Date Released: May 5th, 2015
Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: [Reviewed: PlayStation 4], Xbox One, PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rated: M for Mature
Wolfenstein is getting some well-earned attention as a new adventure awaits series fans and newcomers. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a prologue to B.J. Blazkowicz’s first exploits in 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, where the Nazis ultimately won the Second World War (click the link for my review of The New Order). The Old Blood is more of the same, meaning that it shares a lot of the strengths with The New Order while falling a bit short in other aspects.
The events leading up to the prologue of The New Order follows B.J. and Richard Wesley’s mission to obtain the secret documents that will help them locate General Deathshead and hopefully put an end to the war. To do this Blazkowicz travels to Castle Wolfenstein disguised as a S.S. officer in an attempt to search for the one who has this coveted information, Nazi archeologist Helga Von Schabbs. But when the plan goes awry, B.J. must escape Castle Wolfenstein and track Helga down, but what exactly is she looking for that has her all in a hurry?
If you have read my other Wolfenstein review then you’ll get a general idea how The Old blood plays; if not, it still plays exceptionally well. The gunplay will kick you into overdrive and make you feel like you can mow down everyone in your path. As with the previous title, you can carry multiple weapons and even dual wield a majority of your arsenal. New weapons join in like a bolt-action rifle with attachable scope for sniping, a sawed-off shotgun, and a lead pipe that is actually two pipe combined.
With that being said, you shouldn’t be so gung-ho about rushing into every fight. The enemy A.I. is improved this time around and you will need to seek cover as Nazis will use flanking tactics, fire behind safety, and flush you out of hiding using grenades. Though outnumbered, perks return in The Old Blood. You can complete certain requirements that grant passive abilities like extended clips for weapons, increase health and armor, or receive less damage from melee. It’s recommended to tackle these challenges early just to have the perk active for some of the harder fights.
There are plenty of times where stealth is the preferred option. Commanding Nazi officers with the authority to call in back up, patrol some areas in the game. As with the first game, taking out these commanders should take top priority and keeping to the shadows to kill them silently is the best option; if your trigger finger is just itching and ready to pull the trigger you can easily just put down every Nazi in your way, but more and more will arrive until you take out the commanders in the area. But as an alternative, you can attach a silencer on your pistol, taking out enemies from a distance while remaining behind cover and out of sight.
The first part of the game titled “Rudi Jager and the Den of Wolves” has a slower pace due to the necessity of remaining undiscovered by the Supersoldaten, large mechanized soldiers that wield heavy Gatling guns, and robotic dogs, the Kampfhunds. Part two, “The Dark Secrets of Helga Von Schabbs”, is back to back action and has that special something that all games seem to be synonymous with: zombies. Nazi zombies.
The overall game boils down to 7 hours in total, and for a standalone, downloadable first-person shooter title, that’s unheard of! There are multiple difficulties to pick, challenges that are unlocked by playing through the campaign, collectables galore, and the novelty of playing old-school levels from Wolfenstein 3D? That is a ton of content to go through. As impressive as that is, not a lot of time went into the story, or, whatever story there is to be had with a game that’s about killing Nazis a la Inglorious Basterds.
We’ve already established what B.J. is looking for, but I honestly didn’t even care about the mission or why I was causing all that destruction. No motivation is implanted in the player nor does the game really emphasize the importance of finding the documents. If you played The New Order you know full well why it’s important, but as a prologue and a starting point for players new to the series, there was nothing to make me run off and snag a copy of The New Order story-wise, and with such an interesting setting it’s a downright shame too. Even Blazkowicz’s strangely philosophical monologues from before have now become nothing more than random ramblings.
With The Old Blood only being half as long as The New Order, I can understand that Machine Games can’t put as much effort into character development and the story, but it seems to me that they doubled down on gameplay; as fun as the game is, it does suffer for it. Without giving players any rhyme or reason to progress other than finding a folder, you’re really just stomping by Nazi compounds and killing Nazi soldiers just because. And perhaps the most insulting thing is that toward the end you explore interesting tombs and things get all hellish as the Nazi zombies run amok, only for players to fight the easiest end boss. Ain’t got nothing on Deathshead and his epic endgame boss fight from The New Order, that’s for sure.
I know complaining about the lack of story in a Wolfenstein game may be a tad superfluous, but when the previous game in the series does a really good job planting a great motivation into player’s minds with downtime spent on character development, it’s hard to not expect that same level of effort to be put into The Old Blood. For what The Old Blood lacks, it makes up with superb gameplay, clean visuals, and loud and punchy audio that make each gunshot sound utterly devastating (hearing dual wielded weapons being fired as they literally tear soldiers apart is oddly satisfying). While the game is fun to play through with gunplay alone, there isn’t much after completing the campaign that will warrant another play through. In the end, I would recommend playing Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. Priced at $19.99 USD, it’s a good introduction to the series for a fair amount of content.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5