Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is the prequel to 2015’s Wolfenstein: The New Order and while being a fun game, I wouldn’t say it’s as good as WTNO. I’m not saying that WTOB is a bad game, but it can be seen as a lesser experience (in more ways than one) from what TNO offered. At this point you may believe I’m just going to completely shit on WTOB, but that’s not the case. WTOB is still a fun FPS that standouts from the endless type of games we’ve had to deal with for quite some time and I’d like to discuss how it does that.
Despite being able to describe WTOB as a WWII FPS, that isn’t entirely true. I feel as if categorizing WTOB as simply a WWII FPS is too limiting. Even from the game’s plot you can tell WTOB isn’t a typical WWII shooter. The Wolfenstein games are done in such a way that while maintaining a loose sense of realism in regards to WWII, it also greatly embellishes certain aspects of it. This is best exemplified in the series’ heavy emphasis on supernatural/occult forces, a real part of Nazism, outrageous enemies, and guns that seem out of place in a game taking place in the 1940s.
WTOB involves the main character, BJ Blazkowicz attempting to successfully infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein in an attempt to gain secret files that could turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allied forces. This however isn’t a simple task and as a result of this dangerous situation, you will have to deal with numerous types of enemies to complete this mission. This of course isn’t an entirely hopeless situation because you’re more or less a super soldier with access to a decent sized arsenal.
Seeing as how WTOB is an FPS, it would make sense that you have quite a few weapons to choose from. For the most part, the weapons selection isn‘t entirely original, but the designs are sleek. The weapons range from a silenced handgun, a small, yet powerful grenade launcher, an automatic shotgun, a sniper rifle and two melee weapons.
What’s notable about the weapons in WTOB is that many of them can be dual wielded and this can lead to outrageous, but also incredibly fun action. I previously mentioned that the Wolfenstein franchise has a sense of realism in regards to relating to WWII, but dual wielding certain weapons will instantly remind you that this is indeed a fictional universe inside of a video game. You deal with numerous enemies in this game and despite being only one man, being able to dual wield machine guns or automatic shotguns helps even the odds. Not only is dual wielding incredibly fun just for the simple visual of holding these large weapons with one hand, but the carnage you dish out is also gruesome and eye opening. It’s a regular sight to see one of the many enemy soldiers explode into a red pool of pulp either from a headshot or from using one of the many explosives encountered in the game.
In discussing the ability to greatly punish the enemies encountered in this game, I must mention that this isn’t always an easy task. You mainly deal with German soldiers, but later on you will face supernatural/occult enemies that are throwback Wolfenstein. The enemies in this game can easily kill you, even at forgiving levels of difficulty and it will lead to you having to think up specific ways to deal with them. In mentioning the game’s enemies I must also say that the game’s final boss was a bit of a challenge. I’d say the boss was somewhere in the middle of rage quit hard and easy to deal with. You generally know what to do in this battle, but the concept is a lot easier than the execution. I played the game on its default difficulty setting so I can only speak about my experiences with that. The enemies encountered in this game aren’t your typical bullet sponges, they will look for cover and generally alert others to your presence, what I believe to be a sign of good AI. On top of that, I feel that the difficulty contributes to the challenge of this game. Despite being less than ten hours, what most would classify as a short game, the challenges offered in it helps balance things out. As a result of this, you simply cannot rush through levels or you will die.
Speaking of levels, you encounter quite a few varied areas in this game. What’s good about WTOB is that it isn’t entirely linear, you can approach situations in more ways than one. It is possible to choose which route you feel is best and depending on your preferred playstyle, you can either quietly slip by or recklessly shoot your way through the levels. This is also possible thanks to the game’s different environments. The game doesn’t entirely take place in a castle, you’re also able to visit its surrounding areas while trying to escape. You will also encounter a small town and eerie caves that have different enemies to deal with and different game mechanics.
