by Matthew Thompson
Wolfenstein: The New Order caught me by surprise and ended up being one of my favorite games of 2014. I also happen to love the new trend of standalone downloadable expansions that has sprung up in recent years, so The Old Blood seemed right up my alley. And I certainly enjoyed my time with it, but a number of factors kept it from reaching the heights of its predecessor.
It certainly doesn’t get off to the best start. After a solid prologue to open the game, the first proper chapter is a bit too stealth-oriented. The New Order thrived by giving you plenty of ways to approach combat, but this sequence really limits your options. In a longer game, this might have acted as a nice change of pace in the middle somewhere, but feels like a poor way to kick off The Old Blood.
Luckily things open up after this and I’m quickly reminded why The New Order struck such a chord with me last year. The gameplay has this great mix of old and new-school sensibilities. You’ll be running and gunning with a pair of shotguns like the shooters of yore one moment and slinking through tossing knives into commanders’ backs another. The level design is once again intelligently handled: largely linear, but with enough width and open areas to not feel too hemmed in. The Old Blood also delves into the occult more than The New Order did which helps add some variety to the enemy encounters. You can even sort of pit some of the supernatural baddies against the Nazis which is a nice twist.
The most surprising aspect of 2014’s most surprising game was the story. There was a real heart at the center of The New Order’s tale and its band of resistance fighters. Unfortunately The Old Blood doesn’t pack the same narrative punch. It acts as a direct prequel to TNO and there are some cool nods to what is to come, but the story just isn’t as big a part of the package here. Personally I also preferred the structure of The New Order that had you returning to your base between levels (though your mileage may vary there, I could certainly see someone liking the more straight forward layout of TOB) and the extra layer your laser tool added to the campaign (TOB’s pipe is just no substitute).
It may seem unfair to compare The Old Blood to The New Order so much. But it doesn’t just feel like a smaller game, it feels like a lesser one. It simply lacks some of the things that made TNO so special. Still The Old Blood is a good shooter. More of a straight up action game than The New Order. For those looking for more of the fun combat found in the main game, they’ll get it here with challenges available to test your skills some more after the campaign is over. Same for those wanting to explore Castle Wolfenstein and see the series’ more supernatural side, that is here to enjoy as well. But whereas The New Order delivered an elite FPS campaign, The Old Blood is just a very good one: worth the money for big fans of the genre and those who are chomping at the bit for more Wolfenstein after last year’s entry, but unlikely to leave as much of an impact this time around.