It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve had a great retro-themed, adrenaline-fueled, single-player first-person shooter to sink our bayonets into, and it’s been much longer since we’ve had an attempt at an alternate-history Nazi dystopia (Turning Point: Fall of Liberty… oh God… *hurls in bucket*). This is why it’s delightful to know that Wolfenstein: The New Order is only a few months away. Because of its striking premise, off-the-wall action and clever implementation of old-school shooter mechanics, it’s no surprise that it has become one of OnlySP’s most anticipated games of 2014.
Whereas previous Wolfenstein games were set in World War II and featured sci-fi and paranormal themes that were merely complimentary, The New Order jumps full-on into absurd ‘what if’ territory. Set in an alternate-history 1960’s where the Nazis have won WWII thanks to incredible leaps in technology, the game once again casts the player as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as he fights the futuristic Nazi threat in an occupied and slightly redesigned Europe. It feels like a logical progression for the series, which always seemed like it was trying to break free of the chains that were its pseudo-realistic setting and descend, or in this case ascend, into passionate lunacy.
After Activison and Raven Software had a go at the franchise in 2009 with the economically named and not terribly successful Wolfenstein, the license was sold to Bethesda, who clearly had ambitious plans for it. A radical reimagining was in order, and the studio tasked with making one was MachineGames, a developer made up of many former employees from Starbreeze Studios.
You’ll recall Starbreeze have an excellent track record with narrative-driven games such as The Darkness, Chronicles of Riddick and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. They’re masters of creating games with personality and tone, and that philosophy is alive and well at MachineGames, who have promised to make a well-paced and tightly polished adventure that is single-player only and is driven by an engaging story and thrilling action. Expect the campaign to last a meaty 15-20 hours.
Much like FPS sleeper hits such as Resistance 3 and Singularity, Wolfenstein: The New Order attempts to deftly mix the conventions of both modern and retro shooters in order to create a pleasing mixture that contains the spectacle of the former as well as the depth and inventiveness of the latter. Health and armor meters are back to their old-school non-regenerating ways, but although there are medkits and vests laying about the environment, The New Order also hands you tiny slivers of health and armor for each enemy you kill, ensuring a frustration-free gameplay experience that never breaks its smooth Nazi-killing flow.
Still, exploration is most certainly rewarded, as you can find secret weapons and temporary health extensions by searching the large, intracately designed levels. Variety is set to be a high-point in The New Order, as you’ll do everything from arena-style gunfights to platforming to light puzzles to boss fights and more. Highlights from the footage already shown include manning the quad-barreled (that’s right, QUAD-barreled) turret of a plane, shooting Nazis while climbing elevator shafts, throwing down with robot canines and ripping turrets from the ground to use as mobile weapons. Set pieces like these are very prominent in the game, but they’re organically woven into the gameplay and don’t restrict interaction to the degree that so many shooters do these days.
The New Order’s arsenal of future weaponry is finely tuned to be satisfying to use, and almost any weapon in the game can be dual-wielded, adding a dose of strategy to gunplay. Stealth is also a viable way of playing certain sections, as B.J. has a handy knife for silent takedowns. A laser cutter will also be available, allowing B.J. to cut through various parts of the environment whenever puzzles or combat call for it. Finally, there will also be an upgrade system that affords the player perks depending on which playstyle they prefer; assault, tactician, stealth, or demolition.
Film critic Bob Chipman once said that “one of the most reliable formulas for making a memorable genre movie is to take a completely bizarre, bordering on ridiculous premise and play it totally serious. The only catch is, you don’t want to be so serious that you lose the inherent fun of the original premise.” If that formula can also be applied to games, then Wolfenstein: The New Order is certainly on the right track. The ludicrous premise here is the base for a straight-faced story, evoking the absurd nature of overly serious 80’s and 90’s action film plots while also thoughtfully commenting on the shooter genre’s place in the world of video games.
An example of the above would be near the beginning of the game, when Nazis raid the asylum that B.J. has been hospitalized in for 14 years. B.J.’s view is black and white in this scene, but with each person the Nazis kill, a brief splash of color is given to his viewpoint. One of Nazis then approaches B.J. and he retaliates by killing him and making his escape, permanently bringing color back to his eyesight. It’s a clever visual metaphor for the tragic role of the shooter protagonist; he needs violent conflict in order to justify his existence and bring purpose his life. Otherwise, he’s just a depressed vegetable with nothing to do. And so, inevitably, he’ll always go back to shooting stuff in the end.
Split-screen conversations are a device that will be used throughout the game in order to bring the player closer to the support characters of the resistance. William “B.J.” Blazkowicz now sports a stocky blonde-haired appearance and gruff attitude that more closely resembles his portrayal in the original Wolfenstein 3D, to which this game could be described as a spiritual sequel to.
Thanks to a confidently ridiculous premise, gameplay mechanics that intelligently mix modern and old-school shooter sensibilities, and what looks to be a masterful handling of variety and pacing, Wolfenstein: The New Order has caught our attention and could very well turn out to be one of the year’s finest single-player shooter experiences. Look for the full game on May 20 (22 AU, 23 EU), when it releases on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.
Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash
Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.
While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!
We Were Here Together
We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.
The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.
We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.
The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.
Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.
The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.
We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.
During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.
I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.
Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario Party—Cake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.
Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.
The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.
While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.
The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.
Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.
The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.
Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.
The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.
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