Developer: Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Plot: BJ Blazkowicz goes undercover in Castle Wolfenstein to get a folder that will lead him to Deathshead’s compound, a mission that puts him in the line of fire from the terrifyingly ambitious, Helga.
Wolfenstein was the sleeper hit of 2014. With so many underwhelming games being released for the PS4, Wolfenstein somehow surprised everyone. A reboot of an old FPS that turned into something entirely outside the norm. While it failed to escape the style of every other shoot-em-up on the console, Wolfenstein’s tone was both deadly serious, yet campy fun, somehow blending the two extreme tones into an universe like no other. Not only did we take on Nazi robot dogs in the 60s, but everyone did it with a straight face, not a hint of a joke anywhere to be seen. Wolfenstein might not be anywhere in the same league as other game series we are holding our breath for, but when the DLC was announced, I was more pleased than I expected myself to be.
And in true DLC nature, The Old Blood’s goal is to be more of the same. A prequel story is set up, detailing exactly how Blaskowicz and his team learned where Deathshead’s compound was in the prologue story in the main game, and before long, we are thrown back into the action. A quick prequel later and we are thrown into a prison cell, needing to bust our way out, grab a few German guns and begin tearing into the Nazi soldiers. It is both simple and effective. There is the sense that so little effort could be put into this DLC and we would have lapped it up nonetheless. Maybe all we really crave from this DLC is a bunch of rooms, a load of Nazis and the right kind of weapon to mow them all down in a bloody action sequence. However, Machine Games aren’t happy with just giving us some more time in the universe. They work on the smaller details, the background effects that make The Old Blood feel more three-dimensional a game. This is more than a DLC, but a story with acts and chapters. The Old Blood is far longer than you expect it to be and it could be mistaken for being a game in its own right, albeit a condensed one. There are subplots if you decide to wander off the beaten path and find them. Helga and the bad guys have their own functioning character arcs, through letters and stray documents (be warned – some letters could argue to spoil the neat twist at the end of this game!). The supporting characters, namely Annette, has her own story that is pretty much just background dressing, but in not bringing it up properly, it somehow elevates the DLC, as if Annette’s storyline is just as beautiful without embellishment or proper focus. The Old Blood gives us the shooter thrill ride we want, but adds to that, so we are left with a project that feels independent and easily worth the price to anyone who fancies a proper action experience.
The Old Blood isn’t without its flaws. While it does feel like a lengthy DLC, the truth is that is mainly down to pacing. The game still clocks it at a four hour experience (longer if you are still dedicated to hunting down as much gold, letters and Easter Eggs as you can get your hands on), but it feels as if a six hour game has been crammed into that space of time. There is enough material here to give Wolfenstein its own sequel and you can’t help but wish that Machine Games took a year out to just polish this DLC into a fully-formed game of its own. There are enough action sequences, but it is the bits in between that suffer. Rather they aren’t there at all. The New Order masterfully slowed down the game to let you experience the universe and explore the characters the game was showing off. There is none of that in The Old Blood. You will finish up a major shoot-out and find the next one in the very next room. You cannot help but wish that everything was slowed down to let the atmosphere breathe. Yes, everything in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is brilliant, from the ‘not-quite-finished’ versions of the robots we fight in the New Order to the mid-act boss fight with Jager. The shame is that we are never able to appreciate the brilliance of the game, because it is constantly shoving these moments in our face, like an excitable puppy (that’s not even a metaphor – my favourite baddie, the Panzerhund, makes its first appearance in BJ’s life). Even the arcade Easter eggs are tiresome. In The New Order, there was a hidden level for the player to find and play through, taking them back to the very first Wolfenstein game. In The Old Blood, every chapter has a hidden level somewhere. The problem is that these hidden Easter Eggs are so lengthy and numerous, the novelty factor is killed off pretty sharpish. It is a case of excess ruining a good product. The Old Blood is a good game, yes, but a very exhausting one that might leave a few gamers fed up before they come to its conclusion.
But please stick with it, because the last hour is amazing. Just when The Old Blood threatens to go stale, a twist kicks in that completely changes the game you are playing. Yes, it is still Blaskowicz shooting his enemies dead in fun set-pieces, only the bad guy changes into something arguably more fun. It isn’t a twist that hasn’t been done before, but somehow in Wolfenstein, it feels… right. Of course, this is a twist that is happening, because there are no limits to this game. This is where that tone that handles both gritty drama and laugh-out-loud campness really comes into play, because the twist is so non-sensical, that only Wolfenstein can make it work. They don’t play it for laughs; they simply roll with it. And the ending to The Old Blood is nothing short of FPS at its very best, right down to a pretty incredible final boss fight that will stay with you for some time.
Final Verdict: The Old Blood bites off more than it can chew, but for the most part, it is so fun, we can’t not be pleased with this DLC.