Wolfenstein is still one of the most well-known franchises in the world of first-person shooters. There have been numerous games in the series, since 1981, including Wolfenstein 3D and Wolfenstein RPG. With a rich WW2 setting, players get to enjoy gunning Nazis down by the dozen and the various creative liberties the development team (wisely) takes with history. With the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order in 2014, the series reached new heights – the game embraced a deeper narrative than previous entries (with the developers conscious to make the lead – William “B.J.” Blazkowicz – more interesting) and featured solid action, earning it a positive response from fans.
With The Old Blood now available, MachineGames deliver a pulpy add-on adventure to the latest game, pitting B.J. against a certain type of monster from the world of horror. Does this give fans of the series, and particularly The New Order, more of what they want?
Let’s go back to the start
The Old Blood is a six-hour self-contained prequel to The New Order, following B.J. again as the battles all manner of Nazis. In this alternate history, it’s 1946, and WW2 is still in full swing: Hitler’s army is winning, thanks to some technologically-advanced weaponry, and a touch of supernatural help. This prequel adds a little bit of additional story to The New Order, and has been split into two very different episodes, following B.J. as he returns to the legendary Castle Wolfenstein (tying in to The New Order‘s opening).
The first episode features a less-compelling storyline than The New Order, with map designs that are somewhat more linear, but the action is still just as impressive. The second episode is based in a town known as Wulfburg (referencing Return to Caste Wolfenstein, from way back in 2001): this bizarre little tale gives players the chance to combat zombies … armed with just a shotgun. These undead villains are pretty creepy, particularly when aflame and dressed in full Nazi garb.
The Old Blood presents us with new environments to enjoy and new enemies to beat, as well as some welcome gameplay tweaks – the dual-handed pipes being one of them. Melee combat can be used as an alternative to blasting away with guns, and these pipes make for a grisly method of despatching bad guys: whether using these for stealth kills or full-on attacks, these new weapons lead to some bloody demises. However, they can also be used to climb walls and even prise grates and doors open, giving B.J. an innovative way to interact with the world around him. Still, while The New Order‘s levels felt fairly open, those in The Old Blood are more tightly-regimented, with less freedom to explore (there are bonus Wolfenstein 3D levels to find from time to time, so players definitely have an incentive to search for secrets).
Calling the Shots
The game looks great, with atmospheric settings and richly-detailed characters. However, enemy AI can be frustrating at times, with an inconsistency most notable in stealthier sections: for example, enemies may spot you from an unfair distance, while others fail to notice you when in close quarters; the game also falls victim to an issue that has affected other shooters – enemies appearing oblivious as fellow bad guys are picked off right beside them. This is by no means a game-breaking deal, but may pull players out of the experience at times.
Unfortunately, the game’s insistence on a more stealthy approach (due, in large part, to commanders’ ability to summon hordes of expendable soldiers) means that players keen for a more direct run-and-gun experience may crave a little more freedom to play it their way, but – again – this is a small issue that’s unlikely to make too much of a negative impact. It makes sense, given that the first instalment in the series, back in 1981, was a groundbreaking stealth-based game, but those looking for something more in keeping with The New Blood may be surprised. The cover system makes gunfights tense and exciting, encouraging players to learn when to hide and when to pick enemies off; areas in which mass-shootouts usually take place often feature multiple levels, providing plenty of vantage points.
The upgrade system from The New Order has also been taken back to a more basic version, providing perks unlocked after performing key actions (for example, achieve a specific number of enemy-kills with a particular weapon, and the game awards extended ammunition for it) – this is an interesting new approach to take, but it does make this add-on adventure feel a bit more limited than the main game. This is true of the overall experience – with less of the captivating narrative and more of an old-fashioned linear shooter.
The Old Blood is definitely a worthy purchase for Wolfenstein fans looking for more of the series they love, and provides around six hours’ worth of fun at a decent price.