It has been nearly a year since Bethesda Softworks and MachineGames gave us what (in my honest opinion) was the first best FPS game for next-gen in Wolfenstein: The New Order. The game was met with much success, globally for both its gameplay as well as the story told (still unique as far as I’m concerned).
While we (still) await word about the next installment of Doom (seriously, I’m terrified to delete my save data in case I lose my Doom Beta), BethSoft has been busy preparing to whet our appetites with a stand-alone prequel to last year’s smash hit. Titled Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (an obvious take-off, in contrast to The New Order), takes us back in time, prior to the start of New Order.
Considering how New Order ended (spoiler alert: It’s kind of left open-ended, but things looked rather bleak for our hero), it’s nice to be able to play as B.J. Blaskowitz one more time. This time around, you’re taken back to pre-New Order when Blaskowitz is attempting to infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein to steal a folder of secrets (implied to be General Deathshead’s whereabouts in New Order).
The game is split up into two parts, each with 3 episodes (similar to the style of the first game where they used elements of the film Inglorious Basterds, among others). The first half sees you infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein for the documents, only to be captured and nearly tortured by Rudi Jäger, one of Deathshead’s henchman with an affinity for training killer dogs. The second half, sees you escape Wolfenstein to the nearby town of Wulfburg, to retrieve the documents from Helga von Schabbs (an archeologist-type Nazi who has discovered something a bit undead). You’re then treated to a romp through a zombie-ridden town, cemetery, and eventual dig site where you face a final boss that while gargantuan in size, makes New Order’s Deathshead look like he was using God Mode the entire time.
The name is different, but the game is the same… and that’s fine with me. Mowing down Nazis is what we’ve come to expect from the classic franchise. The zombies, while a nice addition, are nothing new to the series. Chapter 2 of the original Wolfenstein 3d saw you fighting the undead. Helga, also is a mashup of a few characters encountered throughout the series, including the original’s Dr. Schabbs (who also raises an army of the undead). Said zombies aren’t terrible, by any means. Think Wave 1 – 4 of CoD Zombies… only on fire. As with New Order, there is again a part of the game that gives you the choice to save one of your compatriots. While not as vital as New Order’s choice, it still makes for a second play around.
Besides zombies, you encounter the usual band of Aryan miscreants: shock troopers, armored monsters, killer dogs, and even the infamous Panzerhund from New Order. Weapon-wise, while the game takes place during WWII, you’re not going to get the kind of deadly laser guns you had in New Order. Still, you get some handy hole-punching and explosive weaponry (plus a double-barreled shotgun that would make Ash from Evil Dead grin from ear to ear). Between the shotgun and zombies, it makes you wonder if BethSoft is prepping us for Doom?
In addition to weapons, you also get perks as you progress. Perks range from additional armor and health you carry to being able to reload quicker by mashing the reload button. There’s also the usual treasure (gold) pickups as well as “challenges” you can unlock in order to go back later in a gauntlet-style mode in order to unlock more goodies.
The Look and Feel
Team Wolfenstein has definitely been busy beefing up the gameplay and graphics. The massive facade of Castle Wolfenstein is a bit much to take in, especially when you’re escaping by cable car. The town of Wulfburg is full of the twists and turns you would expect from a Nazi-occupied shantytown. Once you’ve arrived in the Zombie Caves, you are in awe at the details, particularly the skulls and other bones that adorn the walls. Not to mention the spiral staircases that will have you humming the Tales From the Crypt theme.
The sound, once again, is amazing. Composer Mick Gordon not only makes you feel like you’re in a WWII era B-Movie, but the remastered (and now classical-sounding) theme from New Order makes you appreciate the original theme. Speaking of, the end theme sounds closer to the New Order theme in that it sounds more industrial than the rest of the soundtrack. In addition, it doesn’t have the massive feels that the New Order end theme gives you. *sniffle*
Eggs. Lots and Lots of Eggs
Similar to New Order, you also get a ton more “Nightmare” levels secretly spread out in Old Blood. The “Nightmares” are essentially levels from the first chapter of the original Wolfenstein 3d, only utilizing the current iD Tech 5 engine. While it’s nice to relive the early 90’s playing this mode, I’m a little bothered by the AI. The soldiers in this version will stay in their respective rooms until they spot you head-on. Even gunning down enemies in another room won’t force them to run out and help. Apparently, they also don’t know how to open doors.
Besides “Nightmare,” eggs are sprawled out all over Old Blood, but the best had to be the one I discovered in one level. You’re in Castle Wolfenstein, trying to find your friend Wesley who has been kidnapped. You come across a typical room with a bed, bookshelf, etc. Upon viewing the dog’s bed (labeled “Greta”, whom you find out later is Rudi’s pet, given to him by Deathshead) you can see a chew toy in the shape of a Cacodemon from Doom. Brilliantly done, and I’m sure there are more I probably have yet to uncover.
Overall, I was very glad to revisit Wolfenstein one more time. It definitely continues the experience of playing as Blaskowitz from New Order, and I hope they’re able to continue with Wolfenstein (as well as Doom and others, of course), for years to come. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is available NOW, on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.