How ’bout That New Wolfenstein?

neworder_sky

Who were the fictional heroes of your childhood?

I had an odd assortment of characters I looked up to myself, from the cool and current to the way-before-my-time. From Captain Picard to Captain Hawkeye Pierce. From The New Jonny Quest to the 1977 cartoon version of Bilbo Baggins. Dexter of Dexter’s Lab. Luke Skywalker. Super Mario. Link (who I may have called Zelda, depending on how early in my childhood you talked to me).

But also, weirdly, this guy…

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Yeah, I played Wolfenstein 3D when I was a kid. I started on first-person shooters at six or seven, actually, and look how well I turned out! Okay, well… don’t think about that one too much…

I spent a good portion of my childhood playing and replaying B.J. Blazkowicz’s first adventure (we only had the Wolfenstein 3D demo, and I wouldn’t pick up the full game and Spear of Destiny until something like fifteen years later), and for me the character is something of a nostalgic, joy-filled memory. Which is why this news is of particular interest to me:

There’s a new Wolfenstein in development.

Of course, B.J. does have a tendency to pop his head out occasionally over the years, so it’s not like we haven’t seen him since 1992. The series has a pretty weirdly inconsistent history of releases. The original stealth games in ’81 and ’84 that I always forget exist. Almost a decade with nothing. The cluster of early id releases that rebooted the series in the early ’90s, and featured our hero, B.J., for the first time. Another near-decade of no Wolfenstein. Another reboot in 2001 with Return to Castle Wolfenstein. And then eight more years before the next game.

So actually, this is one of the shortest waits we’ve had between Wolfenstein games. And admittedly, I still haven’t even gotten around to playing the last two. Why am I so interested in this new one, then?

It’s all in the little details we’re picking up in previews like this one:

(As an aside, it’s sort of funny how these guys talk about The New Order having a bit of an Inglourious Basterds vibe. I remember sitting through that flick and thinking the whole time, “Wait, so… Tarantino is doing Wolfenstein now?”)

Sure it looks like a big, dumb, modern shooter, but I ain’t sayin’ those are bad. Sure it looks dark and colorless as heck, but that’s what they call style these days.

But really… Medkits instead of health regen? Ridiculously overpowered weapons? Giant Nazi robots? Okay, you’ve got my attention. Even better — the rumor that this new game is set in the original canon. Wait — the second canon. That is, the id one, with the original B.J. — the blond, stupidly chiseled one, not the rebooted, dark-haired newbie of the 2000s.

neworder_bj

Now this is what you call a jawline.

This is exactly what B.J. Blazkowicz would have looked like if he was designed with today’s technology, with some vague attempt at realism. Aside from him maybe looking a little too grumpy, for me this feels like MachineGames looking back for a change, not just for old franchises to steal names from and repurpose, but for inspiration; it represents a gaming industry that’s clinging a little less to the grim, serious, movie-like sensibilities, and just beginning to flirt with it’s old, goofy heritage. And if you’re claiming this game follows directly from the old Wolfenstein 3D, that opens up whole new worlds of absurd possibility. Absurdibility.

The truly over-the-top, comical violence is obviously making a comeback. And the hundred-years-too-early-for-this-to-make-any-kind-of-sense levels of technological advancement? Definitely. The rewriting of history to the point where the Nazis rule the world in the ’60s? Yes, yes, yes! Even the Duke Nukem-style one-liners feel completely at home in this equation.

Now we just need to fight Mecha-Hitler at the end. (His head is clearly intact after you finish him off in Wolfenstein 3D!)

And a bit more color. Guys? No? Okay, I’ll let that one go — for now.

We have a long way to go, I think, before triple-A games are comfortable enough in their own skin to completely embrace the fun, pastel, childishness of the games of my childhood. And this new Wolfenstein is not that. It’ll probably be lots of tight, linear corridors and scripted battles and long cutscenes, but it also looks more playful than 90% of the shooters we’ve been getting these days.

It looks like a game that’s not trying to be something it isn’t, and I can get behind that.

Both Wolfenstein: The New Order images in this post were nabbed (and scaled down) from sidspyker’s gallery on minus.com. So thanks to him/her for those.

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