Wolfenstein: The New Order went under the radar when it hit shelves in mid-2014. The advertising portrayed it as a reboot that appeared over-the-top and generic. You shoot Nazis, and I've done that countless times already. What creativity could MachineGames jam into this rusty chamber of a tired premise that would reinvigorate it? I didn't expect much, but it tore through my expectations with a bang. Phenomenal art direction and gunplay are some things, but for this game to have real characters that we cared for, intelligent writing, cleverly open level design that invited multiple approaches, and more? Since the credits rolled, I still consider it one of the greatest games of its genre that I've played in years.
It's no wonder then that I rejoiced when the Swedish developer announced that it would be releasing a standalone campaign earlier this year, which I jumped on as soon as possible. Proclaimed to be a "love letter" to the earlier days of the franchise, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood was intended as a call back to Return to Castle Wolfenstein with supernatural elements in its narrative and visuals, and while I had never played it, I was excited about the general, early-2000 first-person shooter vibes emanating from it.
Many reviewers considered this direction a step back from The New Order since it lacks the original heart and wit of the other's story, contains less stellar level design and enemy encounters, and feels too similar. These complaints are valid, but I think they ignore how substantial The Old Blood truly is as an expansion, especially coming out slightly less than a year after its predecessor. While it may not be as ground-breaking, the game's a lovingly tailored romp with self-indulgent, first-person shooter tropes that will often leave a big, stupid grin on your face if you're a longtime fan of the genre.
Shrouded in secrecy, B.J. Blazkowicz is on a covert mission set before The New Order's introduction that shows the assault on Deathshead's Compound, and his objective is to find the location of that very complex in the iconic Castle Wolfenstein. However, things go horribly wrong as you and your comrade are captured and imprisoned. After you escape from your cell, you go after your friend and the leaders who run this twisted division of Nazis. Along the way, you'll realise that there are even bigger things to worry about since the Krauts are tampering with ancient forces that they don't understand, which you'll have to put an end to before they destroy themselves and the world.
The Old Blood is more tongue-in-cheek than its predecessor, even exceeding its preposterous plot points while managing to strikingly take them in stride by employing meaningful character interaction and development. This is seen again with B.J.'s introspective monologues that reveal complex emotions and a nuanced wisdom underneath his veneer of stoicism and "kill-all-Nazis" mentality, which is unheard of for meathead protagonists like him.
While narrative aspects like these aren't as plentiful or impactful as they are in The New Order, it's not a major weakness since this is remedied with the intentionally more pulpy, unrealistic moments in this adventure. For example, at one point you'll mow down Nazi zombies on fire as they fall from the sky and command a walking mech to punch and stomp on them. So yes, MachineGames is self-aware of its intense "pulpiness" and embraces that, but still grounds the characters and dialogue so well. Like we said, it's not of the same calibre as the team's previous work, but the intended direction of sheer absurdity for The Old Blood makes up for this since it's so much fun.
The gameplay is identical to The New Order, but with snappy controls mixed in with old-school and modern mechanics, why change anything? Leaning, fast-paced movement, sliding, health packs, and armour – these are old and new elements that jive wonderfully together with this rebooted franchise. To keep things fresh, though, new weapons like the pipe, long-range rifle Bombenschuss, and grenade pistol Kampfpistol are appreciated to slightly distinguish this arsenal from what's in The New Order. For example, the pipe is actually an integral item that helps you to scale walls, open doors, and melee enemies with grotesque finishers. It can sometimes change the way you navigate areas, too, so it's no minor addition to brush aside. The point is that to simply play more Wolfenstein was good enough for me since the developer has already outdone itself in this category.
With this being a smaller game, it's evident that level layouts are smaller and more linear this time, which is a letdown compared to the greater options of traversal offered to you by larger areas in the previous title. Despite this, I believe that this works as a strength for The Old Blood since there's an increased sense of claustrophobia with tight corridors and rooms, which may be generic of first-person shooters in general, but considering what this game is trying to emulate, it's a nice contrast to The New Order without compromising the balance of stealth and combat, opportunities to approach areas differently, and so on that have already been established.
What it also does brilliantly is subtlety split the story into two arcs, with the first being a sprawling rescue mission throughout the medieval, retro-futuristic Castle Wolfenstein, and the second being a full-on assault through a quaint German village where things go horribly wrong. It makes for great pacing not only with the stark changes in scenery, but also how you fight. The first hours are more traditional with human enemies and bosses, but later on it feels like you've entered a prolonged, tougher, and crazier Nazi Zombies match from Call of Duty. You not only do you have to deal with the usual foot soldiers, but also the undead, including soldiers you kill that will reanimate instantly at random. This varied opposition can be frustrating at times to deal with, but it puts you on edge as a good, unexpected challenge.
