Last year, I returned to this series, eager to enough to see what was next that I actually bought a physical of Wolfenstein: The New order at launch. I had a great time with the game, but the ending just left so much wanting. And while I would have liked an expansion to come out to explain that rather sour last note, instead, the inevitable expansion turned out to be a prequel. Knowing this, I still found myself wanting the new part of what I still hold as a very favored franchis, but I did not feel the same rush to pick it up I did the last time.
Then Quakecon rolled around and with it, a sale I could not resist and a next "must play this now" sitting in my virtual shelf. And as I walk away, I find myself a bit more annoyed with how this one started, but a lot more satisfied with how it ended. Please, step inside.
Story: World War II is waging on... and the Allies are not fairing very well. Nazi Germany's got them outgunned and it's starting to look like they will win. Needless to say, this is not something that could be allowed, and so the Allies take aim at Death's Head, the mind behind the Nazi's advanced technology. Taking him down could very well turn the tide. But in order to do that, they will have to find him first. Enter BJ Blazkowicz, spy for the Allies who's goal is to infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein and gather the intel on where Death's Head is hidden!
From this opening, you will play as BJ who quickly shows two things: First, he is a terrible spy against Germany: so bad in fact that he got by the first check due to the gaurds thinking he was joking around. It will also show how much better he is at fighting when the shit hits the fan. Still no one is perfect, and it isn't long before the man of the hour is captured, letting the real game begin with his escape from Castle Wolfenstein. However, as you play, it becomes clear that even while that file means everything for the war, it is not the only critical event going on.
To explain more would be, however, to ruin the one real twist this game has waiting for you even if it really isn't all that unpredictable. If you are a long time fan of the franchise (and by that I mean your intro could have been the 2009 game just titled Wolfenstein) you already know super-science and possible occult runs deep in it's veins, so you probably have an idea of what to expect. Still the events are delivered fairly well as you will find clues in the form of letters, notes, and research papers throughout your adventure. What's here is actually pretty good, just don't expect a lot of it.
Graphics: For those of you who already played The New Order, you already have a good idea of what to expect from this game graphically, since this is a stand-alone expansion to it. However, since it does not require the original, this might not cover everyone. For those new to the two titles, The Old Blood is an FPS game running on Id's Tech 5 engine. As a result, the game has more then enough graphical prowess to impress most gamers out there. From beginning to end every area you explore is lovingly tailored to the current theme, be it a prison being patrolled by guys in armor that could only be made via 1940s super-science, to a city on fire and literally blown to Hell, there is not a single thing out of place here, and the level designers spared nothing to craft this little extra chunk of BJ's world.
However, at the same time, most of your environments are indoors or encased behind (albiet great looking) fences or walls or even city buildings of some kind, limiting a lot of the open spaces the game has to worry about, which is good considering this engine isn't exactly efficient with your VRAM, demanding 1 GB of it to run at all, but using much more if you expect to get anything higher then minimum settings when you play. For example, on my machine with 2 GB of VRAM, I walked in already knowing I would not press passed medium settings, despite my graphic card not even breaking a sweat at that level. And don't get me wrong, medium looks great (this is the level of detail the game uses for it's "next gen console" versions), but to know that it's so unbalanced in performance barely working your graphic card's processing power even as you can't push it further is a disappointment. Still, I have to admit it is nice to play a game where the minimum specs will almost assuredly run perfectly smooth for anyone playing.
The only real issue without a silver lining here is the constant pop-in. This game was designed to only render what is in front of you in any form what-so-ever so that it would never waste any more of that precious VRAM then necessary, but as a result if you turn fast, if doesn't really matter much where you are, you will see detail pop-in like you just loaded the level in your favorite Unreal powered engine. It won't last that long, but it is definitely noticeable.
Sound: Again, for those who played the last Wolfenstein game, you already have a good idea of just what you are getting into, although this time you can expect it to be cut down. The difference in length of the two games greatly reduces the chance to offer as much material to work with. However, for both new and old players alike, what is here is actually really good.
Enemies you come across will shout to each other in German to tell each other you are near, to warn each other they are about to throw a grenade to flush you out, or to sound the alarm, or even to request backup this time around. But a really nice touch here is what you hear when they haven't gotten a clue about you yet. When two of them are patrolling together, they are generally scripted to talk to each other about something going on, giving them a little personality and you a little bit of extra clue as to what is going on. I have no idea how accurate any of this is to the actual language, but the subtitles at this point make it clear that BJ gets it, and the tone is absolutely perfect.
