Despite the medium attracting perhaps the most passionate and vocal of all fan communities, the idea of a franchise reboot has never incited the ire of its fanbase in quite the same way as film or television. Quite the opposite in fact, and the upcoming Wolfenstein: The New Order serves as a perfect example of how an antiquated design document can be dusted off and contemporised for modern audiences, without compromising what made the original so beloved in the first place. As one of the ex-Starbreeze Studios team that co-founded MachineGames, creative director Jens Matthies talks to games™ about the challenges of bringing the Nazi undead back to life in the upcoming shooter.
How delicate do you have to be in playing with history in the manner you do? Are there any areas you have to be particularly sensitive with?
Within the parameters of our alternate history, a retro sci-fi take on the Wolfenstein world, we do our utmost to respect the real world horrors and suffering of the era.
What was the motivation behind making the game single-player only in an industry obsessed with including multiplayer modes in their FPS games?
Our mission as developers is to deliver this best possible game we can, and in our case, we’re working to create a great single player only experience.
Your trailer featured some nods to Sixties pop-culture – will the game reflect culture we know and love but with a Nazi-inspired perspective?
Yes! We play a lot with ‘what if’ scenarios in this game. You learn a lot about your culture when you see it skewed through the lens of your worst enemy.
Wolfenstein has always been known for its fairly outlandish plots and parallels – is this game going to continue that trend or take the property down a more serious road?
We want to honour the playful history of Wolfenstein, yet also introduce more storytelling and a genuine connection between the player and the characters in the game. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but it also yields a very rewarding and unique result.
From what we’ve seen of the game’s story, it appears your background with first-person storytelling in The Darkness and Riddick is more than applicable here. Do you feel you’re able to offer your own spin on the franchise through this kind of narrative?
Yes, Wolfenstein: The New Order is in many regards an evolution of our sensibilities as developers. Anyone familiar with our previous games will certainly see similarities in terms of style and tone.
What values of the original Wolfenstein game would you say you’re bringing to the reboot?
We’ve taken most inspiration from the original Wolfenstein 3D. Big guns, outlandish war machines, sci-fi elements and B.J. Blazkowicz as the muscle bound action hero grunt originally envisioned.
The studio is founded by people renowned for story-driven action games. Given the ridiculous nature of the Wolfenstein brand, what sort of challenge did it pose to tell an engaging narrative within the series’ mythology?
We were inspired by other projects such as Inglourious Basterds and District 9, which also walk the tight rope between over the top action, comedy and honest drama. It’s been really awesome to get the opportunity to create a story in a Wolfenstein world.
Wolfenstein is also a brand known for its exaggerated enemy design. Is this a feature you’re looking to put your own unique stamp on? What can we expect in that regard?
Yes, you can expect some over-the-top enemies when you play Wolfenstein: The New Order. A few are based on the classic Wolfenstein enemies, but some are completely new.
How well do you think the game will sell in Germany?
We think the game will be very well received in Germany. The German fans in particular have been very enthusiastic and supportive of the project.