I wasn’t expecting much from a new Wolfenstein game in the year 2014, but last year’s The New Order surprised me. Well written, great action and it looked gorgeous. It was great. Now we have a standalone DLC/Expansion thing called The Old Blood. I was excited for more Wolfenstein. And that might be the biggest problem Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has: Expectations of greatness. Expectations which The Old Blood doesn’t quite reach.
Set during WW2, before the events of The New Order, The opening moments of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood are tense. You are dressed as a Nazi officer and you and a partner are infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein. Your mission: Grab a file containing important Nazi information. Information that could help turn the war around.
Like the previous games, you are B.J. Blazkowicz a soldier who isn’t the best at blending in. I liked the little touch of having B.J. practice German as you walk up to the first checkpoint. He seems nervous and the tension builds as you get deeper into the castle. Eventually, as all sneaking missions in video games go, your cover is blown and shooting ensues. Soon you are captured and must escape Castle Wolfenstein.
After that exciting and action packed opening, you are plopped into some tight corridors and have to sneak around large enemies who can kill you in seconds. It’s a frustrating and boring way to start the game and the whole sequence goes on too long. Especially since you do the same thing. Find a switch, hold it down. This stuns a nearby enemy and you click R3 and take them down. Do this over and over.
Eventually you get more weapons and exploring Castle Wolfenstein is a treat. I got some serious Return to Castle Wolfenstein vibes while running around the large castle. Which is good thing.
Sadly, the combat in the castle and throughout most the game feels too closed off and arena like. Most combat scenarios have you entering an area which has a few small rooms or a hallway on the side and you stay on the outside and shoot everything that is inside, or stay inside the middle of the area and shoot the outside. I didn’t feel like the combat had the same flow or movement that The New Order had. In that game I felt like I was running around, sliding under things and moving through the world while I fought Nazis. In The Old Blood I felt more contained and it led to me eventually finding the combat to get a bit stale.
I was surprised to see how much new content is in The Old Blood. New weapons, totally new enemies, new locations and characters. It didn’t feel like it was reusing much from the previous game, which was nice.
Another nice thing about The Old Blood: The visuals. This is a gorgeous looking game. And the levels you explore are varied from mountain side castles, to graveyards, villages and more. The Old Blood really looks great the whole time and playing on a PS4 I had almost no framerate or visual issues with the game. In fact, I didn’t have any bugs to speak of while playing The Old Blood which like the visuals and new content, was also nice.
The Old Blood might have some less than great combat arenas, but it at least changes things up enough that I never felt bored. The game has a fast pace, once you get past the opening stealth mission. One minute you're shooting Nazis in a castle, then you’re riding a aerial tram car, then you’re sneaking into a Nazi bar and eventually you end up fighting Nazi zombies. And one point in the game you get control of a large Nazi mech and crush soldiers and zombies with it. I really enjoyed how diverse the things you do in this game are. I never felt like I was just shooting stuff in rooms during the game’s 4-6 hour campaign.
Like The New Order, The Old Blood is a game focused on a single player experience. There is no online co-op, multiplayer or mobile companion apps. The Old Blood feels like a focused and complete game, unlike many AAA games these days which can feel bloated or filled with filler.
One of the new weapons you get is a broken pipe. Which seems like a strange weapon, but pretty quickly it proves to be a powerful weapon and a useful tool. B.J. uses it to open doors, pry open hatches, kill Nazis, grab out of reach ladders, climb walls and even uses it to zipline. That is one versatile piece of plumbing.
But there is a little extra content in The Old Blood. As you play the game you unlock challenge levels. These are basically sections of certain areas in the campaign that the game fills with enemies. You kill them and the faster and more accurate you are, the more points you get. It’s simple and feels like a way to make the game feel bigger than it is. These aren’t bad and are totally optional, just don’t expect much from them. On the plus side they do have a sweet “Get Psyched” reference when you start a challenge map.
(You can see this and some gameplay from a challenge map in the video I posted above or click here. Convenient!)
In fact The Old Blood has a ton of references. Nuka Cola from Fallout, a Doom plushie and even the helmet from Skyrim. It got to a point where I was expecting every Bethesda game to get a reference. Sadly, there was no WET Easter Egg. Well at least I didn’t see any. But I did enjoy the humor and fan service the game dished out. It never felt like it went overboard with it. Like the fact that after killing a boss enemy he actually said “Mein Laben!”
The biggest disappointment I had with The Old Blood was the story. The entire thing is basically a Macguffin hunt. Get this file so we can stop the bad people. While some attempts are made to make B.J. seem more human, it didn’t feel as fleshed out or well done as it did in The New Order. You also don’t meet a lot of characters and a lot of the characters you do meet don’t stick around for long. The main enemy of the game, Helga, seems like a really interesting character. A tough Nazi woman with a crippled leg. She explains how she survived Polio. But you barely spend any time with her or see her do anything. So when the final confrontation happens I barely cared about her or her plan.
I did like the ending of The Old Blood as it setups the start of The New Order, but if you haven’t played The New Order the ending might just seem like a big nothing. Also, B.J. fights zombies, zombie dogs and a crazy boss monster thing. Yet none of this is ever brought up or even mentioned in The New Order which seems sort of crazy.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a good game that has the unenviable task of being a follow up to The New Order. And for the most part it succeeds. But a lack of story, combat scenarios that felt too closed off and a terrible opening stealth level make it hard to love. I liked The Old Blood. But I loved The New Order and sadly The Old Blood just isn’t as good.