Return to the war-torn Europe of WWII with B.J. Blazkowicz, and see where the world of Wolfenstein: The New Order began.
Released last year, The New Order recharged the classic Wolfenstein FPS franchise in a big way. There had been attempts to get something going with the series a few times in the past, and while they were all pretty solid games, they were standalone affairs. Nothing really caught on or spawned the series that publisher Bethesda no doubt was looking for.
The New Order though, that changed things up in a big way. Vastly reimagining the game’s universe into an alternate reality where Nazi Germany won WWII and went on to dominate the globe, The New Order was set in the 1960s, though a 60s era that was anything but about peace and love.
In that game, players took the role of the same hero that every game in the franchise has had since it began, that of William J. Blaskowicz. At the end of The New Order (SPOILER ALERT), the future of B.J. is something of a mystery. His past though, that’s as plain as anything, and that’s what you explore in The Old Blood.
A prequel in the truest sense, The Old Blood is set in WWII, but post D-Day. Here’s the kick, this alternate universe’s version of the Third Reich has already started winning the war. D-Day, a symbol of what would be an eventual Allied victory here in our world, was a nightmare for the US and UK of Wolfenstein’s Earth. The Nazi’s were already exploring advanced technologies and strange, forgotten wisdom by the time the Allies struck the coast of Normandy. And well, it didn’t go too well for the good guys.
And it’s here, with the Allies on the ropes and Germany poised to take over the world, that the OSS sends B.J. undercover into Castle Wolfenstein to find the location of enigmatic and Holy Roman Emperor Otto-obsessed Nazi officer Helga Von Schabbs, and hopefully turn the tide of the war. Yes, you read that right, The Old Blood takes place (partially) in Castle Wolfenstein.
In that fact, the game is essentially a remake of that classic FPS that started off the genre. The Old Blood fits the WWII events into The New Order’s adjusted timeline nicely, and developer MachineGames once again did a masterful job crafting a believable yet fantastic world to play in. And one that’s very different than that of the earlier, more futuristic game. In fact, other than the fact that you’re fighting Nazis (and do face some of the same enemies as in TNO), the feel is totally different.
Actually, both ‘halves’ of The Old Blood feel pretty different in and of themselves. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but the game is broken up into chapters, which span two halves, and if you’re a fan of the more traditional Wolfenstein lore (as opposed to the more technologically-obsessed one in TNO), then you’re going to be happy with the series of events that play out here.
The story is really well done once more too, with plenty of big moments, shocks, and of course, tons of action. I actually liked the settings and feel even more than I dug The New Order, and I was in love with that game. The characters are just as much fun as the setting too, with both Allied and Axis NPCs coming off as really well written and brought to life wonderfully.
Adding to that is the tremendous voice work present in the game. Actor Brian Bloom once again reprises his role of B.J. and really does a phenomenal job. Making the usually ‘faceless’ and personality-free character into someone that players would sympathize with and care about was a big deal for MachineGames’ and they’ve once again come through on that promise, with Bloom’s excellent portrayal bolstering a terrific script.
All of the periphery sound work is great here as well, as is the score. With excellent musical tracks supplementing the action on the screen, the score rises and falls according to what’s happening. That’s nothing new really for an FPS, but the score itself is so good that it truly enhances things and makes you, as a player, take note.
Actually, the all around package is a winning one, as the graphics are pretty terrific too. You won’t get floored by the visuals in The Old Blood, it’s not a showpiece game in that way, but it does some fantastic things with the creepy castle and German town aesthetics and did make me take note at times, particularly in the ‘bigger’ scenes.
While I can pick a wee bit at the graphics though, I can do no such thing with the controls. Once again excellent, the control scheme is enhanced with a climbing mechanic, which comes off the addition of the pipe weapon. It’s kind of amazing how one little weapon could change the game to any great degree, but it does.
Not only does the pipe, which you get really early on in the game, serve as a means to dispatch bad guys (with the same standard and alt ‘fire’ mode as almost all weapons in the game have), but you can also use it to climb some walls. You’ll see cracked spots in walls on occasion in the campaign, and can scramble up these walls by splitting your pipe and using it as a pair of climbing spikes. This might sound a little gimmicky, but it actually comes off really cool and works great. Plus, it’s just kind of fun.
I love what MachineGames is doing with this series. Of course, most of that is due to the fact that the campaign is crafted so expertly with great graphics, as well as the fantastic controls and sound design. Add to all that the awesome story that serves as the backdrop to the great script, and you’ve got a winner plain and simple.
The prequel idea was a great one with The Old Blood, as Wolfenstein has some fantastic roots set in World War II, and there are a ton of possible stories to tell in the time period. I actually wouldn’t mind another standalone adventure set in the second great war before we get a full on sequel to the main event, which is not something I thought I’d be saying. Even with everything coming out so great though, there is one down side to The Old Blood. It’s pretty short.
It’s not short short, as in that you won’t beat it in a two hour sitting or anything, but it’s not nearly as meaty a campaign as The New Order was. Sometimes that’s a good thing, as I’m in the camp that thinks most games tend to linger on a little too long, but in the case of Wolfenstein, the more there is the better I’d like it.
Fortunately, the entry price tag is pretty small, at only $19.99 USD as of this writing. Still though, the more of Wolfenstein’s universe that MachineGames and Bethesda can get on my TV screen, the better. Keep ’em coming guys and gals, there’s way more Nazis to take care of out there.