In addition this game manages to squeeze in some really good voice-acted scenes as well for a handful of characters, pushing the story along or even making light of some of it at the very beginning. (As I said in the story section of this review, BJ is an absolutely terrible spy. He just happens to be an amazing killing machine on the battle field.) You will definitely enjoy the voice-work in this game, and audio-wise, it is the absolute star of the show.
Sound effects are also really good, although there is a lot less of them this time around. All of your guns sound properly visceral with the exception of the silenced pistol because, well, it's silenced and will feel great to shoot because of that almost as much as the weight they carry, but at the same time, the game only has about seven guns available to you, including one you are forced to drop if you switch from it since it's too big for even BJ to put somewhere for later. The metal clunking of super-soldiers is as terrifying as ever, but there really isn't anything else outside of the rare boss fight with anything near this effect. Basically, what is here sounds great and fits perfectly for what it is supposed to be, but variety, it really won't be.
Gameplay: As mentioned in the graphical section, The Old Blood is an First Person Shooter, just like the game it's officially an expansion to. To this end, everything everything you see, including the cut-scenes (outside of the absolute last one) will be from the perspective of BJ. But it seems this time around, Machinegames wanted to try a few things with the gameplay they missed during the original adventure.
For example, once you finish the prologue chapter, you will find yourself a prisoner of the Nazis and looking to escape. During this time you will find the entire style changed to a stealth game where you will move through each room starting with nothing but a metal pipe and try to get past/disable a series of super-soldiers who's armor is powered by rails above the room, forcing them into patterns you can use. This can be very jarring to someone who went in expecting to run-and-gun like the series is known for.
Surviving that, you will quickly find yourself armed with assault rifles and pistols as you make your way through the main castle to save your partner and finally reach the FPS classic gameplay you would expect from the series for a while, but not always. For example there are a handful of places where if you stay and fight like you would have in other games of this franchise, you will die. There is no hint that this is the case, and you pretty much have to figure this out on your own by trial and error.
But the game refuses to be that simple at the same time. Like the New Order, there a is perks system this time around as well, rewarding you for how much you use each weapon or even how far you push your health and armor through the adventure. But be warned, there is pretty much no way you will get all the perks on one play through, and there really isn't a lot of reason to go back and play again once you finish the game unless you are a completionist who has to get every achievement or every collectible in the game. Since it does keep track of these in your profile, you will be able to go back to the chapters you haven't gotten everything in to find what you missed.
In addition, you will also find the Nazi enemies have a few new tricks, especially when there are officers in the area. If you alert anyone to your presence at this time, the alarms will sound and everyone will be out to kill you right there. This is not new and in fact was done in the last entry. However, this time failing to kill the officers before finishing off all (or most sometimes) of the enemy will result in them calling for backup, bringing a second wave to the attack. Depending on where you are in the game, this could be a good or a bad thing for you since the individual enemies are not very tough, but their positioning and the available cover could make a second wave very difficult in some places. For once, you won't just shrug and say "whatever" when you see the "signal detected" HUD displays, since unlike the last game they actually mean something.
Also worth noting is that this developer apparently had a lot of fun making the "Wolf3D" tribute in The New Order, because this time around, there are nine of them: one for each chapter (including the prologue). These are exceptionally easy and most players will likely skip them over, but if you remember the old days, it may be worth taking your time to find one or two and relive it for a few minutes.
However, don't expect this game to be huge. Unlike the last game, this was meant as a cheap expansion for fans of the game, or maybe an introduction for those who didn't want to try it out on the full-length one. I am noted for being slow when I play games, and with my later hunts for the Wolf3D levels adding well over an hour to my game time, I still finished the whole thing in about eight according to the game itself. I would expect the average player to be done with this game in 4-6 depending on how much time they spent on looking for extras.
Bugs: Unlike the main game, this stand-alone expansion appears to have resolved almost all of it's bugs. In fact, the only one I ran into was at the last boss, when two of the Nazis who joined the attack died frozen in a standing position. Normally, they are supposed to fall down dead, so when I saw this the first time (yes, this happened to me twice) I got myself killed trying to ensure they were dead. Since I could recreate this bug, I believe it's just something in that last map.
Overall: Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a very good, albiet very short game in the franchise. Made as an excuse to play with the parts used to make The New Order, it lives up to the original for the most part, improving in some ways, and falling back in others. If you enjoy your old school shooters, you really should check this one out. And if you like what you played, it might well be worth opening up the next chapter this is a prequel to.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 3.3 Ghz Intel Core i5 or 3.5 Ghz AMD FX-8320
- 4GB RAM
- NVIDIA Geforce 560 or AMD Radeon HD 6870 (either with 1GB of VRAM)
- Windows 7/8 (64-bit only)
- 38GB hard drive space
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- and Windows 7