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Wolfenstein

It is night, the city is on fire, and the spire at the centre has gone. In its place, a green beam of light that appears to be sucking up the buildings and spewing them out as light and energy. The shit, in this case fluorescent green and wobbly, has hit the fan. And the fan has mutated into a death ray. BJ has a new role. He needs to get to the center of the city and fix stuff. Hit it with the gun hammer until reality stops breaking. Thankfully – although Kevin and Eric won’t explain exactly how he gained them – BJ has new abilities that should help him pass through the city without losing limbs. The first, and most important, is the ability to jump in and out of the shroud at will.
 

Press a single button, at any time, and you’ll see the other side of reality: a green and violent dimension that’s filled with strange creatures and whirling tornadoes of energy. Just being in the shroud gives you options: floating above the ground are ‘collectors’ – fleshy heavy metal album cover worms that are scavenging electrical energy. Pop them with a single rifle round and they’ll blast apart, damaging enemies in the real world. They are essentially exploding, hidden, organic barrels. In shroud mode, too, occult symbols etched into the masonry are transformed into holes in walls that BJ can simply step, shoot, or lob a grenade through. The resultant mess of ragdolls and splintered scenery is quite a surprise. There’s even a bullet-time-esque shroud power that lets BJ step around bullets; useful for scarpering between machinegun nests, through ambushes, or sidestepping explosions.
 

Pause for a moment. Bullet time. Hidden doors. Explosive barrels. Mounted machinegun nests. There will be a portion of our readership who are making gagging noises right now. Do Raven have a single original idea for what must be their biggest project yet? Two points. There is more to come: Kevin and Eric both remain silent when pressed for details on further shroud powers, weapons, and the inevitable multiplayer modes. For fans of Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s multiplayer, Kevin says Wolfenstein will “build on the success of previous multiplayer titles” – which we hope includes Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. For fans of occult powers that twist and shape time and space, there are three further gaps in the interface next to the bullet-time button. And as for the guns: it’s an id game, you know. Rocket launchers and gatling guns are all but inevitable, rest assured.
 

But we’re not convinced that it needs more: this is Wolfenstein. As we watch Eric play – bouncing stick grenades off walls, diving behind ruined tanks and taking careful aim at a malevolent Nazi’s head, we start to get into this. Wolfenstein plays like a return to the kind of shooters that have become unfashionable; a gun at the bottom of the screen, dozens of enemies up front, ammo drops and explosions ahead. Bosses? Sure! Kevin talks about characters from Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein making cameos. We’d pay good money to see the robo-armoured Bavarian milk-maid from the first game. And even if Raven deny it, we’ll still hold a candle for Robo-Hitler. We’d even take second best with Mecha-Himmler.

We see one boss at the very end of the demo. Six feet of iron and anger. Bullets just ping off his armour and shield: he’s using the shroud to ward off any damage. The solution is relatively simple: slow down time and aim your shots at the sparking generators mounted on his shoulders. As he stumbles around the city, bumping into the masonry and bouncing off a ruined car, we start giggling. This is what shooters were like years ago. We grew up playing this type of game – shooters like Wolfenstein warped us into the facile imitations of humanity we are today. The boss is dead: his electric shoulder-pads are on fire. He waves his arms like a robot in a mosh-pit before falling to the ground defeated. Maybe the robo-Nazi is a good analogy for Wolfenstein as a whole. Technically ambitious. Funny. Silly. And a little bit stupid. We can live with that.

Aug 11, 2008

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