If you’re old enough, you may remember the first truly addictive first person shooter developed and published by then fledgling gaming company id Software. This shooter became a staple for the genre, blazing a trail for other landmark titles. Simply known as Wolfenstein 3D, the game blended graphic violence with fantastical story, pitting the protagonist against an entire castle full of Nazis, with only a knife and pistol at your disposal as you break free of your jail cell. With groundbreaking gameplay and plot, the inevitable controversy came to light very soon after the games release.
Not only was it deemed too violent, the use of the Nazis and their symbols garnered a banning from Germany on all versions of the game (besides the SNES version, which took out the Nazis. But who wants Wolfenstein without killing them?). Although Wolfensteing 3D received a lot of negative press, id Software never looked back and continued to churn out genre-molding, legendary games in the likeness of Doom and Quake.
With the superior 3D graphical engine created, many developers utilized it to create notable first person shooters/fantasy. One company, however, housed the technical wherewithal to develop further installments of two very popular id Software series. Beginning their career using the Doom engine, Raven Software developed many games under the Heretic/Hexen game series, all formally published by id. Starting as primarily PC developers, Raven has progressed throughout their twenty year lifespan to working with consoles as well, most recently developing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance to generally positive reviews. With their success and collaboration with id, Raven was granted a shared development over Quake 4, and now were given the spotlight again for the next installment of Nazi slaughtering that will be Wolfenstein.
Set for release sometime this summer (please?), Wolfenstein will once again pit you as series protagonist B.J Blazkowicz at the height of World War II. The year is 1943, and as Blazkowicz you will be charged with once again foiling the diabolic plans of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Yet, the Schutzstaffel (see: sick bastards) and Heinrich Himmler have a phantasmal trick up their sleeve. Simply known as the Black Sun, not much information is available about the mysterious power source, other than it fuels “the Veil,” a HUD if you will, that Blazkowicz discovers early on.
“The Veil” will enable the defining characteristic that hopes to differentiate Wolfenstein from the rest of the WWII pack. As you become absorbed in “the Veil,” you’ll be able to use certain mystical powers, as well as see enemies who are invisible otherwise. Although sounding a bit similar to Bioshock’s plasmid system, the powers won’t be limited to just using your hands, as some weapons also utilize the Veil, such as a particle cannon that will waste anyone in your path, while your Nazi enemies will have Veil suppressors, blocking the use of said powers. The Nazis make use of the Veil powers as well, creating zombie-like creatures to stop your progression with projectiles and shields for normal Nazi combatants.
Not being able to get my hands on any build of the game, I can’t tell you first hand how it plays. But gathering information from Kotaku, it seems to me that id and Raven software are going to have their work cut out for them. The FPS genre has been flooded with WWII themed games ever since the first Medal of Honor took a physical form. And many of them have trouble straying from the group to individualize themselves.
Although we’ve seen a mix of “modern” warfare weaponry and phantasmal powers before, no title has merged the two through the Nazi’s historical work with the occult, giving Wolfenstein to offer up a truly original story (obviously, we know what happens at the end of EVERY WWII game. EVER.). Being very intrigued by plot, this is a major pull for myself and anyone else who likes appreciates a good story, yet, I don’t look to an FPS to satisfy my plot needs. I play shooters for competitive reasons, and this is where Wolfenstein scares me a little.
Multiplayer is not being developed by id or Raven. In fact, they handed the multiplayer duties over to company who just opened their doors, and this will actually be the first game they’ve worked on. I’m a little worried that Endrant Studios will not have the experience to produce a worthwhile multiplayer experience that can compete with the likes of Gears of War 2, Call of Duty: World at War, and Team Fortress 2. There may be heavy emphasis on the single player campaign, but given the average FPS can take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to beat, an engaging multiplayer must be set in place.
Although a fledgling company has taken the helm for multiplayer support, all hope is not lost. If you recall a little while back, Quake Live hit the internet with great force, allowing gamers to freely play Quake III: Arena straight through their browsers. Well, id Software similarly released the multiplayer expansion to Return to Castle Wolfenstein as Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory completely for free back in 2003. This multiplayer will be the basis for the newest installment of the series, allowing for multiple character classes and mode of play, as well as an experience system used for upgrading weapons and abilities.
Even though the multiplayer aspect of the game was given to a newbie company in the field, Wolfenstein seems to be shaping up to be a major competitor for World War II first-person-shooters. However, can it differ itself from the genre enough to be deemed original? Or will it fall in line with the rest of the pack?