Wolfenstein: The Old Blood Review
When MachineGames released Wolfenstein: The New Order in 2014 it was better than it had any right to be. Gamers everywhere were surprised with the amount of characterization and world-building present in a game about killing occult Nazis. More importantly however, was the well-controlled, intense, and visceral combat. Less than a year after the release of The New Order, MachineGames is asking us to revisit war-torn Europe with this stand-alone prequel. Is it worth the trip?
You Can Go Back Again
Soon after booting up the game it felt like I had never left. It gives you some humorous difficulty-setting options harking back to Id's genre-defining classic. The game begins with B.J and Wesley, a British agent, approaching antagonist Helga Von Schabbs' fortress. Their mission is to infiltrate the facility and retrieve a folder containing information pertaining to Deathshead's compound. These slower sections accentuated the intense action sequences well in The New Order, and even though they aren't as frequent here, they are a welcome addition.
The entire first part of the game functions as a tutorial. Wesley beckons you to utilize a stealthy approach, effectively communicating that there is a crouch-button. Sooner rather than later, the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan, and you are greeted to an intense shooting section.
Thankfully the combat is as solid as ever.
Thankfully, the combat is as solid as ever. With weighty guns and excellent sound-design. The enemy A.I will attempt to flush you out with grenades, and flank you, if you decide to camp out behind cover. The game urges you to keep moving, keeping a specific area under your control is a good strategy.
Rehashing Cliche Supernatural Themes
With regards to the story, The Old Blood understandably has limited scope, lending urgency to the narrative. However, I feel the story isn't as developed as The New Order's. In my opinion the supernatural themes in Old Blood sadly come off as uninteresting and clichéd. My enjoyment of the narrative plummeted when MachineGames introduced the plot-twist in Part 2.
The New Order was one of the more enjoyable FPS's I've played in recent years, and The Old Blood is thankfully more of the same.
The gameplay is the star of the show however. Once again MachineGames demonstrated their prowess in creating some of the best first-person-shooters available. The New Order was one of the more enjoyable FPS's I've played in recent years, and The Old Blood is thankfully more of the same. You have an impressive arsenal of weaponry to effectively dispatch your enemies. You can still dual-wield any weapon (except for the sniper-rifle and sawed-off shotgun). Mowing down hordes of Nazi's with two automatic shotguns, that feel more like portable cannons, is as satisfying as ever. You also have access to grenades, throwing knives, and a pipe as a mêlée weapon. The pipe moonlights as climbing gear, whacking open crates, and busting through walls. You can also sneak up behind an unsuspecting enemy and trigger a brutal takedown sequence.
The Old Blood has some nice nods to the original as well. The secret rooms return, containing collectible Nazi-treasure. A more enjoyable inclusion is the beds scattered through each level that triggers dream-sequences where B.J must complete a level from the Id classic. Their interactive nature makes them more rewarding to seek out. There are also several other specific tasks to perform that gives you various perks. For instance, collecting 100 helmets will give you an armor upgrade.
Polish is the Stand Out Feature
There are two stand-out features of The Old Blood's gameplay: the commander sections and the set-pieces.
The orchestral score and sound-design create an intense atmosphere. The guns in particular sound excellent, giving off a satisfying boom each time you squeeze the trigger. The atmosphere is heightened further by the art-design. The antagonists Helga Von Schabbs and Jäger look warped and twisted, giving them a menacing appearance. The grunts you encounter are also designed well. The effectively telegraph what type of foe they are, and with the exception of the heavy, don't look too similar.
There are two stand-out features of The Old Blood's gameplay: the commander sections and the set-pieces. The commander sections are more open and present you with the choice of either going in stealthily and quietly, eliminating the commanders before they can sound the alarm. Or you could choose the equally viable option of going in guns blazing dealing with the aftermath. Each strategy is rewarding in its own way. Successfully sneaking past several Nazi's and putting a bullet between a Nazi commander's eyes with your silenced pistol is satisfying. I recommend going for the stealth-option in these sections. If you are spotted, the alarms will go off and Nazis will converge on your position from every direction. The well-crafted set-pieces (the cable car and bridge sections comes to mind) are well planned out, and push your skills to the limit. They can last for several minutes, where wave after wave of Nazi's rush you.
It is easy to recommend Wolfenstein: the Old Blood
In this last section there will be some story spoilers, I recommend skipping to the conclusion to avoid them.
The part of the game I disliked the most is the story. In Part 2 you come face to face with Helga Von Schabbs, and MachineGames unsuccessfully attempts to recreate the train-scene in The New Order. After the scene has played out, most of the enemies are turned into zombies. I can appreciate zombies popularity, however I feel they are out-of-place here and feel shoe-horned in.
What's even more troubling is that the combat suffers from their inclusion. It just isn't as rewarding shooting an enemy with no survival instinct when you've spent the previous hours engaged in fire-fights against capable enemies. Furthermore, the game introduces NPCs who inevitably turn into zombies as well, leaving you to put them down. However, the game doesn't characterize these NPCs enough for their deaths to elicit any emotional reaction other than indifference.
It is easy to recommend Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. The campaign will net you around six hours of gameplay. And at a price-point of $13, it is asking a small investment both of your wallet and of your time. Positioning the game as a prequel also makes it a good point of entry into the newer Wolfenstein games, without spoiling The New Order.
I reviewed a purchased, personal copy of the Old Blood for the purposes of this review.
What do you think of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood? Let me know in the comments below.