Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: The Kotaku Review

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: The Kotaku Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order showed you could take an old style of game and make it feel new. Its new expansion, The Old Blood, simply feels old.

I loved last year's The New Order. A lot of people did. It was a seemingly old-fashioned type of shooter that ended up being one of the surprise hits of 2014 thanks to a few neat tricks, a commitment to the first-person perspective, and a strong focus on character.

It's hard to believe, then, that this new standalone prequel/expansion came from the same developers and is set in the same universe, because few of those strengths are on display here.

Where New Order spanned decades and took us on a trip around the Nazi empire, Old Blood starts and ends in 1946 and takes us to only a handful of dreary locations. Where New Order was a game that often felt larger than life, Old Blood feels cramped and tired. Where New Order...look, if you're already sick of me comparing the two, you may not want to read on, because there's a lot more to come. It's unavoidable when this is a prequel, sharing the same main character, same engine and same basic systems.

One of New Order's real strengths was the number of "arenas", sections of a level where the action opened up and players were free to sneak around, dispatching enemies via stealth and trying to avoid alerting commanding officers, who would sound an alarm and call for reinforcements.

Old Blood has those as well, but they're nowhere near as well-designed (they're incredibly linear), and are often almost impossible to complete through stealth. It's more a matter of how long you can last before going in all guns blazing, instead of avoiding blazing guns altogether.

Not that the loud, violent option is always the worst one. One of New Order's most under-appreciated systems — looting the dead — is still a lot of fun in Old Blood. While the game is happy to leave health and ammo lying around levels, you'll end up getting most of it from the bodies of the soldiers you kill. The way you have to dance over your kills, scooping up ammo in the midst of a firefight to make more kills, was probably the most enjoyable thing you did in New Order. It really helped to make that old 90s style of FPS design (which this game wears proudly on its sleeve) feel fresh, so it's nice to see it remain an integral part of the design here (indeed, it probably feels even more useful later in the game after the story turns).

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: The Kotaku Review

Probably the most enduring thing about New Order was that, out of nowhere, it was a Wolfenstein game with heart! It had a memorable cast with some truly unforgettable scenes, and was also smart enough to give you plenty of downtime with those characters, so you could get to know them and their stories.

Old Blood has a few allies and friends you find along the way, but they're never around long enough to get to know them. You're never really sitting still for long, either. That doesn't just rob you of the time to enjoy your tea and biscuits, but also affects the game's pacing; all you're ever really doing is shooting.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: The Kotaku Review

There really are tea and biscuits...

Which is a problem! The levels here aren't as pretty, unique or as interesting as they were in New Order — you're mostly fighting inside a castle or just outside one, which all gets real samey real fast. With repetitive action and monotonous scenery, the whole thing gets a bit tiresome after a while. Old Blood is split into two chapters, and I actually groaned when I finished the first and learned I had to play through a whole other section.

And that's a pity, because Machine Games still has their distinct ability to make the most of the first-person perspective, especially with transition movements and kill animations. All that stuff is still in full effect here. Your pipe — and it really is the game's signature tool — is always coming in and out of shot, you're always sliding in and out of doors, the whole camera shifts when you unlock a gate, etc. I wish more studios could learn from these guys, and their legacy from their time at Starbreeze working on games like Riddick.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: The Kotaku Review

This large, dramatic combat area is one of the game's few, ahem, bright spots.

Look, I get it. This isn't a full-blooded sequel, and Machine Games clearly didn't have the budget or time to make something on the scale of New Order. And it's obvious from the level design to the tone of this game that it's an intentional throwback to older Wolfenstein games, especially Return to Castle Wolfenstein. New Order was a reboot, so Old Blood is circling that reboot back around to reacquaint it with older games in the series.

But the scale isn't an excuse for the grind, and the change in tone isn't a welcome one. Wolfenstein was rebooted for a reason — the series had gotten so stale, so lost in supernatural Nazi nonsense and boring FPS design that it needed a good boot in the arse. To see it return to those lost years, and be less of a game for doing so, is a disappointment.


Comments

    Id say to anyone who hasn't yet played TNO is start with The Old Blood as it is a good starter and TNO is the main course. I'm liking The old blood its not as big of a blockbuster as TNO was but for half the price its still a lot of fun.

    I think people are just tired of Nazi being the bad guys over and over again.

      ...they were literally the worst group of people of the 20th century.

        .... and your point being? We are talking about video games here, not history. The whole formula of Nazi being the bad guy with heavily advance weaponry but you can still win with a normal pistol or machine gun storyline is stale now.

