Release Date: May 5, 2015Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PCDeveloper: MachineGamesPublisher: Bethesda SoftworksGenre: Shooter
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a surprise prequel from MachineGames to last year’s stellar Wolfenstein: The New Order. Aiming for a standalone experience, the game has been built from the ground up with new environments and gameplay mechanics, and for only one-third of the price!
The expansion itself is loosely divided into two separate stories, both of which take place before the events of The New Order. The narrative has players assuming the role of B.J. Blazkowicz once again, with the highlight being a mission to infiltrate the notorious Castle Wolfenstein. The story manages to retain some of the emotional impact found in The New Order despite the shorter time it has to unfold, and there are a few unexpected and admittedly oddball twists thrown in by the time the credits roll.
While The New Order moved beyond the confines of Castle Wolfenstein for a broader and more expansive scope, The Old Blood functions as a throwback of sorts to the claustrophobic and winding interiors that defined past games in the series. Of course, that isn’t to say the game never throws in the occasional refreshing vista or two, with the serene Docks level being an early highlight of The Old Blood experience. The narrow corridors also open up to expansive battlegrounds, primed for pulse-throbbing firefights.
Several of these sections are reintroduced later on in the game’s brand new Challenge Mode, a series of ten combat-oriented standoff scenarios. Players are thrown into a room and tasked with staying alive while killing a set number of Nazis as fast as they can. You score additional points for things like stringing together kill combos or landing headshots, with different medals to achieve and online leaderboards to conquer. It’s a fun, lighthearted addition to the series, and one that makes sense when placed alongside the game’s shorter campaign. However, it should be said that The Old Blood’s eight chapters are nothing to take lightly. There is still a ton of gameplay to be had here for the price, especially in considering the sprawling design of The New Order, which features one of the longest and most satisfying single-player campaigns for a shooter in recent memory.
The blistering gunplay from The New Order makes a triumphant return here, thanks in large part to the interesting weapons and dual-wielding capabilities. Combine this with non-regenerating health and you’ve got an old-school style shooter prepped and primed for a new age. Although the stealth elements this time around can feel a little bit clunky at times (a lengthy forced stealth section serves as an awkward introduction), one of the biggest strengths in both The New Order and The Old Blood is how players often seamlessly transition from one playing style to the next. The addition of the severed pipe weapon also adds a fresh perspective when it comes to traversing each stage, with B.J. using the two halves to claw his way up climbable walls.
Outside of the standard collectables you can expect to find along the way, The Old Blood also places a greater emphasis on the hidden Nightmare Levels. The New Order had a few of these Easter eggs lying in wait, but now their importance is much more fundamental and offers a thrilling break from the main campaign. Put together, these lengthy levels comprise the entire first episode of Wolfenstein 3D, and the old-school enemies and environments work in unexpected harmony with the new-age look of your weapon as you plow your way through an essential piece of Wolfenstein history.
The Old Blood is a fitting title for this latest expansion to the Wolfenstein universe, as it builds off so many elements of the series’ past while continuing to propel it forward onto new horizons. At half the length of the incredibly expansive The New Order, The Old Blood carves its own notch in the series thanks to its exciting combat and exploration, airy Challenge Mode, and plethora of entertaining Nightmare Levels.