There's a Wolfenstein 3D feel to this game's section since you have to focus more on firing from the hip and moving around constantly, compared to the slower, cover-hugging levels early on. It's a well-struck balance, and everything leading up to the closing moments – minus the lacklustre final boss – is a tour de force and perfect primer leading straight into The New Order. It's surprisingly six to eight hours long as well, not to mention the additional challenge and Nightmare maps that respectively test your skills and send you into B.J.'s pixelated past.
MachineGames shows how to do add-ons right. Whereas titles such as Star Wars: Battlefront and Call of Duty among many others struggle to justify their price tags to me with add-on content, The Old Blood stands among the rare likes of The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone and BioShock: Burial at Sea as a complete, well-structured package that's a no-brainer to buy. It may fall shy of the status of its predecessor, but it's wunderbar that it even reaches that level – that's more of a compliment than a complaint in my eyes.
Is Wolfenstein: The Old Blood a shell of what Joey Thurmond makes it out to be, or do you think that this downloadable content is a V for Victory that's worth mentioning as a highlight from this year? Rip your shirt off and go akimbo in the comments to voice your opinions.
I fully agree!! I may actually prefer the Old Blood to the New Order. The Old Blood doesn't try to hit you over the head with a storyline, and it's late 90's FPS level design approach of going from point A to point B feels very refreshing in it's linearity. The majority of the focus was on uninterupted gameplay, and I appreciated that.
That's the problem with TOB though. TNO is one of the best games on PS4 in my opinion and its down to how all the pieces compliment one another. It just felt like half of what made TNO great was pulled out of TOB and no matter how I look at it, it seems worse as a result.
Obviously as a prequel it has no Anya, which also didn't help, as BJ and Anya have one of the best videogame relationships conceived I reckon.
I think I prefer the Old Blood for the very reasons you may dislike it, still both great games IMO.
One of the coolest things about The Old Blood was how the levels flowed, it was a natural progression through a series of connected environments.....again, pretty late 90's / early 00's in approach. That structure felt very refreshing.
@sub12 yeah It deffinetly had that 90's vibe to it, and I'd have probably liked it more had I not had preconceived expectations following TNO which I reckon struck a great balance. It was poetic, emotional, cheesy and stupid all in perfect measure.
Loved them both, excellent games.
New order was one of the best games of 2014 and this is just as good.
Hoping for a full blown sequel as B.J is such a well done character. Love it!
I liked the new order more than old blood but it had the same feel to it and playability. The price was good as well for the game. Not one of my top games for the year but for the price it was extremly good value.
Played NO on PS3, but never picked this one up.
Really liked the new order! It took a while to grow on me as I'm kinda going off fps, but the story was really good and the gameplay was quality.
I must pick up the old blood before I comment on that, I believe it's cheap to buy now
The Old Blood was originally planned as 2 DLC packs to the New Order and it shows. The first half is more traditional 'return to Castle Wolfenstein' but the second half is more about the supernatural and Zombies. Its also the weaker half. I do feel that for its price, its a good bundle and the fact it can be played as a stand-alone is good too. I really enjoyed the New Order for its mix of old school and modern game-play elements and this is no different. Its probably one of the better 'budget' titles available as it has the same AAA production values that made Wolfenstein: the New Order a great game BUT I can't say that it has enough to challenge something like BO3 for example. BO3 has so much more to offer - more than 3x the content for around 3x the price but I will concede I did enjoy the Old Blood.
Its not just about the content though, As I said the 2nd half is a bit weak, it doesn't take long to finish - even if you complete every nightmare level too but it is good for the price. Considering though you can now buy the Old Blood for a similar price, I think that offers more. Both Wolfensteins are certainly games I would recommend but I can't see the Old Blood challenging games like the Witcher 3, Fallout 4, CoD:BO3, Destiny or any of the other big AAA games that feature in many peoples top 5.
Love the two games....both are great fun
Planning to give this a go at some point. Enjoyed the main game, very impressive.
I got the for Chrimbo and it reminds me of Escape from Butcher Bay - arguably the best original xbox game.
i've got both,but haven't got round to them yet - i'm silly..i knew the reboot would be great after reading Machine Games (Of Butcher Bay fame) made it heavily inspired by ID Software.I aim to tackle at least New Order by the time Doom is out..or should that be Old Blood? Either i guess.
