It’s been almost a year since MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks released Wolfenstein: The New Order. It was a great stylized first-person shooter that managed to breathe new life into what was once a relatively stale IP by pulling B.J. Blazkowicz away from the Castle Wolfenstein setting. The new standalone DLC, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, marks Blazkowicz’s return to the infamous castle that made him such a famous gaming icon, but in doing so it feels far too familiar.
Instead of focusing on advanced technology, The Old Blood chooses to reign in the age-old topic of Nazi occultism, and begins to tread a fine line that errs almost too closely to previous entries in the series. Fans of the series will immediately recognize parallels between Return to Castle Wolfenstein and The Old Blood, and while that may not necessarily be a bad thing, the title doesn’t manage to paint Blazkowicz as the compelling character he was previously. If anything, it all feels like a bit of a rehash.
"The pacing borrows a lot from The New Order, even in terms of story and character development, and the occult spin that occurs didn’t really seem to be enough to make me feel like this was something I hadn’t already played."
In spite of the familiar gothic setting MachineGames has still managed to create a well realized world that is beautifully laid out. The few times that players are treated to overhead shots of the scenery located around castle Wolfenstein are absolutely breathtaking, and the corridor mechanics and interior castle layouts manage to retain MachineGames overall sense of style. Even the writing manages to still inject the dark humor that was laden in the previous entry (I had quite a laugh while I stealthily listened to the banter between literal grammar Nazis), but its more heavy-handed content tends to miss the mark.
Mechanically The Old Blood is sound, presenting the well-paced, visceral, and in-your-face combat that fans of the previous release have come to know and love. Unfortunately it quickly begins to lack variety becoming almost tedious, especially when facing wave after wave of familiar Nazi enemy types. The pacing borrows a lot from The New Order, even in terms of story and character development, and the occult “spin” that occurs didn’t really seem to be enough to make me feel like this was something I hadn’t already played.
"Unfortunately quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and there are points where the campaign could have benefitted from cuts to keep the title more focused."
What did impress me about the The Old Blood was its length. It took me around 8 hours to complete the entirety of the game, and that’s without me going back to access challenge maps and other additional content. Honestly, I was expecting nothing more than a quick five hour campaign with some other frills to add to the replayability, and I would have been happy with that. But MachineGames has gone the extra mile creating a full-sized campaign whose length rivals most other first-person shooters released these days. For $20 (US) this is an incredible value, especially considering the fact that The New Order was only a couple hours longer and released at full price. MachineGames has really paid respect to fans of the series and consumers, offering up plenty of content at a price that’s more than reasonable.
Unfortunately quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and there are points where the campaign could have benefitted from cuts to keep the title more focused. On-rails turret sections, a frustrating forced stealth introduction, a tricky vehicle section, and a poor final boss represent some of the lowest points that the campaign offers, and the bullet-sponge enemies do nothing more than prolong fights that didn’t need to be dragged out quite as long as they were. Don’t get me wrong, combat remains fun, for the most part, but it’s mainly due to MachineGames’ focus on intuitive and fast-paced gunplay.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood lives up to its title. It’s without a doubt a retreading of Nazi occultism and familiar Wolfenstein settings laid out by the series’ older titles, but MachineGames’ well implemented charm is still there, buried deep in the confines of the rehashed framework making Blazkowicz’s latest foray into Castle Wolfenstein, a place many people have raided again and again, play out more like a love letter than a new experience.
Review by: Palmer Sturman | Reviewed on: Playstation 4