Originally published on Trevor Trove on October 14, 2016
TL; DR(eview) – What starts off as a standard prequel story to Wolfenstein: The New Order takes a bit of a mid-game serve that felt a little half-baked. As a result, the games ends up feeling like two distinct game ideas stitched together. Not necessarily bad, but probably not for everybody.
Taking place before the events of The New Order, this standalone DLC serves as yet another entry point to the Wolfenstein series. Aside from a few references, this truly is a standalone experience meaning there’s no required reading in form of The New Order or any of the other previous titles to jump into this adventure.
After the somewhat notable absence of Castle Wolfenstein in the main game, The Old Blood kicks right off with a pre-The New Order B.J. Blazkowicz and his brother-in-arms Richard Wesley going undercover at the mammoth Castle Wolfenstein. You are in search of a folder with crucial intelligence on General Deathshead (probably this game’s most overt tie-in to The New Order). Uber-American Blazkowicz, while the quintessential Aryan dreamboat Hitler would have idolized, does not last undercover long. He and Wesley are quickly captured and thrown into isolated cells.
Blazkowicz is able to break apart a pipe from the wall and escape. The next few hours are spent trying to save his friend before escaping the castle altogether to the nearby village. Once in the village, Blazkowicz connects with another undercover operative – Agent One/Kessler, another subtle reference to previous Agent One’s from games past – and his friend Annette, who has lost her family to the Nazi’s. Still in pursuit of the intel he came for, Blazkowicz and company escape to another part of the city to follow the woman who has it: Helga Von Schabbs.
Warning: Light spoilers ahead for the second half of the game. Skip the next paragraph if you haven’t played the game and want to go in blind. I will cover my thoughts on this element of the story confined to the next two paragraphs and move on to the Gameplay afterwards.
Once again, Blazkowicz tries going undercover to steal the folder, this time as a waiter, and once again, he is identified. Just as he’s about to be killed, however, the city experiences an earthquake and the tavern starts to collapse. His targets leave him to die and escape. The fissure unearths some hidden catalyst through, as many of the Nazi’s you encounter as you escape the tavern seem to be undead, with a supernatural fire emanating from their heads and bodies. So from here on the game basically becomes Wolfenstein Zombies in the last couple levels of the game as Blazkowicz chases after Von Schabbs.
Despite having seen the game art listed above, I didn’t expect the game to take such a sharp turn. And then it doesn’t really do anything with that swerve. Characters seem way too accepting of the undead suddenly walking around with their heads on fire or the creepy green light peeking up through cracks in the earth. From a gameplay perspective, it mostly just translates into having to kill soldiers a second time. The fact that this change comes so late in the game adds to the jarring disconnect. It would be like if Undead Redemption had been a fairly straightforward Red Dead Redemption sequel for the first few hours and THEN dove headfirst into Wild West Zombies. It certainly doesn’t ruin the experience but if comes across feeling like they had a Escape from Castle Wolfenstein idea and a Wolfenstein Zombies (Old Blood) idea and just tried to loosely tie them together instead of releasing two smaller experiences. It also ends up a little weird that Blazkowicz faces zombie Nazis here but never really addresses the idea of them in The New Order.
If you played through Wolfenstein: The New Blood, the gameplay is largely the same. There is a slightly altered arsenal of weapons but the biggest change comes in the form of the aforementioned pipe. The pipe can exist as two separate pieces or one and effectively doubles as a knife in the sense that it winds up useful for stealth and melees kills against most enemies. The other major uses of the pipe come as in-game traversal. Not only is the pipe an effective tool for destroying loosely built walls, but the two halves of the pipe also serve as effective pitons and allow Blazkowicz to climb rocky surfaces.
The weapons in The Old Blood (existing 14 years prior to the New Order) aren’t as powerful as those found in the regular title and it occasionally shows. There were a couple moments where it took nearly all of my available ammo to defeat an enemy, only for a quicker more powerful enemy to arrive on the scene. Instances like this led to a lot of deaths before I was able to discover the requisite resupplies on the map and unload hell upon the new threat. As an abbreviated experience, the weapon upgrades that featured into The New Order are absent here.
The New Order had a few moments where the game broke away from the traditional first-person shooter, perhaps most notably an instance where Blazkowicz took control of a mech and wreaked havoc through a labor camp. In The Old Blood, there is a similar sequence. But the mech suit in this came is strictly melee based (whereas the entrant from The New Order had a seemingly endless minigun). As with the previous title, this temporary change of pace comes at an ideal moment in the overarcing story of the game and gives the player a temporary reprieve from a strictly first-person shooter experience.
The Old Blood is built on the engine of the original Wolfenstein: The New Order so the graphical fidelity and performance is fairly on par with both titles. As this title exists in a world before the Nazis take over everything, Blazkowicz has noticeably (and detrimentally) more hubris. His world hasn’t crumbled yet. The overall experience here reflects that as Blazkowicz makes bolder moves while infiltrating and escaping from his Nazi aggressors.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood isn’t as deep or engaging an experience as the full game Wolfenstein: The New Order was, but it still manages to produce worthy and enjoyable gameplay, along with some incredible combat sequences.