A fast peak at demos of two new major Bethesda Softworks releases coming next month.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 2017 Bethesda Gameplay Preview event, where I got my hands on a slew of Bethesda titles we will be discussing more fully in the coming weeks. The first was Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, stocked with a ton of new toys and weapon upgrades to play with in the city of New Orleans under Nazi-occupation. The player continues the series as protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz in his Inglorious Basterds-esque revenge plot, along with a handful of resistance fighters. The demo I had previously experienced - with the player watching Roswell, New Mexico under a Nazi regime – was unlike this most recent demo.
The build I played had B.J. assemble with the resistance fighters and recruit a man named Horton to their cause. After the player gets to New Orleans, the group is treated to streets of fire and Nazi patrols. We were instructed to upgrade our weapons as soon as possible, and I focused on more damaging upgrades for the larger mobs of enemies. Each weapon had at least three upgrades, ranging from the banal faster reloads and extended magazines to the laser rifles’ more powerful attacks if the trigger is held down long enough. Said heavy laser rifle gives off a visual flourish with beautiful particle effects to any Nazi who’s dumb enough to cross your path.
This Wolfenstein II demo also let players experiment with new abilities that added variation to the combat. One was a charge attack that allowed players to bust down weaker walls or pulverize Nazis into a delicious pulpy mess. The other was a double tap of the jump button, where suddenly the player was standing heads and tails above the enemies…literally -- a pair of extended stilts shot out from B.J.’s feet. But, the skill had mixed results: you either exposed yourself to enemies because of a lack of cover or you could strategically pop up behind Nazis through a hole in the floor.
A few encounters later and the player gets in touch with Horton – the leader of the resistance in New Orleans. The two butt heads immediately as B.J. criticizes Horton for not acting fast enough when America had the offensive. Horton blames B.J. for his lack of action when it came to Civil Rights movements. All of this was well acted, with voiced back and forth dialogue punctuated by a jazz clarinet in the background for another character taking potshots. It’s expertly designed and directed, and given both my playtimes in the demos, I look forward to more of that.
The player is then treated to a minor empowerment moment when it’s revealed that Horton has a Panzerhund – a robot dog that breathes fire – and you need to paint the town red in the Big Easy. The moment of power is welcome, especially running from Nazis, but it’s not very satisfying burning and killing Nazis the same way every time. Minus the robot dog with limited health, it didn’t feel very satisfying by the end of the demo.
The next game I got hands-on with was The Evil Within 2 – sequel to Shinji Mikami’s 2014 survival horror title – and it is shaping up to be much better and more terrifying than the original. Sebastian, protagonist of The Evil Within, returns, as he comes to find out that his daughter, thought to be dead, is alive and well. He’s not the only one looking for her, however, as many other parties have an interest in Sebastian’s daughter and a curious “power” that was mentioned during the demo.
The demo started off in Chapter 4 with the omission of the black bars that were an interesting design decision in The Evil Within and were later patched to be optional. We were recommended again to upgrade our weapons and abilities. I went for shotgun and pistol as that was my survival horror standard. And just like that, I was exploring Chapter 5, which was a much larger level than any I experienced while playing The Evil Within. As I explored the dimly lit courtyard, I came across a gazebo with a resonance point inside – a moment of a person’s life that Sebastian can be a witness to which is used to flesh out the lore. As I approached City Hall, a massive multi-headed monster with more faces than blades formed in front of me from the bodies on the ground. From there, I was told that if you snuck around, the monster wouldn’t find you. Hard to remember that when a blade is swinging past your head.
What I appreciated most about the boss fight were the different options available to me and how the boss reacted. When I ran to go into an overturned truck for safety and ammo, the blade pierced through and was slowly killing me. The boss died from a fire I had started earlier, but as I continued to explore, I kept finding areas to place a wall between me and the boss…and I wanted to know exactly how the boss would get around it. These multi-layered boss fights are going to go a long way towards enhancing the replay value of The Evil Within 2.
Once inside, it was right back to The Evil Within I remembered from three years ago. Long corridors with creative puzzles and camera tricks. Veterans of the Resident Evil series will also get a strong Spencer Mansion vibe from the section that I played. The Evil Within 2 took a left turn into the realm of Silent Hill with emphasis on still images and the horror being left to the viewer’s imagination. I eventually reached another boss that was more of a puzzle than a traditional boss fight. I was turning on a machine, but the boss kept turning the machine off, pausing the timer and clambering towards me.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and The Evil Within 2 both look to improve upon and highlight certain aspects of the originals, as well as provide a better gameplay experience. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus comes out on October 27th, 2017 while The Evil Within 2 comes out on October 13th, 2017. Wolfenstein II has also been announced for the Nintendo Switch and is expected to be released in 2018.