Every once in a while, I get the overwhelming urge to mow down waves of Nazis and crazy Third Reich robots with a frenzy of bullets that drenches the room in blood. Luckily, the Wolfenstein series seems to exist purely to appease this lust for carnage. Wolfenstein: The New Order released last year to critical acclaim, and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood delivers more of the same. The Old Blood is a standalone expansion of the popular first person shooter franchise, consisting of two sections that divided into eight missions. All of the events of The Old Blood take place before Wolfenstein: The New Order. The first half feels almost like a remake of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and by the second act the game completely switches things up, going in a direction that seems a little out of place considering the context of The New Order. Depending on your play style and preferred level of difficulty, this title should take around 6 to 8 hours to complete.
Wolfenstein: The New Order was plagued by a slow and frustrating first half hour that really seemed to leave a terrible impression until the game picked up, and it seems MachineGames haven’t learned their lesson with The Old Blood. I’m a big fan of stealth, but forcing a thirty minute section at the beginning of the game (where stealth is by FAR the best option) is a questionable choice of pacing, especially when spraying lead is the most satisfying mechanic. The game does open up by the second chapter, so it’s not a huge issue but it is one that could have been avoided.
As in The New Order, each combat area has at least one commander that must be taken out before he raises an alarm. If you don’t want to deal with reinforcements, it’s in your best interest to stealthily plan a route to the commanders before you attract any attention. This is where The New Order and The Old Blood truly shine. Sneaking your way to each commander and letting off a pistol shot into their little Nazi heads is quite satisfying, and once they’re down you are free to unleash a devastating assault of carnage on the remaining enemies. These two mechanics flow nicely together, and keeps the shooting from getting too repetitive. The variety of enemies increases as the game moves on, but overall there are really only a small handful of enemy types, making for a pretty flat experience. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the game’s second act introduces a new variation that really changes the whole experience. The story takes a more occult themed direction, which definitely changes the pacing a bit, but also helps to differentiate between the two main sections of the game. Weapons are obviously important here, but The Old Blood mostly only offers standard fare for anyone familiar with first person shooters. Which isn’t a concern, as dual wielding long range shotguns or machine guns never gets old. It’d be nice to have some more sci-fi weaponry, but I can’t really complain since the gunplay feels excellent, and every weapon is satisfying to use.
Despite the fact that The Old Blood is a joy to play, it does suffer from pacing issues, and feels very different tonally compared to The New Order. Wolfenstein star B.J. Blazkowicz isn’t really fleshed out any more than he has been, and most cutscenes take place in first person and are horribly compressed, leaving a stark contrast when transitioning into and out of gameplay. There are a couple of bosses, and each one will frustrate you unless you enjoy bullet sponge giants who can kill you in three seconds, or infinitely spawning minions. The lower budget and shorter development time are evident, as the game feels less like a story driven campaign and more like a bunch of challenge arenas strung together by a plot. Luckily, the game offers a separate challenge mode for each section of the game, letting you play through your favorite moments repeatedly to try to perfect your methods and beat your high score.
When it comes to secrets, The Old Blood offers plenty besides typical collectables like hidden gold, notes, and concept art. Each of the games eight missions feature a hidden nightmare. These nightmares are levels of the original Wolfenstein, but with the shooting mechanics and weapons of The Old Blood. There are even more hidden collectables in these levels, but super slow character movement and giant labyrinths of endless corridors can make them more time consuming than the main missions. Frankly, they just aren’t any fun to play.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is an extremely fun game that has a number of tiny problems that can sometimes make for a frustrating experience. For that, I gave The Old Blood a Cool Guy Jones on the Game Awry Review Scale. Blowing off Nazi limbs never gets old, and creeping around through old castle halls and underground catacombs while facing countless horrors is always a welcoming and satisfying experience. It’s incredibly enjoyable, and the art style and world building are second to none. Yet for every half hour of bliss there are five minutes of frustration and anger. The Old Blood accomplishes what it sets out to do, but it does nothing more than that. It satisfies my desire to watch heads fly across the screen, and if you’re a fan of single-player shooters, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a must buy. – Matt Hazlett