Nah, the game that really the deserves the love it isn't getting is Yakuza 5, but that's typical for that series unfortunately. Always has been overlooked.
@sub12 Yep! Those are definitely reasons to like it. Like I said, TOB takes traditional FPS tropes and makes them strengths rather than weaknesses because there's intent behind the older vibes to it. Compared to TNO, it's an awesome chance of pace!
@kyleforrester87 I don't think all of what made TNO great was pulled out of TOB. There are surely remnants of those meaningful character interactions with Kessler, Annete, and Agents 1 and 2. Some of the open-level aspects are maintained in some areas on a smaller scale despite the more linear focus in TOB. But yeah, I totally agree TNO is a superior game. It's twice as big and twice as long, and it's one of my favorites on the PS4, too! Didn't think B.J. and Arya's relationship was the most compelling thing in the game, but I get what you're saying. Their love was authentic and felt natural in a lot of ways given their circumstances.
@kyleforrester87 "It was poetic, emotional, cheesy and stupid all in perfect measure." THAT'S what makes these games so special. They juggle an impossible dichotomy of themes yet pull them all off at once, particularly TNO.
@Johnnycide Same! I wish it had made our GOTY list last year, but alas. I hope to see a sequel as well in the next 2-3 years as well!
@dryrain This would likely be 4 or 5 on my list had I played the likes of Arkham Knight, Witcher 3, and so forth, but out of what I played, this is where it happened to end up. Glad you liked it!
@sinalefa Do it! Do it! You can get it on Amazon easily for less than $20. You'll likely find it for less than $15 or even $10 on some occasions! Definitely give this a go if you can on the PS4.
@crazykcarter I agree. It took a little bit for me to adjust to the feel of gameplay, but once I settled into it, it grew on me really quickly. Awesome to hear you'll be picking it up!
@BAMozzy Oh, well I wouldn't put it above those AAA games you mentioned. I just said it should be among the best games of 2015. Not above or necessarily equal to them. BO3 is...well, I think its campaign is way more fun and well-crafted than BO3's, so I'd recommend it excluding multiplayer and zombies. But yeah, content wise, perhaps BO3 is the better deal. But still, you can get TOB for $15 easily...that's a steal.
Yeah, I'm glad they added both chapters together. The experience felt fuller and more consistent that way. And I agree that the second half is weaker. Not by too much in my opinion, but the first half does seem longer and more robust.
@special_donkey Since TOB is a prequel to TNO, it'd be best for you to probably play it first since it's shorter than TNO and perfectly ties into the beginning of its story. That way you get to experience part of those amazing games, but if you have more time to spare, then you could delve into the amazing TNO. Your call!
@Gamer83 True story. I really want to play those games! But yeah, it's the same for Wolfenstein. The franchise has been ignored a lot since last year. That's why I loved TotalBiscuit's (have you heard of that YouTuber?) GOTY choice last year, which was TNO. He explains perfectly why it's one of the best FPS games in years, something many of my fellow game journalists didn't pick up on much for some reason. :/
One of the best this year for me
@DrJoeystein TOB certainly has a more focussed Campaign than BO3 but BO3 has a lot more options. Not only can it played with up to 4 people, it also has an alternative variation too. It also has its own XP and unlockable skills/abilities which can change your playhrough. As an actual 'story' TOB may be 'better' although as I said it feels like 2 stores bolted together that are very different but its much more linear path helps with 'Story' progression.
The fact that it wouldn't be above or equal to those AAA games is why its not mentioned in one of the best games of the year. If you had to pick just 5 games to play then I doubt you would pick TOB over those. That doesn't mean to say that I don't rate it as a 'fun' and enjoyable game but that those AAA games offer a lot more and in a lot of cases a better story too. At its price it is good but I can buy AAA older games (like Wolfenstein:TNO, Killzone:SF) for around the same price that offer more too.
Its certainly one of the games I would recommend but I doubt I can't put it in my best games of 2015 because many games were overall better.
I enjoyed the New Order but for some reason haven't felt compelled to get this...
@DrJoeystein Nice,cheers for the heads up -TOB first then.
@Lauralbert er yeah alright. Think you might be in the wrong place though....
@BAMozzy COD BO3 is kinda dissapointing for me it was fun for a week now its collecting dust i like Destiny more.
New Order should have been game of the Year. I hate that it was so long for Old Blood to come out on Retail Disk. I liked New Order so much I had to Old Blood on Disk to add to my collection. Hope Doom can keep the run going It will be a pre-order for me.
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