OpenRA .................................................................... Wolfenstein II The New Colossus ....................
PROPER OLD SCHOOL STYLE
ime has not been kind to William “B.J.” Blazkowicz. When he first started his Nazi killing spree in Wolfenstein 3D (1992), he was little more than a grimace and a hand, but from small beginnings he went on to fight more Nazis and Nazi zombies. Until the 2014 reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Blazkowicz was little more than a man of action, incapable of more nuanced thought than choosing the next target. All that has changed in the modern incarnation of the character. Blazkowicz has gone from being an action figure to being a leading man, and one that the developers seem to love to torture.
In The New Order, Blazkowicz took a chunk of shrapnel to the head and remained in a vegetative state for 14 years, awaking in 1960 to discover that the Nazis had won WWII and that the only good guys left were small pockets of resistance. When we first meet the hero of The New Colossus, thanks to the events of The New Order, Blazkowicz is not only a man out of time with cranial trauma, he’s also a shell of his former self, a mass of failed organs and scar tissue, incapable of getting around under his own power and constantly hovering around death’s door.
The first level we had a chance to play during our hands on session presumably came from the very beginning of the game. After five or so months in a coma (B.J. really loves his comas), Blazkowicz awakes to the sound of fighting. He is on the submarine base of the remaining resistance and by the din, it’s being attacked. Unable to stand on his own, B.J. must fight his way through the sub to find Anya, his love and mother of his child. Much like the beginning of The New Order, this opening act doesn’t give the best first impression. Not only is B.J. slow to control and constantly on death’s door, the fact that he is confined to a slow moving wheelchair means that players can’t approach combat the way they see fit, a key mechanic of the game. The second mission we had a chance to play more fully showcased not only the mechanics of Wolfenstein II but the dark sense of humour that pervades the game as well. The mission saw Blazkowicz having to plant a nuclear bomb in an underground Nazi base in Area 52, the even secreter cousin to Area 51. The mission begins with Blazkowicz, dressed as a fireman (so he can lug a nuke hidden in a fire extinguisher unnoticed) wandering through a nearby town to meet a contact who can get him into the secret installation. The scene is vintage Americana twisted to fascist ideology. Newsies sell papers on street corners but shout out headlines of glorious leaders and captured resistance fighters. Klansmen walk about openly displaying their white robes, all the while sounding like the redneck idiots they are. Nazi ocers and jackbooted collaborators take the place of the friendly neighbourhood police, and a military parade celebrates the power of the Reich rather than the stereotypical red, white and blue. After meeting the
contact, being part of a brutal but necessary murder and being harangued by a mad conspiracy theorist about alien technology being used by the Nazis, Blazkowicz sets out for Area 52. The first part of the mission sees B.J. having to hijack a secret underground train that runs between the dierent “Areas” dotted through New Mexico. Of course, this means he has to kill a lot of Nazis in the process. In addition to regular troopers, the Nazis also have heavily armoured, laser wielding stormtroopers and fast moving, electricity discharging humanoid robots for Blazkowicz to contend with, each requiring a dierent approach to take down.
Both brute force and stealth are eective against the heavy stormtroopers – shoot them with enough bullets and they will fall, dropping one of their limited use but extremely powerful lasers for the player to use. B.J. can also kill stormtroopers instantly with a stealth takedown, so long as he can get behind them without being spotted first. The robots are a totally dierent matter. They move extremely fast and erratically, so trying to shoot them is folly. The easiest way we found to deal with them was to either sneak up and destroy them before they activated (much easier said than done, of course) or running right up to them and using a melee attack to disable them.
After hijacking the train, Blazkowicz must then fend o the Nazis on board until he arrives at Area 52, a massive facility in which he must place the portable nuke inside of the bases’ nuclear reactor so it cannot be discovered or disarmed before detonation.
The Area 52 facility really showed o how players can approach action as they see fit. The areas are large enough and have enough hidden areas and alternate paths that a stealth approach is definitely possible, but if you’re more into the run and gun approach, the new weapons, including a hefty automatic shotgun leave a satisfyingly bloody wake of destruction. At least until you plant the bomb. That’s when the giant, mortar spewing robot comes out to have a chat.