In Australia we have expressions that the rest of the world often attempt in shitty accents. The repeat offenders are usually, “G’day mate,” or the mythical, “put another shrimp’on the barbie,” yet none of these can be used in a gaming sense. However, when I was deciding how best to describe Wolfenstein’s protagonist, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, I kept coming back to one underrated Aussie slang term. Simply put, B.J. Blazkowicz is “built like a brick shithouse.” I mean only badass motherfuckers can dual-wield auto-rifles and shotguns. You wouldn’t see protagonists from FarCry or Guardians from Destiny dual-wielding even a couple of rubber chickens. Moreover, throughout the campaign Blazkowicz receives a world of pain, yet he ploughs on like the beast he is because his sole purpose for existence is killin’ Nazis (think of Brad Pitt from Inglorious Bastards when you read that), and he won’t stop until every last one of them are dead.
The Old Blood is a stand-alone expansion prequel to one of 2014’s somewhat surprising hits, Wolfenstein: The New Order. As with The New Order, The Old Blood was developed by Swedish outfit MachineGames and published by Bethesda. The game is almost as nostalgic as they come; the chance to roam the memorable halls of Castle Wolfenstein and slaughter as many ‘Nazi scum’ as possible is most gratifying. Only slight gameplay differences exist between The Old Blood and The New Order, I mean if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The game contains eight chapters and is broken down into two halves. It begins in 1946 and the Nazis are winning the Second World War. As B.J. Blazkowicz, you and your partner Big Richard Wesley (Agent One) are tasked with infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein to obtain a secret folder that identifies the location of General Deathshead’s compound. The folder is under the close protection of the castle’s commandant and Nazi archaeologist, Helga Von Schabbs. Blazkowicz and Wesley gain access by disguising themselves as S.S. Officers and quickly discover that obtaining the folder will be no easy feat. Soon after penetrating the castle walls, they’re captured by Helga’s lieutenant and the castle’s chief of punishment, Rudi Jäger. Jäger is a big imposing unit that has trained his dog to eat his victims, so he is not someone you want to end up being detained by. But ain’t no cell gonna keep Big Blazkowicz contained, and you escape by using a new tool/weapon that comes in handy throughout the campaign: A detachable steel pipe.
This begins your journey through the castle, and your chosen level of difficulty influences the way you (should) approach your assignment. I completed the game on Über (‘cause I’m a hero) and you have to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you do, you will die. You will die a lot. The best method is to use stealth attacks (silenced pistols or takedowns) whenever possible, because sometimes even B.J. can’t survive a multitude of Nazis flanking his position. The stealth takedowns are especially brutal and there’s probably nothing more satisfying in the game than sticking your pipe in the neck of an unsuspecting Nazi.
As you progress through the castle the scenarios presented are very similar to those in The New Order. Sections of the castle will be under the watchful eyes of army commanders, who you’ll have to eliminate without being seen so they are unable to call reinforcements. You will have shootouts with a lot of S.S. Soldiers, the occasional heavy enforcer with a shotgun, and due to the Nazi’s technological advancements, you will also face some mech-like robots. Eventually you will arrive in the nearby village of Paderbron which concludes the first half of the campaign.
The second half see’s Blazkowicz on the hunt for the big cat, Helga Von Schabbs and his search takes him to the town of Wulfburg. During this stage of the campaign, a deadly gas that turns corpses into zombies is released. Anyone who has done high school chemistry knows this is a sure recipe for Nazi zombies. Unfortunately this is where the game loses some of its zest and becomes slightly asinine. First of all, some of the zombies have guns which they shoot. Secondly, they are dumb and easy to execute, they only present a challenge when they use their massively overpowered swipe. If a zombie sees you and you fail to shoot it within a few seconds it will charge at you and swipe attack you, resulting in almost instant death. Its overpoweredness is on a similar spectrum to the Titan shoulder charge in Destiny, but that’s a whole other matter. The only saving grace is that not all S.S. Soldiers are zombies, in fact only some of them only turn once you kill them.
Overall MachineGames do a very good job with the pacing of the gameplay. There are no drawn out shootouts and not all stealth sections are forced onto the player. The gunplay again is tight and the guns feel heavy and powerful. Whether it is blowing Nazis to bits with the new grenade launcher or taking their heads offs with an auto-rifle, it is more than satisfying. The one negative is that once again ammo and items must be manually picked up.
There is a perks system that allows you to unlock abilities as you complete goals. For example, heavy machine guns cannot be carried in your weapon wheel until you get 200 kills with it. There are also perks for increasing the amount of carried ammo, increased health and more. There are also collectibles along the way such as gold bars and letters for those that like to search every inch of the game’s world.
The one major difference between The Old Blood and The New Order is the distinct lack of narrative in this iteration. It seems that for whatever reasons MachineGames have decided to let the high-octane gameplay do most of the talking rather than cutscenes. While there is a plot here, it is very basic and the characters aren’t developed enough for the tragic moments to have any effect on the player. It seems as if some of the finer information is scattered throughout the world in letters, posters and newspaper clippings. If you want to take the nostalgia to the zenith, players are able to go back and play sections of the Wolfenstein 3D game.
For those that can’t get enough of creating Nazi carnage there is a challenge mode in which you can go back to various areas in the game to try and kill as many Nazi’s as possible in the allotted time for Gold, Silver or Bronze medals.
At the end of the day, The Old Blood is very similar to The New Order in many ways, but this isn’t a bad thing, because both games do a lot right and not much wrong. The graphics seemed to have been improved, especially the detail of environmental objects. The concept and world that MachineGames have created invokes the player’s imagination and gives us an extreme take on what the world may have been like if the Nazis really did win the war. Despite its fantastical premise, there is still just enough of an element of realism, a pinch of believability for which the developers should be praised.
But sadly, the great blend of gameplay and story that made The New Order great is missing here. This is a shame because in every other aspect The Old Blood is one hell of game. It just lacks the emotion and bravado that The New Order managed to convey with its superior storytelling.
Reviewed on Xbox One.