More of What We Love
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to many of you, but there isn’t exactly a shortage of first-person shooters available in 2015. The market is so saturated (some might even suggest over- saturated), it’s easy for new FPS titles to get lost in the shuffle. Lucky for The Old Blood , it has a legendary franchise to prop it up. Few shooters carry the clout the Wolfenstein series does, with its roots stretching all the way back to the early ‘80s on the Apple II.
But it takes more than just a killer reputation to build a great experience, so does The Old Blood deserve to bear the Wolfenstein moniker? The short answer is yes. While you could technically just flip to the score at this point, allow me to break down what is so great about this DLC, which proves big things really do come in small packages. All told, this experience can be blown through in one evening, clocking in at somewhere around six or seven hours playtime (providing you amp up the difficulty and don’t repeatedly need to respawn).
The prologue starts off hot and heavy with undercover agent B.J. (insert immature giggle here) Blazkowicz and his partner infiltrating Castle Wolfenstein in order to steal secret documents that directly tie to events seen in future titles (or I suppose that would be previous titles since this is a prequel, after all). Things quickly turn south as and your partner are immediately captured and thrown into holding cells. This is where the gameplay takes a huge left-turn. Up ‘till this point, things have been pretty typical of what you’d expect. Storm the room. Shoot the Nazis. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Not to make that sound like a bad thing. In fact, it’s all kinds of fun. The DLC plays much in the same way as The New Order did, which is to say fun and smooth, so there’s no need to mess with success.
The problem is, the fast-paced action immediately grinds to a halt with a stealthy trek through the prison as you attempt escape. While I really enjoy these types of missions typically, after a bit they did become somewhat repetitive. If you’re seen, you’re pretty much guaranteed a restart from the last checkpoint (since you’ll be tasked with fighting off Nazi juggernauts armed with machine guns while toting nothing but an old rusty pipe). And I’m not exaggerating, that’s literally your only weapon at times. If you set off an alarm, reinforcements will come and up the challenge. But most people will likely chose to just forego the stealthy approach and simply attempt to mow their way through the waves of Nazi forces. At least, this was my approach in most cases.
Speaking of weapons, you’ll find no shortage of variety early on. Not only can you perform instant kills via the takedown command, but guns like the Shockhammer provide a fun revamping of your standard old-school shooting action. Personally, I found the assault rifles to be most useful, and yes that’s plural. The ability to dual-wield not only feels awesome in your hands, but comes in extremely handy when clearing a room full of Nazi pigs who are shooting at you from all sides. My only complaint was how easily you run out of ammo. You can’t really hump the trigger in this game, as burst firing will help conserve your supply. Usually most enemies are cut down with a few well placed hits anyway, so players won’t find this much of an adjustment if they’ve played previous Wolfenstein s. Just ensure your aim is on-point and you’ll be fine.
The Old Blood looks and sounds like a next-gen shooter. From the first moments I set foot inside the castle, I was immersed. Most games these days really try to lean toward a cinematic feel, and this title is no exception. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d call it one part Inglourious Basterds and two parts Raiders of the Lost Ark . This is due to the significant paranormal aspect to the storyline (with the Nazis again poking around in the supernatural realm in an attempt to bring their plans for world conquest to fruition). Not that they’re far off, mind you, as in this alternate timeline we find World War 2 did not end in the way present history remembers. Exploring the caves under the castle and finding the tombs of several knights buried within the catacombs absolutely SCREAMED Indiana Jones to me (which again…not a bad thing at all in my book). There were some cut scenes which seemed kind of unnecessary, as they would switch over to a fully CG-rendered animation of a pulley lowering and a gate opening when this really could have been accomplished in real-time within the game engine. However, the important story related sections themselves are well voiced and well written. On more than once occasion I felt myself leaning on the edge of my seat in suspense.
I’m not going to complain about the actual length of the title. With it being DLC, that would be unfair. It’s supposed to be supplementary and moderately priced, so in that regard it gets a pass. I do think it’s important to mention that those looking for a complete breath of fresh air might be a little disappointed. The Old Blood acts as a direct extension of The New Order . The DLC itself is divided into two not-so-distinct halves that do little to mix up the formula. The first is the Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves section, followed by the The Dark Secrets of Helga Von Schabbs (after you are ferried down the river by your contact). Unfortunately, the second part is just more of the same. It doesn’t really look to reinvent the wheel, which I suppose is too much to ask for from a simple expansion. I had just hoped for a little bit of a change up by this point, which never really came. The climbing mechanic utilizing the pipe is unique and a big part of how you traverse the environment, but again, nothing ground breaking.
The takeaway from Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is simple. If you’re a fan of series to begin with (meaning you probably already played The New Order ) than you’re going to enjoy this title by default. I don’t want this review to simply preach to the choir, so I’d like to appeal to those casual FPS fans that many not be as familiar with the license. To them I say, give it a try. The story is more or less self-contained, which means the previous titles are not really a prerequisite. It’s a solid shooter which can easily fill that weekend itch if you need something to play off the cuff. It will also tickle the fancy of my fellow history buffs, as the alternate timeline brings a “what if” spin on a dark piece of our past. It’s these elements of realism which ground us where other sci-fi shooters such as Destiny or Halo can’t. Plus the paranormal angle gives it a nice fantasy flare to offset the gritty, dark tone.
Bottom line: the price point is right, the DLC is solid and you could do a lot worse with your gaming dollars than Wolfenstein: The Old Blood . I doubt anyone will walk away from this experience feeling anything less than satisfied. I know I certainly was.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Polished as a next-gen FPS should be. 3.5 Control
Typical controls, nothing got in my way. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound/music is solid and voice acting top notch. 4.0 Play Value
Takes what made The New Order great and expands upon it. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|