For a lot of gamers, Wolfenstein 3D marked a turning point in history. Launched in 1992, it brought that heady mix of 3D graphics and mindless violence where all you really had to was keep walking and keep killing. Many have followed in its wake and the genre of the first person shooter has come a long way since.
Wolfenstein 3D didn't just give you that abundant Nazi slaying action, oh no, a few levels in it started to get weird and you found yourself railing mechanical Nazi beasts, Hitler and the like. And so enters Wolfenstein in 2009, and we were lucky enough to play though an early preview code.
So what do you get? We'll, fans of the original (if you can remember that far back) will not be disappointed. It's still a classic first person shooter and it comes with that instant playability – if you've played any FPS on a console then you'll be diving straight in.
The old blocky textures are now much smoother and the alpha code we were playing ran smoothly and looked good. Perhaps not the best looking FPS available, but then when the action is this frenetic, it probably doesn't matter. Besides, the final version may be more polished.
We played a level part way through the game, which didn't add much to what we already know about the story or anything else. The level we played was The Hospital, and it's perhaps no surprise that it's more of a Nazi mutilation lab.
You play the hero BJ Blazkowicz, and are sent behind enemy lines to investigate the secret weapon that the Nazis are developing. One of the things you uncover is The Veil, around which much of the action centres. Not only is Veil something that your enemies possess, it's something that you tap into too.
In the bottom left-hand corner of the HUD you have various actions open to you (linked to the four-way controller on the Xbox 360 version we played). This is your access to Veil, which like all game powers, gets used up and can be recharged at various points around the game, or blocked by various objects, so you can't always use it.
Veil is really a parallel dimension; it changes your vision revealing hidden doors and hidden enemies alike. The system also gives you a shield and the ubiquitous bullet time, or slow-mo version, which will give you the chance to slow down speedy enemies and pump them full of lead. A fourth Veil function will be available, but wasn't enabled on our preview play through.
You might initially scoff at the inclusion of bullet time in yet another game, but your enemies are many and varied and for some of the more highly powered assassins, it will be the only way you can slay them. You'll have seen the sorts of thing we mean from some of the trailers or on the Wolfenstein website no doubt.
Control overall is good and clean, with basic movement and looking easily grasped. Fire and an aim option are handled on the triggers, as well as the option of lobbing grenades and selecting weapons through the bumper buttons.
So the action unfolds thick and fast, walking along hospital corridors with plenty of corners as you'd expect. Headshots result in a glorious evaporation of the skull in a red mist, whilst sticking a shot in the jugular leads to a slower, spurting, death. Get in close and you can butt stroke your enemy to death: a couple of hits and his head caves in.
The Veil system is interesting and from the limited time we had with it, we can tell it will be one of those things that some people will only use when necessary and some all the time. For example, the enemy shut off the lights and in the darkness you can either just run through and hope you don’t get shot, or enter Veil and slaughter everyone.
You also get a range of weapons from your classic German MP40, up to the likes of the jaw-dropping particle cannon that just sees your enemies evaporate before your eyes. All good fun and with panzerschreck and flamethrowers that we didn't use, all your tools of carnage are here.
From the limited time we had with the game it was difficult to really gauge how the AI performed. Given the relatively linear layout of the level we were playing there weren't the opportunities to see how enemies reacted to fire, whether they shifted cover or not. It did seem relatively simple to quickly jump back from enemy contact unscathed before taking a more strategic approach.
Veil enemies are a different case, Assassins slash at you with Wolverine-esque blades before vanishing and coming at you from a different angle. They are on to you so quickly you have little time to react: punch the Veil slow-mo and you get a fighting chance.
To end the Hospital level you encounter one of the Altered. A grotesque beast, it seems as stupid as it looks, lashing out at everything and doing a good job of taking chunks out of the environment too. Carefully timed shots will draw the Altered's attention, coaxing him into a charge, and ultimately bringing about the end of that level through the destruction he causes.
Wolfenstein isn't just about the action, we soon found that quick thinking is needed to get along. From what we saw, it isn't just a case of shooting, you'll need to use your own brain from time to time too.
Wolfenstein looks to pack in plenty of gore and plenty of action. The blend of Nazis with the supernatural is a formula that might never get old and even in the short time we had with the game it raised a few laughs.
You can also be sure that it will bring with it a huge bag of surprises and plenty of action to keep you entertained. Your standard Stormtroopers are dispatched with a quick shot, the likes of the Assassins or crazy scientist dudes take a touch of Veil to beat.
Great fun, we loved the level we shot our way through today but you'll have to wait another month or so before you can get your hands on it.
Wolfenstein is coming to the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and will be released mid-August, when we'll bring you a full review.