It’s in with the old and out with the new with Wolfenstein: The Old Blood; a standalone prequel DLC to 2014’s great Wolfenstein: The New Order. Gruff hero BJ Blazkowicz is back at Castle Wolfenstein, this time prior to the Nazis winning WWII, and he fully intends to slaughter as many Nazi scum as he can. Running at about six hours long, The Old Blood takes almost everything that was great about The New Order and condenses it down to an enjoyably pulpy game.
The Old Blood opens with Blazkowicz going undercover to infiltrate the Nazis occupying Castle Wolfenstein. Of course, his cover is quickly blown and it’s not long before Blazkowicz is doing what Blazkowicz does best – shooting things. Unlike The New Order, The Old Blood doesn’t really focus all that much on its story, instead opting to allow the player to experience what little amount of story there is via letters and memos carelessly left around the place.
Where The New Order had some truly great character-building cut scenes, The Old Blood is primarily concerned with being an extension of the strong foundation that was built in the reboot. As expected, the guns are simply a joy to shoot. Almost straight away you’re given a full arsenal of weapons instead of having to unlock them at certain plot points or have them available in context sensitive areas.
Fortunately, unlike some prequel games, the additional weapons on offer here aren’t more powerful than what is in the game that follows. In fact, the only additional weapon available is a sturdy pipe that breaks in two. This is useful for clobbering enemies over the head as you creep up on them, brutally slaughtering sleeping dogs, or climbing up certain walls. It’s a nice addition that feels useful in this game, but also doesn’t feel like something that should have been in The New Order.
The sublime gore raises its head again, with weapons showing their true impact. Enemy’s legs will get blown off, heads explode, ribcages torn open, and guts spilled. The close combat kills are as gruesome as you’d expect, especially with the addition of the pipe as a weapon. Sneak up on a loitering guard and you’ll smack a pipe into their leg, followed by another swift blow to the head. The gore is impactful, but not excessive.
One of the strong points about The New Order was the fact that it gave the player the option to take a silent route to quietly take out enemies, or to run in guns a-blazing and blow away enemies before they even know you’re there. The Old Blood sometimes provides opportunities to stealthily take enemies down one by one, but for the most part it’s a simple corridor shooter with linear paths to take. If this game were another five or six hours longer, the monotony of entering a room and taking on a horde of enemies only to have to repeat it again when you hit the next room would become quite boring.
As it is, The Old Blood doesn’t linger on areas for too long. You’re always quickly progressing forward into a new environment, even if the layout is much of the same as what you’ve already been through. The usual first-person shooter tropes appear here as well – there’s a turret section, there’s a sniper section, there’s the walk into a room and see lots of ammo and health and know you’re in trouble section. It’s nothing exceptionally new, but the great mechanics carried over from The New Order means it’s still a joy to play through.
Returning from The New Order is one of the more enjoyable Easter Eggs. Hidden in each level is a bed that can be slept in, which allows for accessing the Nightmare world – a set of levels designed to look like the maps from Wolfenstein 3D. As Blazkowicz falls asleep, he transforms into the 64-bit Blazkowicz and blasts down flat sprites. It’s a great element of the reboot that has been fortunately expanded on here, and makes sleuthing around the levels to find these beds very rewarding.
Alongside these beds that open into the Nightmare levels, there are a slew of collectibles to be found as well. Hidden around each level are a bunch of gold bricks and letters. The gold bricks are simple collectibles and add nothing to the plot whatsoever; however, the letters tell of the toll that the war is taking on the citizens of Germany. The letters also build up the characters of the villains a lot more than the short cut scenes do.
As with The New Order, there is the ability to unlock certain boosts for Blazkowicz. These range from extended health and armour to the ability to carry the heavy mounted machine gun. Gaining these boosts helps change up the gameplay enough to make it just that little bit more interesting and challenging.
Speaking of challenging, the appearance of challenge rooms is a welcome addition. These take place in segments of levels from the game and require you to blast down enemies chasing a high score, all whilst battling a ticking clock. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a welcome addition that adds a bit more longevity to the game.
The Old Blood could easily be seen as a pure remake of the early Wolfenstein games, except for the fact that unfortunately you don’t get to battle Mech-Hitler. The final boss here is a slight letdown compared to other bosses in previous Wolfenstein games. After all the enjoyable moments that you go through to get to the boss, it’s sad to see that he’s quite an easy target to take down. It’s not game breaking, just disappointing.
One other point I would like to make is that I’m impressed to see great enjoyable short DLC like this becoming the norm. With Far Cry: Blood Dragon, Infamous: First Light, and The Last of Us: Left Behind, the growing trend of short five-hour games being released as standalone DLC is great to see. It gives fans of those games just enough of what they enjoyed about the main game to feel satisfied, and newcomers can see what all the fuss is about.
The Old Blood is a competent and fun shooter that takes the great mechanics built from The New Order and strips them back to the core of what Wolfenstein really is – one American soldier tackling a castle full of Nazis. If you came from The New Order to The Old Blood, then you may be a little disappointed with the weak story and the bland characters, but at least you’ll still be able to enjoy the same great shooting mechanics. If you haven’t played The New Order, then I strongly recommend starting off here, because it is a great lead-in to that game.