Even though WTOB is an FPS, there is more to this game other than simply shooting things up. It surprised me, but there’s a lot of wall climbing involved in this game, not the parkour type. This is mostly done via the use of a pipe being stabbed into very particular looking walls. I mention this because it seems out of place in a game like WTOB because it’s highly interactive. The wall climbing isn’t an automatic action and it does involve you switching from hand to hand to overcome these obstacles. Along with the wall climbing, you eventually commandeer a mech and it’s quite fun being able to turn your enemies into a bloody pulp.
Up to this point I have mainly discussed WTOB’s gameplay, but its graphics are also worth discussing. For the most part, WTOB is a visually pleasing game, but there are instances where its performance suffers. I played this game with a gtx 1080 and I still encountered a few moments of FPS drops. It wasn’t game breaking, but it was frustrating to have such a good GPU and still encounter things such as this. On a more positive note, WTOB has a few cutscenes in them and they reminded me of classic Blizzard games. I don’t really know how to describe them, but the cutscenes looked like the ones you’d encounter in Starcraft and Diablo, it was good even if just for the short moment of nostalgia.
Throughout this review I have mainly discussed aspects of the game that I enjoyed, but I did previously mention that I felt that this game offered a lesser experience than TNO. The game’s length contributes to it feeling like DLC for TNO and I could see many people being unhappy about having to pay $20 for what can be viewed as DLC. I’m sure there’s numerous people out there that enjoy being able to beat a game in under 10 hours, but most would prefer a game to be a minimum of 10 hours before being happy with its length. As a result of that, I will say that it’d be best to buy this game when it’s inevitably on sale.
The game’s length wasn’t only thing I viewed as potentially problematic, but it is probably the biggest of all the flaws I encountered while playing through this game. Maybe it’s just because I mainly play my video games at night in a dark room, but there was a lot of bothersome flashing in this game. I’ve dealt with this in other games, but it felt worse in this one. This mainly came about when using rapid fire weapons such as the machine gun and the best solution for this was either not use that weapon as often, try to distance yourself from the screen (hard to do when gaming on a pc monitor), or momentarily divert your eyes. This complaint may come off as nitpicking, but I feel that it’s worth mentioning due to how many people deal with issues related to this.
I have previously touched upon the game’s difficulty in this review and have mostly spoken well of it, but at times I felt that it was quite problematic. I consider myself to be a fairly well adept gamer, but there were instances where I felt things were harder than they needed to be. It’s not a surprise to expect a game to be hard on higher difficulty settings, but in certain parts it felt like that even on its default level setting. One particular segment of the game felt incredibly drawn out due to the lack of check points and overall difficulty, it was annoying having to repeat it more than once from the beginning of the segment. In general, the game’s difficulty felt unbalanced from what it was initially described to be.
In regards to the game feeling unbalanced, I also felt that the stealth elements in this game were out of place. It’s nice having multiple options when playing a game, but it felt pointless. At the end of the day you were going to end up in a shootout and attempting a stealth approach only slightly delayed this. If it were entirely possible to get through the game by being stealthy, things would be different, but this wasn’t possible. It’s not possible due to the nature of the Wolfenstein series, but also because you had to kill your enemies to advance in the game.
Another complaint I had about WTOB has to do with the weapon wheel being a pain in the ass to use during hectic moments. The weapon selection process in WTOB is done in such a way that there’s two different ways to choose which weapons you want to use. One is a shortcut which involves pre-selecting two individual weapons and being able to cycle through them with the Y button (on an XBOX gamepad). This isn’t entirely bad, but it is limiting because at times you need different weapons aside from what you like to use. The more particular way of selecting weapons involves the use of a weapon wheel. This is done by holding down the RB button and then cycling through the weapon wheel for what you want to use. The problem with this is that it takes a bit of a while to cycle through the multiple weapons and in hectic moments that could easily lead to your death or just end up being very distracting.
While having enjoyed WTOB for what it had to offer, I could easily say that not many people will enjoy this game. It’s not an awful game, but it feels like a condensed version of WTNO and it comes off as DLC. For that reason I could see many people not wanting to pay full price for it. On that note, I recommend this game only if it’s heavily discounted or you just want more from modern day Wolfenstein, you’re not missing much if you decide to not buy/play this game.