        Hmm, the Khmer Rouge were pretty up there.

          cant kill them though unless your playing as a cambodian otherwise it would be considered racist or something now dispite how much of complete cunt pol pot was (actually worse that Hitler and Stalin). hell you cant even make a full game about the Vietnam war or the korean war without be panned to hell back, let alone the crap over six days or even medal of honor and having the taliban as being playable.

          I remember how much veitcong 1 and 2 were panned by critics just because it was about the Vietnam war despite being excellent games with nifty features and making me hate tunnel searching. I remember EA making a Medal of honor Vietnam game, never finished it but i played of it was decent but it failed due to the fact it about the vietnam war. and this was before we had Modern Warfare when we were stuck with nonstop WW2 shooters

      I think the Nazis are just easy picking in games you generally have to kill bad guys and I guess if they use Nazis it makes it fine as they are generally counted as "bad guys". like we cant have games where you are killing innocent people and kids because no one would buy it. so I guess that's why we see Nazis and Terrorist as the main cannon fodder in games so we don't get a conscience when felling 100's and 100's of them on screen.

      That's my 2 cents on it anyway.

      Last edited 11/05/15 2:17 pm

        You are right and that is precisely the reason the concept of fighting against nazi's is getting stale :(. Every one wants to make Nazi the bad guys, every single Nazi is doing inhumane research or making time travel machine, Nazi have advance military technology but for some reason still lost the war from a man with a knife.

      Well it's kind of hard to make them the good guys. And I wouldn't say people are sick of them being the bad guys... even just last year people were willing to put up enough money at the box office for Fury to rake in $200m+. And not only did that have Nazi's as the bad guys, viewers had to endure Shia LaBeouf fighting against them, yet were still willing to pay to see it. If ever there was a time when they could have got away with portraying the Nazi's in a positive light, it would have been when they were trying to kill Shia LeBeouf.

        Lol Shia LeBeouf + Nazi. Thank god I did not watch that movie. The rating seems alright. Did you watch it?

          Yeah, it was OK. Entertaining enough to be worth a watch, but I won't be running out to buy the BluRay so that I can keep it forever.

      Honestly, I really enjoyed fighting Nazis again in TNO. My only real complaint was all the globe trotting - I think I would have prefered to have really embraced the old school shooter and set the whole thing in a single massive environment. Something more like Half-Life or System/Bio Shock. I would have loved a game that was 100% set on that Nazi moon base, like some kind of cross between Wolfenstein and Doom.

      It seems that TOB is wholly contained within Castle Wolfenstein, so I'm keen to check it out when I get the chance.

    I think a lot should be made that it's less than half the price of a full game and it's standalone rather than DLC.

    I loved TOB, Return To Castle is one of my all time favourite games and it seems that this standalone was designed purely as fan service to people like me. TNO is definitely a superior game though.

      This is pretty much my opinion as well. I think the shooting mechanics are strong enough that they hold up really well in a pure action game which is closer to RTCW. I had heaps of fun with this, and even enjoyed the Tex Perkins cover of "The Partisan" over the credits. Would have preferred the Leonard Cohen version though.

        I need to go back and try to replay Wolfenstein 2009 I think

        Last edited 11/05/15 2:55 pm

          I never played the Raven developed one, don't know why. Worth a shot?

            Yeah it reviewed pretty well, lots of 7s and 8s. I never got past the first few missions though as it just didn't feel good as a shooter.

              I'm inclined to agree. I bought Wolfy 2009 and played it end to end and then returned it because I honestly couldn't see myself playing it again (and I almost never return games; I mean, I have to be extremely disappointed to return a game, most out of boredom: ie The Darkness I, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Lost Planet, Wolfy '09). Then my ex bought it for me, so I played it through again in its entirety before trading it in for Resi 5 with the hopes of a fresh Resi 4-style experience. Both playthroughs of Wolfy '09 left me feeling bored and it felt like the game was of a thinly-veiled central-hub map that you'd come back to after every mission. Vaguely like a much darker and bloodier Banjo-Kajooie with a plot shoe-horned it to allow for the use of time-manipulation mechanics. Sure it's something to try if you're really curious and it's not much of a loss if you don't like it, as the price is low now, but don't get your hopes up; it isn't the compelling sequel to RTCW that we wanted.

              All that said, I have TOB downloading right now at home with the hopes of slimmer of a return to the good ole RTCW days. Also, I thought TNO was great.

              Last edited 12/05/15 10:31 am

    What's with the texture fade in? It's terrible
    New order wasn't like this.

    Last edited 12/05/15 3:47 pm

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