“I’ve got a plan: break into the keep, kill every Nazi in there.” —William Blazkowicz
The last game I went through during its release year was Metro: Last Light back in 2013. This year, my interest in playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order led me to pick up a special package on discount. It was 50 CAD for both The New Order and The Old Blood, while The New Order on its own was 67 CAD. I was quite excited to hear about The Old Blood; a B-movie style trailer showcasing new secrets, guns and enemies convinced me that this standalone game might be worth checking out. After seven hours, I’ve finally beaten my way through Castle Wolfenstein, fought off a mecha-Jaeger with nothing more than a pipe, stormed my way through a zombie-infested town and killed the eldritch abomination that acts as the game’s final boss. This journey, though short, perhaps succeeds in evoking the old-school Wolfenstein feel more effectively than The New Order: whereas The New Order was a fantastic alternate history, The Old Blood really brought back elements from classic Wolfenstein titles through its hidden areas, which included full-on levels from the original Wolfenstein 3D. However, The Old Blood doesn’t stop there; there’s a full-fledged story in The Old Blood that ties in with The New Order, dealing with Blazkowicz’s efforts to secure a folder containing the location of Deathshead’s compound.
The Old Blood paints a much more complete picture of how The New Order began; players know roughly the end result, so the main challenge in The Old Blood was to provide a compelling narrative about how the events of The New Order were reached. How the Allied forces’ assault came to fruition was actually the consequence of Blazkowicz’s efforts to secure the folder against all odds. The mission to retrieve it began simply enough, but things rapidly deteriorate. Blazkowic heroically tries to save Agent One and continue with the mission, realising the significance of this folder, adding new weight and dimensions to The New Order‘s opening raid. The fact that such an effort was made towards ending the war and the Allies’ eventual failure at Deathshead’s compound adds to the poignancy in The New Order. A secondary theme with Helga deals with the oft-explored topic of dangerous knowledge, culminating Helga’s not-so-subtle death when an abomination she summons destroys her. As with The New Order, The Old Blood succeeds in painting a narrative for this Wolfenstein universe, which, coupled with the highly responsive shooting mechanics, makes for a superbly entertaining shooter.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The twenty screenshots I’ve got here only represent ten percent of all the screenshots I took throughout the game. The first section to The Old Blood is sneaking through Castle Wolfenstein’s dungeons, which are patrolled by prototype Supersoldaten, hulking monstrosities that can soak up and deal vast amounts of damage. Fortunately, these prototypes are constrained by their power supply: shutting down a generator allows Blazkowicz to use his pipe to pull out the power cable and disable them.
- Gratuitous violence makes a welcome return in The Old Blood: on occasion, rounds from Blazkowicz’s arsenal will blow heads and limbs off, while more powerful effects from explosions will rend bodies. With this unsubtle an indicator, there’s no need for hit markers at all.
- The Old Blood might be a serious game, but humour is quite common. Blazkowicz himself frequently makes hilarious remarks off hand, and the Nazi soldiers share some interesting conversations, with one of the more notable being one soldier correcting another about having ‘lying in bed’ as opposed to ‘laying in bed’. Blazkowicz has no patience for what a literal grammar Nazi and quickly wipes both out with the pipes.
- As The Old Blood progresses, there’s a decreasing need to use the pipe as a primary weapon, although their usefulness in climbing walls, opening doors and performing hilariously violent take downs means that they remain fun to use even when more powerful weapons are available.
- The 1946 assault rifle is an excellent all-around weapon and now can be fired in burst mode. Ammunition for the weapon is very common, so this weapon can be relied upon in almost every situation. Here, I fight my way through a kitchen, with large racks of meat being visible. The Calgary Stampede is on, and over the past few days, I had the opportunity to attend. This year, I was there mainly for the midway fare: the lobster corndog proved to be a surprise. Though smaller than a conventional corndog, the lobster conferred a sweeter flavour that complemented the corndog’s savouriness.
- The Kampfpistol behaves similar to a flare gun and fulfils the role of an under-barrel grenade launcher. Capable of taking down fire troopers in a single shot and yielding a large blast radius, this weapon is excellent against tougher enemies or large crowds. Callbacks to Bethseda’s Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and even DOOM are present- up here, I found a Cacodemon plushie in one of the rooms.
- The Old Blood‘s graphical requirements are steeper than that of The New Order‘s: the former makes use of volumetric lighting to give the sense of age in Castle Wolfenstein, and while not every ledge or balcony can be explored, The Old Blood‘s level designers do a fantastic job of capturing how large Castle Wolfenstein is. Here, I’m wielding the Bombenschuss, a bolt action rifle that is excellent for long-range engagements. This weapon is quite fun to use and can destroy fire-troopers with a single well-placed shot to their fuel tanks.
- The Schockhammer is an automatic shotgun that excels at close-quarters combat, and when dual-wielded, can decimate the enemy ranks. I absolutely love the mood and lighting in the castle; this feels like a fitting place for a party of sorts, and despite its medieval appearance, the dining hall feels quite fitting for a grand banquet. At the Stampede, I also had the chance to try out a Montreal smoked meat poutine. It was absolutely delicious, warding off the cold winds that picked up later in the evening.
