Although Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is the second game released in the recent Wolfenstein reboot, it actually tells of the events prior to The New Order. This makes it an interesting game to start the series with to experience the story in chronological order. Amidst all the sneaking around and heart pounding action, there are some great intimate story sequences within this nice bit sized package.
The game takes place in 1946, and you play as the famed B.J. Blazkowicz. The Old Blood’s adventure starts out in castle Wolfenstein. Your mission, to obtain a top secret folder containing the location of General Deathshead’s compound from the castles commander and crazed archaeologist, Helga Von Schabbs. As you make your way through the castles defenses, you start to uncover the mysteries of a dig she is conducting that threaten to release a dark and ancient power.
The opening moments of the game have you sneaking around, or taking nazi’s head on. The moment to moment gun fight are pretty intense and exhilarating. There are a number of weapons at your disposal with each having their own uses. Enemies are pretty varied from regular troops, to heavy armored hulking foes that are not to be taken lightly. Each have their own weaknesses, when exploited, can lead to some devastating kills.
The other half of the combat revolves around sneaking around. This part of the game can be hit or miss though. Depending how ballsy you are, you can skip ahead and just go in guns blazing if you dare. However the game can be brutally hard during these moments that seem to be intended for stealth. You see, these areas are full of enemies, and two commanders. If spotted, any enemy can sound the alarm at the slightest mishap, and then endless waves of enemies emerge until the commanders are taken out.
These frustrating bits are mostly early on, and near the end of the game, this stealth mechanic fleshes out a bit better. It becomes much more manageable as the stealth and action blend beautifully together. Killing at this point almost becomes an art. I’m not someone who is overly joyed by violence, but Wolfenstein makes it quite fun at times.
The story of The Old Blood fleshes out naturally during the gameplay. There are rarely any cutscenes that play out, and instead, story sequences either play out in first person view as you control B.J. Blazkowicz. In some cases, you are captured and simply watch the events taking places. It’s very effective as these moments feel like they are actually happening to you. Without spoiling anything, there were some emotionally invested sequences that genuinely made me feel extremely sad at the outcome.
Alot of the story is also told through optional letters and documents found hidden in each level. Through these, you get a glimpse of the thoughts of virtually any character in the game. You even get a look at the nazi’s themselves, and how they are marvelled, or fear the work Helga is doing. For those curious enough, it also happens to preview main bits of the story ahead of time to really get you curious.
By the end of it, although the story became cliche in some ways, it actually works. I was quite engaged throughout the second half of the campaign, and as mentioned there were some real emotional bits that left me feeling quite grim with the outcome. It’s definitely something that has piqued my interest for the other two games. Given this game is a prequel, but came out after The New Order, it’s interesting to play this first, as many people have and actually enjoyed the experience.
From a presentational standpoint, The Old Blood completely nails it. Graphically it’s a pretty impressive game to look it. Characters are brought to life through the sharp textures and great animations. The game features some beautiful environments full of great lighting through dark caves, and villages on fire. What’s surprising, is for such a grim game based on real events, the game looks surprisingly vibrant. Usually I expect the dull brown overtones I’ve seen in many other shooters, so this I appreciate much.
In the audio department, The Old Blood is composed by Mick Gordon. Naturally I expected some heavy metal thrown into the mix, but much to my surprise, it instead was mostly the type of ambient music you’d hear when on a spy mission. It worked for the game, so no complaints there. There were a couple tracks that did stick out however that either had me head banging a bit on the credits, or as mentioned, made me feel very sad at certain events that played out.
Continuing in the audio design, the sound effects themselves are done extremely well. It’s done so well, I almost feel like I can simply listen to the game to paint my surroundings in my head. From the chatter of the guards telling each other all sorts of stories, to the heavy march of the super soldiers, everything yet again brings the game to life. There’s nothing like hearing the footsteps of a super soldier, and hearing when he turns is back so you can make your move.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a great introduction into the new Wolfenstein reboot. It may not be the most eventful game from what I hear compared to the others, but I feel it still holds its ground. It may lean more towards the action, but the solid controls, varied enemies and fun weapons make this literally a blast to play. The game feels a bit slow out of the gate, but picks up a few hours in closing out with a bang. The story may be cliche, but it’s like great action flick. It also feels like the perfect length where it’s never drags on and doesn’t end abruptly. That being said I don’t see this being a game I would replay again or often. Regardless, it just feels satisfying in many ways for the first time through.