Machine Games’ return isn’t as extensive as The New Order but still offers a bloody good time.
In this day and age of value, content and what should and shouldn’t constitute “DLC”, playing Machine Games’ Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is an intriguing experience. Coming out a year after The New Order, The Old Blood doesn’t make any bones about being an expansion. Rather than following up on the status of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, The Old Blood lays the groundwork for much of what occurs before the Allies’ ill-fated attack on General Deathshead.
It doesn’t fill in all the plot holes – such as exactly how the Nazis developed their super soldiers – but it does offer a fun, exhilarating and old-school shooting experience.
"The action in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is so visceral and yet so satisfying. Stabbing an enemy through the neck with a rusty pipe has a different feeling from popping out their leg with a close quarter's shotgun blast. Thankfully, Machine Games added a few new weapons to further up the gore factor, including the Kampfpistol."
It’s 1946 and the Nazis are doing their thing. If that included fostering puppies and spreading the message of love and peace, it would be an entirely different matter. Instead, the Third Reich is intent on ruling the world and crushing those who oppose them, like the Allied Forces. OSA agent William Blazkowicz is tasked with infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein and recovering a folder that will lead to the location of General Deathshead, the antagonist of The New Order. Before you can find Deathshead, you’ll need to contend with maniacal archaeologist Helga Von Schabbs and her lieutenant Rudi Jäger.
The Old Blood is divided into two parts with four chapters a piece. Part one sees B.J. and Richard Wesley (aka Agent One) infiltrating the iconic castle as S.S. officers only to be exposed and the latter captured. From here, it’s up to B.J. to use any and every tool at his disposal to rescue Wesley, put down Jäger, find the folder and escape Castle Wolfenstein with his sanity intact. Though The Old Blood lacks much of the variety and scale that defined The New Order, the first part makes up for it with varying degrees of action and stealth.
B.J. will be tasked with outwitting super soldiers from the minute he escapes his cell and you’ll be traveling on boats, sneaking through corridors, manning turrents and eventually escaping to Paderborn village via a cable car. Personally, I found many more stand-out moments in The New Order and the set-pieces here just didn’t feel all memorable. They were still a blast to play through and if you’re used to motion trackers, radars and QTEs, then Wolfenstein: The Old Blood will kick you in the teeth until you man up, dual wield shotguns and massacre your enemies up close.
Skilled shooting and stealth are equally rewarded however. Unlike many games, The Old Blood’s perks don’t rely on “leveling up” per say. Instead, you complete various challenges to unlock perks. For instance, overcharge your health past 150 and you’ll increase your overall health regeneration. Kill enemies with the last bullet in an assault rifle magazine and you’ll unlock a perk to reload your weapon faster by mashing X. It’s an intriguing approach and one that encourages you to experiment with your kills.
"The throwing knife mechanics take some getting used to and some stealth kills came across as clunky. The absence of a radar means you'll be doing a fair amount of guess-timation as to the location of your enemies and it adds an unnecessary layer of difficulty."
The action in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is so visceral and yet so satisfying. Stabbing an enemy through the neck with a rusty pipe has a different feeling from popping out their leg with a close quarter’s shotgun blast. Thankfully, Machine Games added a few new weapons to further up the gore factor, including the Kampfpistol. This flare gun-like single shot side-arm fires a grenade that has a chance to stick on, well, necrotic foes and provides plenty of impetus for casual demolition. While I miss the laser cutter of The New Order, the new rusty pipe is more appreciated in pacing terms. Rather than messing about with cutting holes through rusty grates, you’ll find yourself dislodging craniums and scaling walls with the pipe.
Sadly, the game isn’t without its issues, especially when it comes to stealth. The throwing knife mechanics take some getting used to and some stealth kills came across as clunky. The absence of a radar means you’ll be doing a fair amount of guess-timation as to the location of your enemies and it adds an unnecessary layer of difficulty. At times, especially when it comes to killing Commanders (who can radio for back-up until you terminate their signals), you’ll need to get the drop on enemies in order to stealthily dispatch them. And if you kill them from the front, you better be quick or you’ll be swarmed with foes.
Yes, it’s old-school and not meant to be forgiving. However, when all-out assault is an easier and more appealing option in all but one instance, it’s not very encouraging to pursue other play styles.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood also suffers from some odd glitches and story pacing issues. The former manifests in enemies’ guns hanging in the air upon killing them and some odd AI snafus (it’s amazing how a Commander can radio for help in a split second upon spotting you while a super soldier will see you meander five feet across and not care). These aren’t extremely prevalent but they are noticeable enough. As for pacing, players will easily have the most fun with part one.
Part two feels far more linear and repetitive – and this is keeping in mind that you can pilot a loader, battle Nazi zombies, make dire choices and take part in an interesting boss battle. The second part just feels like an excuse to allow players to blow away zombies with a double barreled shotgun more than anything else. I did enjoy firefights that would break out into a mess of Nazi soldiers and zombies with the living and undead collide together when they’re not trying to kill B.J.
"Even if you go in expecting set-pieces on the scale of The New Order, you won't be disappointed by what The Old Blood ultimately ends up delivering. Here's hoping for a fully fleshed out sequel in the coming years."
Amidst all these criticisms, it is important to note that Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has its own fully fleshed out story with cut scenes, notes, journal entries and much more adding levity to the events of The New Order. Aside from Blazkowicz, the characters are fairly average in their depth, coming across as likable enough to warrant rescue but unmemorable enough to really mourn their deaths. On the other hand, villains like Rudi Jäger are surprisingly competent in their role. He won’t be winning an Academy Award for his performance but it feels oh so satisfying to finally put Jäger out of his misery.
There isn’t much to say about the game’s visuals, SFX or music either. The voice acting, particularly of Blazkowicz, is still on-point while the rest of the cast does a decent job. Despite a current gen only release, The Old Blood’s visuals don’t look different from The New Order at all. On Xbox One, The Old Blood runs at 60 FPS and you’ll be hard-pressed to notice any drops even as the waters run red with Nazi blood.
Challenge maps unlock as you play through the campaign, adding a decent bit of replay value. Otherwise, the appeal of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood lies in replaying the campaign at higher difficulties, attempting different strategies for sections, earning different perks and collecting gold bars scattered through the game. You’re not going to rack up 800 hours playing it. In fact, the main campaign can be cleared in roughly 6 hours or so on “Bring ‘Em On” difficulty.
However, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood represents a nicely compact, heavily violent and fairly good looking first person shooter that you can revisit for a quick and dirty run-through. Even if you go in expecting set-pieces on the scale of The New Order, you won’t be disappointed by what The Old Blood ultimately ends up delivering. Here’s hoping for a fully fleshed out sequel in the coming years – Blazkowicz’s violent world warrants a more extensive revisit.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Bloody, intense action. Good looking environments and characters along with solid frame rate. Strong first part with enough variety. Challenge maps and additional difficulties add to replay value. Acceptable characters and story-telling on a whole.
Campaign lasts for about 6 hours on average. Odd glitches and AI issues at places. Many approaches pale in comparison to straight up shooting. Doesn't look too different from The New Order. Second part could have been better.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is Tarantino-esque in its ambitions. It's messy, loud, kitschy and outright violent but a joy to experience despite the rough edges. Sure, it's not a sequel by any stretch but for a $19.99 expansion, it's length feels just right.