New weapons, new enemies, still a lot of fun.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Released: May 2015
Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of two sleeper hits of 2014, in my opinion, the other one being Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare if you’re interested. I expected it to be a pile of arse, but came away pleasantly surprised by it all. Great story, interesting characters, fun gameplay, whilst not taking itself too seriously (Nazi moon base. ‘Nuff said); in a nutshell, The New Order was a beautiful game. So I’m sure you can picture my elation when I saw that Machine Games and Bethesda were releasing a prequel, entitled The Old Blood. Over the Nazi moon is the expression I’d use.
Unlike the continuous narrative of The New Order, The Old Blood (this might get confusing) is split into two parts. Part one, called Rudi Jager and the Den of Wolves, sees you infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein looking for the location of Deathshead’s science compound of evil. You might remember, Deathshead is the big villain of The New Order, but unfortunately is unseen in this instalment. Anyway, part two is The Dark Secrets of Helga von Schabbs, and sees you fighting zombies in the town of Wulfberg… so all in all, two very distinct adventures.
Fans of The New Order will be pleased to know that The Old Blood has still got the same mix of dry humour and serious internal monologue from beefcake extraordinaire and everyone’s favourite guy with an oddly sexual name (my last name notwithstanding) B.J. Blazkowicz. You’d think that the contrast between the two styles would create a disconnected tone, but really, it add layers to Blazko, making him more than just a chiselled hunk of nazi slaying man meat.
The villains simply aren’t as interesting as Deathshead, probably because they don’t do anything quite as heinous as force you to choose which one of your squad mates gets their brain removed from the back of their skull. Rudi Jager kind of tortures you a bit, Helga postures for a while and stabs you in the hand, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before being inflicted upon BJ. This is a man who regularly eats grenade shrapnel for breakfast and refuses to die. Granted, he spends 14 years in an asylum, but he doesn’t die!
Anyway, controlling Blazko feels as joyous as it did in The New Order, except this time you’ve got some new toys to play with… I always lament the idea of a prequel that has new, advanced weaponry, but we’ll carry on regardless. New to the arsenal are a double-barrelled shotgun, for when an automatic shotgun just isn’t enough boomstick for you, a new sniper rifle that makes exploding the heads of Nazis seem too easy, and a pistol that fires rockets. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t a Borderlands review. Wolfenstein has a rocket firing pistol, and it is every bit as glorious as you might imagine.
The Old Blood wastes very little time getting to the meat of the action. After an establishing cutscene where you arrive at Wolfenstein, given the brief on your objectives and engage in some unintentional German banter, you’re thrust headlong into battle against the usual soldiers/super soldiers that we’ve grown accustomed to from playing The New Order. Whilst more of the same in this case isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the second act switch-up to a zombie slaying festival is a welcome one.
The perks system also makes a reappearance in The Old Blood. The idea, for those in the know, is that feat obtained within the game unlock perks which upgrade Blazkowicz. These include silent kills, kills with a certain weapon or from cover, or even charging your health or armour to a certain level by finding pick-ups. It’s a great system that’s also tied to the achievements, doubling the incentive to unlock them. It is possible to grind some of the commander kills by dying and respawning at the checkpoint, and depending on who you ask, that’s either good or bad. Me, I like achievements, so that solves that.
All in all, I managed to best the campaign on the default difficulty setting after around 5 hours, which falls in line with the budget price that the games is being sold for. On top of that, there are collectibles, hidden “nightmare” levels that take you back to the original Wolfenstein, just like the Easter Egg nightmare from The New Order, and a challenge mode that offers some real challenge.
So is it worth a buy? I’ll answer your question with a question: have you seen me say anything negative about it? The only time I wasn’t having fun was the 35 GB download I had to suffer through before I could play the game. Once that was out of the way, it was smooth sailing. I’d recommend this to both newcomers and veterans, as it serves as both the perfect accompaniment to The New Order’s story, and offers new players a chance to see what they might have missed.