Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC
Last year, Wolfenstein: The New Order turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in the industry, a fast-paced first-person shooter that not only paid loving tribute to the franchise that started it all for the genre, but managed to do so without a hint of multiplayer. It's still a provocative – and bold – game to play nowadays, but now we have something new added to the mix – Machine Games' prequel/expansion The Old Blood.
The game picks up right before The New Order, with B.J. Blazkowicz taking on a pair of new missions. The first one will be awfully familiar to fans, as he pays a visit to the legendary Castle Wolfenstein, where trouble awaits in the form of a strong Nazi powerhouse and his army. Luckily, B.J. can get his hands on a number of weapons to even the playing field – and that's just the way we like it.
Two Episodes, A Lot of Punch
The Old Blood, an expansion which lasts a whopping eight hours (a decent value for the price), features two episodes. The first, "Rudi Jager and the Den of Wolves," focuses on Castle Wolfenstein, as B.J. and his colleague are captured, forcing him to fight his way out through any means – even with a broken pipe as his main weapon.
This chapter takes a little while to get going – it rolls out with a segment where you non-violently work your way into the castle – but once it does, there's a pleasant mixture of action and stealth to be mastered, and it isn't long before you start picking up some fierce weaponry, like chain guns or a shotgun that can kill a man with one well-timed blast.
As for the second chapter, "The Dark Secrets of Helga Von Schabbs," it's more emotional, introducing an undead factor as you have to contend with Helga's creations within the village of Wulfburg. This one is all action, and a great wrap-up to the mini-chapter of the series – plus you can never go wrong with destroying zombies, right?
Overall, the length of these two chapters is nothing to complain about, and some of the action scenarios – like a battle above a gorge across cable cars -- are simply outstanding. Machine Games continues to churn out great work here, and I wouldn't mind yet another add-on – or, hell, a sequel – to keep things moving.
Guns, Guns, Guns
Like the original The New Order, The Old Blood gives you a plethora of weapons that you'll pick up, starting with a pipe (which can be used to climb walls and open doors, along with melee attacks) and eventually folding out with more powerful guns. Being able to select what you want is as simple as holding down a shoulder button and selecting from a weapon wheel. It worked great before, and it works fine here.
Plus, the action is truly satisfactory once it gets going, and the way you gruesomely take out Nazis is rather fitting, whether you blow someone's head off with the aforementioned shotgun or let loose with a stealthy neck stab from your pipe. Oh, and a quick heads-up – you'll probably be killing a lot of dogs, too. Just so you're prepared.
The game never gets to the point of being completely frustrating, although, if you prefer, you can play on a lighter difficulty. Make sure you're prepared to be mocked, though, because selecting the "Can I play, daddy?" difficulty will include B.J. in a full baby mock-up.
A Stellar Nazi World
While the thought of an overrun Nazi world was quite terrifying in The New Order, Machine Games did a killer job recreating Wolfenstein's world for a new age, complete with a fast frame rate and 1080p resolution. The same goes for The Old Blood, with exquisitely designed stages, no lack of speed (whether you're inside or out), and nary a bit of loading time. The cut-scenes look like they're lacking in polish a little, but the game moves at such a brisk pace, you'll barely have any time to complain. It looks splendid overall.
As for sound, the music continues to fit the Wolfenstein mold, with plenty of atmospheric tunes to fit your action needs. B.J. has some great dialogue too, as you can hear the grief in his voice when he loses a close ally, then holds nothing back when it comes to punishing his enemies. The authentic Nazi voices add to the theme as well – even the "hot dog" line at the beginning. "Hot dog?" your colleague asks. You'll see when you get there.