know what the Wolfenstein fans are expecting", said Sokal when pressed.
The new Wolfy title has been in development for a couple of years already; with target platforms of the PC, Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 (we were assured that the PC version will not be a port). The goal from the start was to try to recreate the original Wolf 3D feel - fast-paced action, treasure hunting and the most important thing: a wholesale slaughter of Nazis.
Once again you're playing the part of B.J. Blazkowicz, this time sent to the city of Eisenstadt, a (fictional) city in the heart of the Reich to discover what the Nazis are up to. They're doing evil shenanigans again, messing with dark forces - you know, the usual. The city offers a central base for you to play from and while it's not a full sandbox-type environment, you can wander the streets and do various things in between missions whilst in the city.
The first mission we were shown was in a train station, and right from the start you're thrust immediately into hardcore Nazi-slaying action. The first thing I noticed was the vast amounts of environmental damage - bits of your surroundings are flying around as bullets thud into them from all directions.
Of course, bits of other people are doing the same. "Was that his head?" said Sokal at one point when a round object came flying past the player after B.J. fired into a mass of soldiers from a fixed MG-42. There's a lot of gore, with blood spurting from severed heads and limbs bouncing around the screen as you wade through enemy troops.
Gameplay-wise: iron sights are a new addition into the game, offering improved accuracy when you're in a firefight. There's also a big visual rocking effect as you're sprinting - your gun comes up across your chest and you can't fire (similarly to Call of Duty), which will no doubt affect how people move around in the game (both in single and multiplayer).
We also saw the new Zero-G aspects of the game here. At some points throughout gravity mysteriously vanishes and everything starts floating around the screen (including severed limbs). This is no doubt related to mysterious Nazi experiments. Treasure hunting is also back, so collect all the Nazi gold and treasures you can find as you battle your way through the game.
There're three factions in the game that you can interact with as part of the storyline - one of which is the Black Market, which provides you with access to various weapon upgrades that you pay for with your Nazi loot. We didn't actually get to see this in operation but it was mentioned several times, so it sounds like there'll be quite a few opportunities to upgrade and tweak your weapon loadout throughout the game. The other factions will help you out in varying capacities - some of the gameplay we saw you're fighting alongside other guys who were members of the various factions.
The second mission is where we got to see some of the really new stuff. The big thing in Wolfenstein is, of course, the Veil - the mysterious new glowing weirdness you've seen in the trailers and screenshots. Basically the Veil is a weird new parallel dimension you gain access to. Once you learn how to use it you'll be doing battle in all new ways as you get various new Veil powers. The first power you obtain is called 'Mire' and is basically a slowing-down-time spell, which has obvious uses. Just like in the original Wolf 3D, you'll discover secret areas with hidden magical tomes that upgrade your powers with new tricks.
These Veil powers "make B.J. kick more Nazi ass," as Sokal put it, and they're clearly intended to be the big draw for the game. The way all the Veil stuff was demonstrated basically made it seem similar to the sort of magical powers you'd expect in a fantasy game. They look bright and colourful (like casting spells), and you can upgrade them as you go through the game (like you're levelling up). Whether it appeals will be pretty subjective.
Watching the game I couldn't shake the feeling that I was seeing any of the other World War II games that have traipsed across our videogame systems for the last couple of years. Yes, the Veil stuff does throw a new element into the mix, but it changes the overall style of the game in significant ways. While this change may be welcomed by some, it'll be interesting to see if it can capture enough of the market to be a hit game given the vast number of WWII games we've been subject to over the years.
Overall, Wolfenstein is shaping up to look like a solid title - but it has big shoes to fill. For more screens and media, hit up our Wolfenstein game page.