So Bethesda have done it again. Another thrilling adventure through the eyes of William J. Blazkowicz. No matter how many WWII shooters I’ve played I never get sick of blowing up Nazi’s and Wolfenstein is no exception. Despite Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) still being fresh on our minds, Bethesda decided to release its prequel just a few months later. A bold move; but they definitely managed to pull it off.
Set before the events which occur in The New Order, the player is sent on a mission with British secret agents to infiltrate a German Castle named Wolfenstein. The mission, to find Helga von Schabbs. She holds a document folder which contains the precise location of Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse’s compound. You know, that nutter we met in the last game. Throughout the story the player will have to use a combination of stealth and brute force to surpass the supreme technology that the Nazi’s have developed. The game itself is split into two parts, just five short chapters each; which along with the low selling price, already made it feel like a mini-game to me. Perhaps this would’ve been better off if it were released as DLC instead.
This is a game that hardcore Wolfenstein fans will certainly appreciate. Much like The New Order “nightmare” levels are hidden throughout the areas that allow the player to experience brief levels of Wolfenstein 3D. The pixelated game with repetitive, polyphonic soundtrack that we all remember but with a few modern twists. Despite the narrative being substantially shorter and weaker than the previous game, I would call this a breath of fresh air for fans and probably the closest thing to the original since the newer games were released. It wasn’t overcrowded by new, futuristic weapons, time travelling powers or wildly unrealistic situations (Apart from the zombies but I’ll get to that later). It reminded me very much of Wolfenstein 3D (1992) mostly due to it’s style of gameplay but also because Bethesda still acknowledged the importance of collectibles within the Wolfenstein franchise. Before the age of achievements and trophies, most gamers would complete a game purely for fun but now it seems that there is an expectation for developers to reward us for doing so; and The Old Blood, much like its predecessor, does exactly that. However, instead of rewarding players for simply completing levels, the game focuses on providing challenges for the player. The developers added an interesting twist that gives these achievements much more purpose; perks. After completing each challenge, the player will receive an achievement/trophy as well as a perk, which in turn provides an advantage for the player.
The game also successfully achieves the arcade-like feel that the older games provided us with. The player can sprint to extreme speeds, much-like in the original Wolfenstein games and there is blood; blood everywhere. Living up to the genre’s reputation, there is blood and gore left, right and centre. However, this is presented in such a way that it doesn’t feel over-done or unnecessary like Call of Duty: World at War (2008). Yes, you’re presenting a very blood thirsty time period but even something that is supposed to be an arcade shooter can present a less gory version than the COD franchise could.
Although the storyline wasn’t the strongest, there were still many enjoyable aspects featured throughout. For example, the choice of stealth or jumping in with all guns blazing gave the player an opportunity to tackle each area in whichever way they desired. Personally, I enjoyed sneaking around the maps as it produced a lot more tension; particularly during moments where the player encountered the Nazi manufactured machines. The game was tedious enough before adding huge, robotic killing machines to the equation. However, the machines (quite rightfully considering it’s a prequel) aren’t as tough or intelligent as the ones that stalk the lands of The New Order.
In true Bethesda fashion, the game also provided us with stunning visuals in every level, from man-made structures to mountainous landscapes that stretch for miles. We are constantly reminded of Bethesda’s creative capabilities through consistent examples of graphics throughout the game.
However, despite it trouncing a lot of mainstream shooters that have been released in the past decade, the game was certainly still susceptible to the pressure of contemporary, mainstream shooters. By this of course I mean the cliché that is the introduction of Nazi Zombies. When the Call of Duty franchise first introduced this to us it was pretty awesome. But as years have gone by, it has become more and more repetitive than the COD storyline’s themselves. I must admit that I was a little disappointed when The Old Blood introduced this aspect at the last minute. It seemed pretty unimportant and unnecessary to the main storyline and just relinquished itself to another commonplace of modern shooters. This is where the game became a bit ridiculous, similar to how The Worlds End (2013) introduced robot-zombies for no apparent reason. Wolfenstein introduced zombies and ancient mythological beings out of nowhere, seemingly for no reason but to fit in with the newer instalments in the franchise; ruining any resemblance to older games that it had previously earned.
On the other hand, these moments of mythological value certainly provided some thrilling arcade shooter gameplay; not to mention a real challenge. Despite this introduction shattering many resemblances to the older gaming style, it did re-introduce the boss-level experience that seasoned gamers will only remember too well. I’m not talking about taking on the main bad guy, which these days is more often than not just a rich human. I’m talking about the incredibly huge monstrosity that will crush the player unless it’s attacked in the correct places with the right weapons. Giving us that cheesy but loveable feel that consoles such as the Sega Megadrive and Nintendo 64 presented to us years ago.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood provides the player with a chilling insight into what might have happened had the allies not prevailed. For those that want a straight out action-fest, this game is just that. Put simply, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is the best dual-wielding shooter you’ll play for a while. From dual wielding SMG’s and Shockhammers to silently creeping through corridors with a silenced pistol. The game implements a different experience for each player based on their choice of offence. Of course, getting up-close and personal to initiate various, gruesome, knife executions is as equally rewarding as storming each room with a vast array of Nazi weaponry.
A great combination of arcade-style and modern first-person shooters that provides great desire to play through again and again. Hardcore fans and players new to the franchise alike will enjoy this action packed, Nazi killing machine.