Wolfenstein Preview: Into the VeilS

Wolfenstein has a lot to live up to.

The original Wolfenstein 3D popularized, if not defined first-person shooters. Return to Castle Wolfenstein's multiplayer introduced some of the most popular features of multiplayer gaming to the PC.

What will Wolfenstein deliver?

What It Is
Wolfenstein is the latest first-person shooter in id's popular franchise. This time around Raven Software continues the story of 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein with B.J. Blazkowicz using a mystic amulet to find the source of supernatural power that Nazis are tapping into.

What We Saw
I played through a chunk of a single level using some of the amulets abilities.

How Far Along Is it?
The game, due out this summer, was in pre-beta when I played it.

What Needs Improvement?
AI: The enemy artificial intelligence didn't seem to sharp, not always getting behind cover or reacting to your sudden appearance on the scene. The developers said they've spent a lot of time working on AI and that the enemies react better and communicate with one another, so let's hope it was just a pre-beta issue I ran into.

Dialog: Increasingly, I expect a bit more depth to my dialog. In the build of Wolfenstein I played I was hearing the same phrases way too much for my liking.

Those Hats: I made a joke yesterday about how, when disintegrated, the Nazis' hats remained fully intact, falling to the ground where once an enemy stood. It's a neat effect once or twice, but seen over and over again, starts to look a little silly. I'd lose it.

What Needs to Stay the Same?
Details: The game is meticulously detailed. For instance, I noticed that some of the enemies I shot left a spray of blood on the nearby wall. Very nice touch.

Gravity Wells: Early in the game an explosion causes the mystical veil to go haywire, creating these pockets of fluctuating gravity. Enemies didn't just float in them, they flipped and tried to find their balance. It was a spectacular effect that I hope the game doesn't skimp on.

Weapons: Despite the hats, the disintegration effect of the particle cannon is fairly stunning to behold. It was the only veil weapon I used, but I hope that Raven includes a nice selection of similarly interesting guns.

The Veil: Sure alternate realities in a game have been done to death, and I have to admit I was slightly disappointed to see it rear its head in Wolfenstein. But, once I started playing I started to like how it was used. I've only seen two effects in the veil so far, so I'm hoping the other powers will add new facets to the concept.

Controls: It's not surprising that Raven nailed the game's controls, id wouldn't have it any other way.

Final Thoughts
I was pretty excited when id announced Return to Castle Wolfenstein, it was a surprising, for me at least, return to a franchise I loved. This time around my expectations are not nearly as high.

It could be that the recent glut of shooters have jaded me, but what I've heard and seen so far doesn't seem to offer anything new for the genre.

Wolfenstein will be a solid shooter, but I'm still not convinced it will be the sort of seminal experience that Return to Castle Wolfenstein offered.