As huge FPS fans who usually veer on the single-player side of the genre, we’re very happy with how Winter 2017 is shaping up. Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 boast full-sized decent campaigns, indies such as Dusk are looking great, but biggest and best of all is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus from MachineGames. We’ve played it, we love it already, and now we’ve sat down with Senior Games Designer Arcade Berg to chat about the franchise, Americana, stealth, Hitler, and - gasp - aliens?
Of course despite the name Wolfenstein 2 the series is a continuation of the series rather than a reboot, despite some moments where the series delves into alternate timelines. The most important question then – is this the one where BJ fought Mecha-Hitler? “No!” was Arcade’s very emphatic response. “[The timeline] is a little messy now, but it does have continuous lore. Journals reference previous games for example. The writers make a tremendous effort to keep it all consistent.” So is Hitler still alive? “I’m not going to touch that one!” Don’t blame you.
Moving on to the game itself, I’d certainly noticed that the levels were being pushed into larger areas like towns and cities such as Roswell and New Orleans. Arcade explains, “the game as a whole is much bigger. We’re really pushing our stealth/tactical/mayhem dynamic further, and the player needs space to do that, like to get to a more tactical position or take a more silent route.”
Yes, it was really difficult in The New Order (and annoyingly forced in one section of The Old Blood), but stealth is still a viable gameplay route – even more so this time, apparently. “In The New Order you just had a silenced pistol, now you’ve got upgrades to every weapon including silencers for the machine-pistol. You have many more tools to be stealthy this time. It’s not easier, it’s still tough.”
But why have stealth and these bigger areas at all? Isn’t Wolfenstein all about the shooting? “Going back to Wolfenstein before 3D, it was all about exploration and stealth!” Arcade reminded me, referring to the original Wolfenstein games on Apple. Wolf 3D is actually only the third game in the franchise. “It’s part of the DNA of the series. You are free as a player to not do stealth and go in with two shotguns instead, but it’s important to us to allow stealth and exploration and allow the player to decide the pace and how they want to approach it.”
Of course there has to be a hub, which in The New Order was Club Kreisau, featuring a few cute little character missions and a secret Wolfenstein 3D ‘Nightmare’ level. “The hub in Wolfenstein 2 is the submarine introduced at the end of New Order, Eva’s Hammer. You can walk around this huge submarine and have a lot of activities in there, as well as launch main missions, side missions, and revisiting old areas. It’s good to have a familial environment to return back to and chill, so the player can decide when they want to continue.” Side missions? That’s a new concept for the series, especially if they have their own levels. You couldn’t revisit levels in previous games either.
Of course it’s not just levels, it’s the enemies you face that truly make an FPS satisfying. The previous games have always managed to create fun foes, so what about The New Colossus? “We have a few new ones of course, and we kept the previous ones and improved on them, even the regular soldiers. The Super Soldier for example was tough before, but now he’s dual-wielding heavy weapons and can dash forward thanks to thrusters on his back. When we add new enemies it’s not about making something more difficult, it’s about making something interesting and different. We have new Ubersoldat which are like Nazi Ninja Warriors. They’re super fast and keep leap over walls and rooftops, with a quick fire rate, but they’re still fully robotic.”
I started to ask Arcade about the franchise and Wolfenstein 2’s connection to it. Isn’t it difficult to create new levels for a franchise that’s now 36 years old? Arcade doesn’t think so, but it’s the new geographic location that particularly makes The New Colossus stand out. “We’re in America for the first time. Everyone shares an image, accurate or not, about what that 50-50s period was like through pop culture, and that’s why it’s so much fun to apply that Nazi filter on it. It felt very fresh to do it with Americana instead of Europe once more. Also it’s not like the country became Nazi a long time ago, it’s happening around BJ. Different areas will have got farther along. You feel the entire world is on edge.”
And of course a certain town famous for alien encounters makes an appearance… could extra-terrestials be appearing for the first time in this increasing kooky franchise? “There are references certainly… I’m not going to give anything else away!”
I’m suddenly reminded again of the fact that Wolfenstein is 36 years old, older than most of its audience including myself. What does MachineGames (and Bethesda) see in the franchise? Arcade tells me. “It’s one of the most important gaming IPs. It’s important that we respect it. It represents a huge leap in shooters, and has a special place in gaming history. It’s a very universal brand that resonates with people. And it’s just a very strong shooter icon.”
And as for the future of the franchise? Does Arcade see it continuing with MachineGames still at the helm? “Right now we’re wrapping up Wolfenstein 2, and the response to this will say a lot about our future. Me personally? I’m not done with Wolfenstein, I’m up for more!”
That old chestnut – if Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus sells, there’ll be more. Still, it’s good to know Bethesda won’t be forcing MachineGames to make Wolfenstein 3 – they want to do it.
It’s time to wrap up our chat, so I finish with the most important question: will the titular Castle Wolfenstein actually appear in the game? Unfortunately Arcade remains tight-lipped. “I can’t give you anything on that!” Dammit.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out in just a few short weeks, on October 27. We’ve played it and you can read our thoughts on it here, complete with a nice commentary-free gameplay video of the New Orleans stage. Thanks to Arcade Berg for talking with us and to Bethesda for setting all this up. Now if you’ll excuse us, we haven’t quite finished our replay of the entire series yet…