Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Ten Years Ago people would openly mock you for using "Google" as a verb. Ten years before that, you'd have your teeth kicked in for using "email" as a verb. And before hit 2001 single Party Hard was released, the word "party" was rigidly considered a noun in most civilised social circles. Now we've got a new doing word courtesy of Raven: "Wolfenstein", meaning to take regular World War II history and skew it in a hugely entertaining, highly embellished and occult-twisted way. You might as well tear up the dictionary now.
Our trip to Raven's snowbound studio in Wisconsin gave an insight into how "Wolfensteining" is achieved: scanners are used to, and this is no joke, turn genuine Nazi trousers into 3D models - apparently to get the creases "just right". Once the entire uniform is downloaded and turned into a workable model, they use it to dress a skeletal-faced Third Reich hellfiend. Authenticity still means a lot to Raven, despite absolutely everything you see on these pages.
Before I'm ushered into a dimly lit room to play one of Wolfenstein's opening levels, I'm presented with the game's introduction cinematic. This movie is spectacular enough to warrant its own appraisal. It's night on a German aircraft carrier, some panicked sailors rush up behind a man standing on deck. He wears a long captain's jacket, and is staring wistfully at the moonlit horizon. "General!" yelps one of the crewmen in a bad German accent, "Ve believe zer iz a spy on board! Should ve delay ze missile launch on London?"
The camera pans back to the supposed General. He turns around to face the sailors - it's 'BJ' Blazkowicz! The hero of the game! The General was the spy all along! Shocker! Before they can register their surprise, the sailors are shot dead. Anti-aircraft guns turn on BJ as he ducks behind crates and does magnificent cartwheels about the place. Finally cornered, he reaches into the pocket of his stolen jacket and pulls out a medallion, the mysterious centrepiece of the game - it explodes with light, and the Nazis are seared to death by occult energy.
You should now be getting a measure of exactly how shamelessly ridiculous Wolfenstein is. If you're still not convinced, here's how things carry on: having killed most of the Nazis, BJ hijacks a Stukka bomber and flies it to safety. Behind him, the carrier explodes for no discernible reason, and thus the incredible, unbelievable adventure begins. Wolfenstein is, as it's always been, an insidious mix of science-fiction and history. Real-world weapons sit comfortably alongside ray guns and an alternate dimension is casually layered atop our own. This dimension is called the Veil, and from a certain point in the game onwards it can be entered into at any time at the push of a button. In spite of these off-kilter leanings, the game opens in a straightforward manner.
Wolfenstein's first scenes begin with you emerging from a train car to meet a member of the Kreisau Circle (who are themselves Wolfensteined into a gun-toting Resistance group, rather than the mundane, politically focused reality). A jaunt through some sewers brings you to a military train yard, a place jammed with swastikas, sandbags and mysterious tankers. You're handed an MP40 and some grenades, and what follows is a fairly solid, if by-the-books, shooting experience.
Wolfenstein is, on the face of things, a very decent WWII shooter. The trappings of Bavarian architecture, train yards, cobblestones and chateaus reek of early Call of Duty games - certainly a benchmark worth aspiring some years ago, but hardly something even approaching revolutionary today. At this point, the ability to slip into the Veil dimension hasn't yet been revealed and the game plays out with a worryingly straight, trope-ridden face.
What we've seen of Wolfenstein's non-occult stuff is plain and unremarkable, id's Tech 4 engine lias failed to afford the title any real graphical distinction, while the art style ploughs the same ragged WWII furrows we've seen time and time again in other shooters. Mounted guns summon waves of enemies, glowing transparent yellow boxes invite you to stick dynamite on doors, a compass guides you from one room to the next, and Al allies dawdle about meaninglessly as you one-man army your way through the Nazi ranks.
Tliis was going to be the bit where I stop and gibber on about how the Veil - that wacky paranormal twist - rescues the rest of the game from mediocrity. But it's worth first pointing out that Return to Cast/e Wolfenstein had similar occult leanings, and its realistic bits didn't need bolstering by anything especially strange. In fact, a lot of people would argue that the zombie bits detracted from the experience.
Wolfenstein, however, is definitely in need of some backbone, and the Veil is Raven's attempt at inserting some spine into proceedings. Your first encounter with this world comes about when one of the train yard's mysterious tankers erupts in a shower of blue flame - gravity takes a well-deserved break as unfettered Veil energy causes debris, guns, bodies living and dead, to float upwards towards the train yard's ceiling. Panicking Nazi soldiers fire madly in all directions, their attention rightly turning from you to being suspended 20ft above the floor. You, though, remain safely on the ground.
Naturally, I began to wonder what it would look like if a floating Nazi were to be shot in the stomach in such an environment. So I tried it, and it's satisfyingly punchy. The floaty blokey doubles up in pain and wheels gently and helplessly towards the far wall. The zero-G effect is only temporary, and in a matter of seconds all and sundry fall back to Earth with a thud and a clatter. It's not long until another tanker explodes and you're surrounded by even more sky-bound bigots. This time I used the opportunity to hurl a stick grenade at the flailing soldiers with comical effect, as their limp corpses were violently punted hither and tither. In celebration, I nudged a floating cash register with the butt of my MP40 and watched it gently tumble through space - the zero-gravity stuff is a really pleasing effect.
