Monday, December 24

Wolfenstein The Old Blood Review

The version played for review: PC (Steam)
Available on: OC, Xbox One, PS4
The price I paid: £19.99 (Steam bundle with the New Blood)
Other Notes: N/A

The Old Blood is a stand-alone expansion that acts as a prequel to the New Order’s opening mission. This means that it uses the same game engine, graphics and gameplay as the New Order but can be played without owning the original. As a  fan of the new direction the Wolfenstein series has taken I was very excited to play this. So let’s dive in and have a look.

The Old Blood reminds me a lot of the Return to Castle Wolfenstein game from 2001. Similar to that, the emphasis is taken away from all-out gunfights and instead directed towards stealth. During the early levels, you will be going up against giant powered super soldiers. These guys cannot be defeated without a really big gun or deactivating their power source. Seeing as you only have a pipe for self-defence at this point the first soldier in a room will always have to be powered down and then taken out silently. When defeated, you can grab their gun and return fire on the other enemies or continue to hide and take out the rest of them via deactivating their generators. Seeing as the game has very effectively taught you how to use stealth during combat you are now more likely to continue using it throughout the game. After this early part, the stealth becomes more optional as you build up your collection of weapons. Similar to the New Order most areas will have 1 or 2 officers that are able to call in more soldiers if you’re spotted. This means it’s always worth trying to take out at least the officers without being detected. I like this system because it teaches you to use a combination of stealth and guns instead of just running into every situation guns a'blazing. This keeps the action feeling varied and organic. Failing at stealth is not an instant game over, instead once detected you have to quickly change your approach and adapt to survive.

Then you have all of the similar story points, characters and references to events from Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Although not the same timeline it appears that the BJ from MachineGames’ universe also visited the X-Labs seeing as he calls them out by name at one point. Then you have the fact that you get captured and held at Castle Wolfenstein, break out and have to fight reanimated corpses before taking on the final boss at a Nazi Dig site. On top of this, we see a return of Helga who sports a similar appearance and even meets a similar end. Because of all of these similarities, the Old Blood feels like a tribute to Return to Castle Wolfenstein as much as it does a prequel to the New Order. As a fan of both games, I can say I enjoyed these little nods and call-outs. That’s not to say it’s as great as any of those games because honestly, it’s not.

One of the biggest problems with the Old Blood is its short length and its lack of any real downtime. I’m not normally one to complain if a game is too short or too long unless it feels like a problem. Despite only being around 4-5 hours long things started to feel stale by the end. This is simply because it’s all action right from the beginning until the very end. The final cutscene even leads into the battle from the opening of the first game. The New Order got around this by using the time between missions spent exploring the Resistance HQ. This allowed you time to relax without it feeling boring as you could talk to all the characters and help them out with simple tasks. There is no downtime at all during the Old Blood, you never get to stop and take a moment for character building and/or world building. You simply enter an area, take out as many enemies as possible including the two officers without being caught. Then move on to the next area to repeat it all. Sure at the beginning, it focuses more on the slower paced stealth and the last few stages are broken up by the introduction of Zombies. But this is not enough because all they do is introduce a new formula that is also quickly exhausted. Instead of stopping the action and allowing the pace to change it simply replaces one type of action with another. This left me feeling more tired of the gameplay by the time the credits rolled around than I did with the New Order despite this being much shorter.

So let’s talk about the zombies because I hated them in Return to Castle Wolfenstein and I’m pleased to say they are much better here. They don’t fire hard to dodge projectiles instead they try to get close to BJ for a powerful melee attack. While a headshot will take them out in one hit they are able to take a large amount of damage anywhere else. This makes them more of a threat in crowds as lining up headshots before one of them is able to dash towards you is hard. It only takes a couple of hits for them to take you out so distance is important. Although most of these monsters will not use weapons some of the undead soldiers will still use their guns. When I got killed by a zombie it was nearly always by one with a gun. Since they take lots of hits before going down you really do need to aim for the headshots on any ghouls carrying a firearm. While I still prefer killing Nazis in my Wolfenstein games these zombies are a vast improvement over their Return to Castle Wolfenstein counterparts.

The Old Blood isn’t perfect but it’s also not terrible in any way. At the time of writing this review, it costs £14.99 on Steam and I’d say that’s slightly overpriced. I did enjoy seeing more of BJ but I found myself uninterested in every other character around me. This was partly because as a prequel you already know the fate of most of them. Then you have the gameplay, which is fun. I mean I love shooting holes in Nazis as much as anyone but it grows old here in a way both the New Order and the New Colossus avoided. If you feel like the New Order has nothing more to offer and you really want more then this is for you but it offers very little outside of that. Which is a shame.

Recommendation Rating: 6 out of 10

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