- While there’s nothing wrong with a good firefight, stealth is a viable and surprisingly satisfying option. Unlike The New Order, commanders in The Old Blood were a little trickier to find, so I ended up getting into numerous firefights and did not get around to unlocking the perk that comes from stealth-killing commanders, which would’ve made it easier to find secrets and gold pieces. The library is a very ornate place and gives a welcoming sense: for high-ranking officers, it must be quite nice to have come from a hearty dinner in the dining hall and settle down here for a good book before retiring for the evening.
- Blazkowicz is captured by Rudi Jäger and interrogated, but manages to break free and kill his favourite dog. Unfortunately, Wesley can’t be saved, and Blazkowic is forced to continue the mission alone. It is here that Blazkowicz learns from Wesley his trick for keeping cool against difficult situations: “Count to four, inhale. Count to four, exhale”. Some of Blazkowic’s remarks show a sensitive side, others are nonsensical: together, they portray Blazkowicz as a human being, rather than a killing machine.
- The Bombenshuss is perhaps one of the most useful weapons in The Old Blood, allowing for long distance engagements. The weapon is only ineffective against the Supersoldaten, and unlike the Marksman rifle of The Old Blood, ammunition is quite common. The trams taking Blazkowicz between the town and castle do much to remind me of the last part of 007 Nightfire‘s The Exchange, where James Bond escapes Drake’s castle on a tram, as well.
- The town adjacent to Castle Wolfenstein is not actually Wulfberg. It is here that Blazkowicz meets Kessler and Annette for the first time, and the architecture of this town is quite similar to the town of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka; however, Blazkowicz is unlikely to find Rabbit House or any coffee shops here. Instead, this mission marks the end of the first act: Blazkowicz must take down a raging Jäger, who’s got a suit of powered armour rocking dual chain guns.
- In homage to Wolfenstein 3D, Jäger will shout “mein leben!” (lit. “my life”) when defeated. His dialogue lamenting the loss of his favourite dog was downright hilarious, and on my first encounter with him, I was laughing to much to aim straight, resulting in my death. On my second attempt, I made use of the Schockhammer to blow out Jäger’s capacitors and peel of his armour plating. This boss fight hails back to an older style of gameplay and was hugely entertaining, solidly wrapping up the first half of The Old Blood.
- Wulfberg is not the same town visible from Castle Wolfenstein: it’s a different town elsewhere, but it’s clear that many graphical assets were reused from that area. The area is patrolled quite heavily by the Nazis, but stealth options make them fairly straight forwards to take down.
- I’ve jumped ahead a ways to after Helga interrogates Blazkowicz, and a mysterious alchemical force transforms the Nazis into zombies. Called “shamblers” in game, they have nothing to do with one of the shotguns from Metro: Last Light and are yet another instance of Nazi zombies. Despite their demonic nature, they’re actually quite dull as opponents, and care be taken out without too much difficulty.
- Owing to the turn I took, I got the Annette route in The Old Blood. Here, my HUD shows a feature that would have been quite nice to have had in The New Order (apparently, I never discovered it): the ability to overcharge armour in a similar fashion as health.
- The only thing cooler than fighting Nazi zombies is fighting Nazi zombies in a powerful mecha that explodes enemies with its powerful claws. Enemies that get too close are able to board, but Blazkowicz is able to pilot the craft with one arm, using his free arm to wield a weapon.
- The atmospherics here are reminiscent of Hallow’s Eve, intended to raise the supernatural air surrounding the game’s second half. However, the official documentation suggest that the zombies themselves have scientific origins, with the chemical gas being a Da’at Yichud creation.
- Which other title do I have that starts out in a zombie-infested town, then enters a cemetery of sorts and descends underground? That would have to be Half-Life 2‘s Ravenholm mission. Despite being familiar, The Old Blood manages to introduce a new spin on things, and although not quite as riveting as Ravenholm and its poison headcrabs, The Old Blood nonetheless does a fine job with the atmosphere.
- This monstrosity is supposedly created by King Otto I, making use of ancient Da’at Yichud genetic technologies. After destroying Helga, it’s up to Blazkowicz to defeat it. The process is somewhat tedious: the trick is to iterate through shooting it in the mouth, escaping its arms, and using it to kill off the hordes of Nazis and Nazi-zombies in that order until it’s dead. After the monster is defeated, the cutscene depicting Blazkowicz’s next mission to take Deathshead’s Compound, plays, ending the game.
The Old Blood doesn’t disappoint from a gameplay perspective; movement and shooting is tactile and highly intuitive. The first half of the game is set in Castle Wolfenstein itself, reminiscent of 007 Nightfire‘s The Exchange mission, where 007 is tasked with infiltrating Raphael Drake’s castle in the Alps when MI6 suspects that a party is meant to be a cover for a missile guidance chip’s exchange. I absolutely loved the winter feel of that mission, for it felt very much like the annual Christmas parties at my cousin’s house (during which we spent playing team deathmatch in 007: Agent Under Fire). I always wondered what it would have been like to revisit Drake’s castle during the day, although the plot progression meant that was simply not happening. On the other hand, The Old Blood presents just that: a Germanic castle to explore by day. Shooting through the corridors, kitchens, staff quarters and even a library, as well as finding hidden-away secrets, were a blast. The second half of The Old Blood, though interesting, is modestly reminiscent of Half Life 2‘s Ravenholm. Despite being a familiar experience, it was nonetheless entertaining. Taken together, The Old Blood is a satisfying, worthy prequel to The New Order, although the focus on World War II-era weapons and equipment means that with both games out, it would be more logical to play through The Old Blood prior to starting The New Order.