Exactly what the Veil is hasn't been properly clarified yet, and may never be. At times it's an energy, a substance, a dimension, a philosophy, and in some cases it's ammunition. Once you've unlocked the medallion's abilities (the medallion itself acts as a sort of conduit for Veil energy, if you're keeping notes), it appears as a meter in the bottom left corner of the screen, and using your Veil abilities depletes your reserves.
Another level is fired up, this time we're in the streets of Wolfenstein's fictional city, fighting our way towards a Nazi-controlled church which is spewing a pillar of filthy green energy into the sky. I'm now in full control of my Veil powers, and can at any point flip between dimensions. I've also unlocked one of my Veil abilities, Mire, which slows time to a crawl iJ and allows me to dance between sluggish enemies. If you like, you can call it bullet-time and be done with it.
The effect of dimension hopping isn't unlike slipping into night vision mode in Splinter Cell, or putting on a pair of 3D glasses while driving. The screen is tinted a deep, dark green, elements of the environment change shape, and the sky transforms into a tumultuous expanse of swirling carnage and destruction. You move faster in the Veil, enemies are highlighted and so easier to spot, and critical objects such as exploding barrels are painted a stark red.
Odd alien creatures called Collectors also float aimlessly about the world, invisible to all but you. They drink from pools of Veil energy like a sort of delicious occult milkshake. Shoot them and they erupt like fleshy exploding barrels, electrocuting foes in the real world.
And so, by flipping things between normal and green and occasionally slowing things down, I made my way from one end of a heavily defended road to the other. Wolfenstein's levels are semi-open ended, offering various routes to your objective. In this case I could've forced my way through the middle - the most direct'route - by relying heavily on my Mire ability to avoid being turned into a fine red mist by racists' bullets. Instead I crept along the building fronts, at times clambering along rooftops to get the jump on unsuspecting tyrants below. Certain walls, marked by a Black Sun logo, don't exist inside the Veil, so by flipping into that magical dimension I could often saunter through solid brick and properly surprise a bunch of devious liuns.
Raven promise that this open-endedness will appear throughout the game, and that parts of the city will be open to exploration at any time. They're quick to assure, however, that this isn't an open-world, free-roaming city, but that at the same time it won't be as linear as old Wolfensteins.
As is tradition for the series, Nazi treasure can be found stashed throughout the world, and this treasure can now be used to purchase upgrades on the black market. Your MP40, for example, can be fitted with a silencer for stealth, improved rifling for accuracy and a drum magazine for more ammunition. Veil powers can be purchased here too, though Mire is still the only ability Raven are willing to talk about. These marketplaces are physical locations in the world - one a straightforward black market front, the other only available inside the Veil, a mystical outlet of craziness known as the Golden Dawn.
Reality is further unhinged by the appearance of the Nazi's Veil-powered superweapons. Heavy Troopers are armoured soldiers wielding powerful particle cannons and capable of sending out explosive shock waves -they also have a penchant for bursting through walls when you least expect. By slipping into the Veil I was able to highlight their weak points - sparkling transistors rather helpfully placed on their shoulders. Dodging the vintage automobiles being hurled about the place by the Heavy Trooper's particle cannon, I popped his shoulder pads and brought him to his knees.
The particle cannon is a meaty weapon, and Wolfenstein's world is built to accommodate its destructive abilities. It tears through wood and turns cover to dust. Al Nazis run from you, desperately trying to seek safety as you blast green lightning death in all directions. The Veil might give you an edge in combat, but it never makes you feel overly powerful.
The particle cannon, on the other hand, transforms you into a sort of Nazi-slaying messiah.
Using this weapon I pushed forward to my final objective - the spire of energy erupting from the mined church. In the tighter spaces of the church grounds, the defensive abilities of the enemy Al really start to show - they duck behind gravestones and stay low when under fire. They won't push forward ' either, as they've nowhere to push forward to. They'll retreat from grenades, and can so be forced into easily compromised positions. On this occasion, I'd effectively herded the enemy into an indefensible corner of the church's facade, managing to take them out before they had a chance to regroup and take up better cover.
Once inside the building the source of the energy was apparent: an oversized desk toy comprised of three massive spinning rings. The entire thing glowed with occult energy, and by jumping into the Veil I could see that each of the rings was host to a conspicuous weak point. Mire slowed the rings down to a crawl, and with a few carefully aimed shots from my MP40 the contraption began to spin itself into oblivion, spewing out unfocused Veil energy and generally making a proper old mess.
A zombified Nazi (in an authentic uniform) promptly appeared and tore my face off, which is where the playtest came to an end - just as things were getting interesting.
Raven are still holding a lot of their cards close to their chest, and while much of the content they've shown so far has us slightly concerned (the warmed-up WWII guff being the main offender), the features they've yet to give us full access to are enticing. The level structure and the exploration, the weapon upgrade systems, and the yet to be revealed Veil powers - there's a lot still to be seen here, and there's even more to be Wolfensteined.
Here's what we don't know
Return to Castle Wolfenstein had a huge asset in its multiplayer mode, and to this day it's still being played by diehard fans. Right now Raven are only ready to let out a single fact about the new Wolfenstein's multiplayer mode: "We know how big the multiplayer was in Return to Castle Wolfenstein," claims Peter Sokal, community manager at id Software, "and if you're a fan of the multiplayer from that you'll feel at home in the multiplayer in this game. Also, we're going to be incorporating the Veil into the multiplayer, so it's gonna have a lot of cool elements in it."