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