Wolfenstein: The Old Blood Review

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood capitalizes on the winning formula of its predecessor and also tries some new things to freshen up the gameplay. Whilst these things don’t always pay off, it’s always a treat to watch things unfold as you plow your way through an alternate-history Nazi Germany.

The Old Blood is as a prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order and follows B.J Blazkowicz as he infiltrates Castle Wolfenstein. The game is split in two very distinct parts (it was originally planned as two-part DLC) and while the first feels like more of an extension of the previous game where players have an option to approach areas slow and steady, utilize stealth and approach each level in a methodical way. Or, you could just dual wield your machine guns and mow through stacks of enemies, the choice is entirely yours. The second part, which takes place after you have escaped Castle Wolfenstein, feels like a complete departure from the first half of the game. The sudden introduction of Nazi Zombies to the mix takes away the player’s choice with how they approach each area. The game becomes a generic feeling run-and-gun experience through increasingly smaller passages as it directs you to a rather satisfying end boss experience.

The levelling system persists from The New Order and is slightly stunted to recognize the shorter length of the game. The system rewards you for playing in different ways – kills with certain types of weapons or stealth kills are the most common – and it feels like you’re earning the rewards they offer. This structure allows you to see a lot of play you may not have seen previously, challenging you to change the usual First Person shooter monotony to include something fun and memorable.

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The Old Blood looks fantastic. Castle Wolfenstein is wonderfully presented, at first, from a cable car in all its glory and then the internal locations offer up a number of different areas to see from a prison to catacombs and a library. You never bore of the same old walls and corridors because the game moves at such a pace it keeps things fresh and constantly on the move. The setting completely changes in the second half and you spend far too much time playing through the same old village scene that looks identical to the last thirty minutes you’ve just played through.

The Old Blood suffers when trying to piece together the narrative direction. Where the first game spent a lot of time with exposition and set up to truly allow you to invest in the characters you aren’t given the same opportunity here, so when one of the main characters is killed you don’t have that same feelings of guilt or remorse. The villain in the first half is an excellent uber-Nazi who terrorizes you through your time in Castle Wolfenstein, but impact is lost in the final battle with him as you are given no indication that the large armour clad enemy you are fighting is actually him. I only come to realise who I had just defeated with a single line of dialogue spoken right at the end of the fight. A little time spent on building this battle up and perhaps a small cut scene as an introduction would have gone a long way to selling this fight and what it actually meant to Blazkowicz. The Old Blood feels like it’s been built as an excuse to allow you to slaughter another army of Nazis rather than an addition to the overall narrative of the Wolfenstein story.

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Judging Wolfenstein: The Old Blood as a single product is difficult; on one hand you have a first half that plays and feels exactly like its predecessor which is fantastic and on the other you have a second half that takes some unnecessary risks with the well-worn zombie concept which removes the key open ended structure that is so enjoyable. The game suffers from being a standalone product compressed into a singular existence rather than two separate DLC packs that could be judged on their own merits. The lack of a real story may result in a loss of motivation to keep playing.

Ultimately, the game still feels fantastic to play and the change at the midpoint does freshen things up, even if I quickly tired of simply mowing down zombies. You’ll spend a good 8 hours getting through everything and is a must buy for anyone who enjoyed The New Order or for someone looking for a first person shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Pro’s

  • Extremely fun to play
  • Looks fantastic and constantly changing
  • Player choice in first half challenges your play style

Cons

  • Lack of a good, solid story
  • Zombies are overused in everything and no different here
  • Second half feels a lot more of a generic shooter

Score: 8/10

 

Wolfenstein: The New Order PS4 Review

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Publisher: Bethesda Studio

Developer: Machine Game

Platform Reviewed: PS4

Release date: 23/05/2014

May 5th 1992 saw the release of  Wolfenstein 3D and whilst Right Said Fred were sitting top of the charts with ‘Deeply Dippy’, id Software were treating gamers to one of the greatest and most important video games ever created. For the fans of first person shooters such as Call of Duty, Battlefield or Medal of Honour, none of these games would be here today if it wasn’t for Wolfesnstein. This was the first game where your view of the world was from your characters perspective, Doom and Quake are often given credit for beginning the trend but, it was Wolfenstein that started it all. This was the birth of the first person shooter, this was genesis.

Fast forward to present day and we have the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. A game that promises to stay faithful to the original in form of gameplay whilst presenting with today’s more sophisticated form of storytelling. Boasting veterans from Starbreeze Studios, developers of The Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness, Machine Games certainly have the pedigree but, have they been able to pull it off?

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It is July 1946, we join our returning hero, William B.J. Blazkowicz, as he takes part in a titanic raid against a Nazi fortress in a last ditch attempt to put an end to General Wilhelm ‘Deathshead’ Strasse  and his merciless human experimentations. Sadly the mission is a failure and our hero suffers a severe head injury. Residing in a Polish asylum for 14 years, Blazkowicz awakes from his vegetated state just as the Nazi’s try to execute him and close down the asylum. It’s here that he is almost overcome when he learns the harrowing truth that the US has long since surrendered, the Nazi’s won the war and have continued with their reign of terror.

To elude any further with regards to the narrative would be tantamount to stealing. This really is a game that you have to experience for yourself. This is one of the most astounding examples of storytelling to grace this genre, it can hold its own with likes of Bioshock, true praise indeed.

An excellent plot is one thing, but it would be sadly wasted if the gameplay was a failure, this is a videogame after all. Thankfully, it’s almost evolved as much as the story telling has. Most areas can be approached in numerous ways. You can run and gun and lay waste to everything in your path or you can approach it a little more strategically, using stealth and cunning, something which is definitely recommended on higher difficulty levels as this world can be brutal and unforgiving.

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The presence of Nazi commanders in certain areas only further increases the need to use a stealthier approach. Kill these silently and they are unable to raise the alarm which, once sounded, will increase the amount of enemies attacking you, this will be relentless until the commanders have met their end. Killing them quietly you will also gain access to their knowledge of collectables within the vicinity. The souvenirs vary in usefulness, enigma codes can be used to unlock more game modes, music continues the wonderfully dark ‘what if ‘theme, recordings shed light on the past. Collecting all the items will require at least two play-throughs. At one point, early in the game, a decision must be made with regards to saving one of your comrades. This ruthless choice effects abilities you will have for the rest of the game which, in turn, will open different pathways through each level.

Character design is excellent, some of the scarred and tortured flesh on view is horrifying. At times you’ll want to avert your gaze as some of the scenes are brutal and gory in equal measure. Mechanical, oversized enemies move with purpose and a real sense of menace. Weapons feel powerful and fire with authority. The ability to dual wield most of the guns make you feel unstoppable. Couple this with some of the awesome set pieces and at times you will be left breathless. The excellent visuals have been accompanied with some wonderfully disturbing sound effects which when it it’s all fused together provide a very bleak and terrifying world.

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The feeling of ‘what if’ haunts you throughout the whole campaign and yes, whilst in can be quite preposterous at times, there are enough instances that may will make you shudder and question your own morality. Enemy characters have been so well implemented that you will genuinely wish they meet a painful and unsavoury end. It is very rare to come across such mature themes, perhaps because it is based upon a time of such human atrocity however loosely but, for me, the hatred and disgust is real.   

Combing the truly excellent story with the loving nostalgic nod to the titles heritage is a master-stroke. It may be intended for the slightly more mature gamer, the storyline is often brutal and some of the more horrific scenes are certain to leave a lasting impression. At times the game may feel little old fashioned and it may, on occasion, miss the mark in terms of ambition but, overall Wolfenstein A New Order comes highly recommended.

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