Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
Some time ago I had the delight of indulging in Wolfenstein: The New Order, which was for me both an unexpectedly brilliant revival of the Wolfestein franchise, and all round top class first person shooter by its own merits. While the title earned itself more than one playthrough, my insatiable desire to kill more Nazis (in space or otherwise) left me wanting more. I hoped for DLC, and Machine Games delivered, with Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. Old Blood…New Order…get it. Hur hur hurrr.
The Old Blood adopts a similar release and build style to the likes of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, in that it’s an experience built on the formula of its predecessor while providing enough content to warrant a stand alone release yet not enough to constitute as a full sequel or what have you. None of this really matters though. Point is you dont have to pay much for a ton of high quality content. Bang for your buck has never been more apt.
As a prequel to The New Order you might be expecting heavy referencing and canonical placing in the Machine Games Wolfenverse, but that’s not entirely true. While it doesn’t shy away from acknowledging it’s placement in the timeline, leading into the events of The New Order quite elegantly, the premise generally sticks to its own little arc of Blazkowicz yet again mass murdering Nazis. This time, as a homage to the series’ popularised roots, murdering takes place through 1940’s castles, prisons, and industry with a heavy handing of that famous Nazi occult. Black Magic and Ancient Secrets go together with SS Stormtroopers like cheese and wine.
The tongue-in-cheek yet impressively humane writing and characterisation returns in spades. The Old Blood is noticeably less cutscene heavy, providing longer stretches of playable content before load screen hiding scripted sequences begin, but nothing is lost in defining its premise, characters, and the little things that move them. The New Order impressively balanced pulpy ultra violent nonsense with raw human tragedy and despite dealing with the occult, and BJ just as grizzled meathead as before, The Old Blood keeps the same quality narrative standard. Really, Machine Games should be commended for writing and scripting characters that sound, look, and feel so much while speaking so little. There’s a realness to the madness, and a number of BJ’s internal monologues manage to pull at the heartstrings despite the mania going on around you.
The New Order‘s game design translates effectively into The Old Blood, the formula remaining largely unchanged, following a similar design template to titles like Half-Life where you’re lead through mostly linear environments via expertly paced encounters and gorgeous visual stimuli. If anything, The Old Blood‘s weakest moment is the opening chapter, post prologue, which has you sneaking out of a prison. It’s a little too long, light on heavy weaponry, and surprisingly flat in pacing given how well this new series of Wolf usually delivers on punchy, satisfying gunplay.
Thankfully the slow beginnings are quickly made up for with a slew of satisfying killing through a surprisingly diverse range of environments. The Old Blood is lengthy, probably moreso than you’ll anticipate, and like The New Order does its best to avoid dwelling on single locations for too long. It’s a proper adventure; you’ll go many places, see many things, and kill many more. And it always feels good.
I did raise a little eyebrow at what seemed to me to be more transparent integration of “monster closet” style encounters where enemies pour into arena-like zones, your progression dependant on cleaning them out. These encounters are replicated borderline identically in The Old Blood‘s arcade arena-like score mode, so it’s understandable that such content is integrated into the main campaign. I mean, it’s not bad, as the combat works so well as is, but I feel The New Order did a better job of hiding such encounter styles. The final boss raised my other eyebrow, as I’m not overly pleased with how it was implemented, but I suspect this will be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing.
There’s new weapons, of course, which I have no interest in spoiling. Same goes for the new enemy types. I feel these inclusions are a given (and if they’re not, that speaks volumes about the current DLC climate), and the specifics are best left for the player to discover on their own. Much like the location variety, plot developments, and other little surprises The Old Blood throws at you.
Where The Old Blood succeeds is in providing a comprehensive stand alone experience set within The New Order Wolfenverse that spares no expense at keeping the same standard of quality, content, and vision that made the latter game so impressive and memorable. While yes it’s technically a smaller adventure than its predecessor, Machine Games has bestowed their love and care in equal measure.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is proper good value for money, a satisfying continuation of Machine Games’ successful design from The New Order, and has Tex Perkins teaming up with Mick Gordon for yet another fantastic soundtrack. Seriously, how many games can you say have Tex Perkins?