Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood for PS4, Xbox One and PC

Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of the most pleasant surprises of last year. It wasn’t on my radar at all, but after giving it a go I found my favourite linear shooter in years, perhaps since Half Life 2. The opportunity to dip back into that was tantalising and even if The Old Blood doesn’t quite capture the magic of The New Order it’s still a fun and worthwhile experience.

The Old Blood is a prequel, taking place before BJ Blaskowitz’s assault of Deathsheads compound at the beginning of The New Order. This is the story of how Blaskowitz discovered the location of the compound and sees him infiltrating the titular Castle Wolfenstein, which is under the control of the sadistic Nazi archeologist Helga von Schabbs. As Blaskowitz discovers more about von Shabb’s goals it becomes clear that the Nazis seek to tap into very dark powers to seek global control.

The story in The New Order was a real pleasant surprise and I found myself genuinely caring about the cast, something I really wasn’t expecting to happen. The Old Blood isn’t quite so successful, with new characters introduced and forgotten with regularity and a story which touches on interesting places but doesn’t reach them. Helga von Shabbs doesn’t really do anything as a villain that we hadn’t seen done better in the main game, but she’s a menacing presence nonetheless. The real success of The New Order was the way that it was able to go pulpy and silly whilst also meaningfully exploring the real horrors of the Nazi regime in a way most games would shy away from. This is a game which saw us fly to the Moon and also be subjected to a Concentration Camp. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did and that magic is just lacking in The Old Blood.

The core mechanics are still incredibly solid though, both as a stealthy and a run and gun experience. They just feel really good to play, with some very cool set pieces. There are two main parts to The Old Blood with very different tones and gameplay styles, with the first being undoubtedly the strongest. This is the actual invasion of Castle Wolfenstein and I really wish that they had just doubled down and built the entire game around that. The second half goes to an odd place for story reasons but simply isn’t as engaging to play. As mentioned before, the game feels good enough that it was never boring, but the pacing certainly isn’t as tight as it could have been.

The Old Blood looks pretty great, with Castle Wolfenstein standing out for its gothic majesty. The outstanding frame rate certainly helps the experience, but the quality of the design is what really stands out. The voice acting is generally good, with much of the dialogue in German with subtitles rather than hammy accents, which is always nice. The Old Blood is certainly a polished experience.

As a budget release, I’m more confident in recommending The Old Blood than I might have been otherwise. It doesn’t quite have the magic of The New Order, but it’s a good, fun game nonetheless.

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