Game Review: “Wolfenstein: The Old Blood” is great, but not “New Order” great

Early in 2014, developer Machine Games made their debut with the shockingly brilliant “Wolfenstein: The New Order,” a shooter that wasn’t afraid to stray from the roots of its franchise, or tell a great story, or depict an interesting Nazi-dominated alternate universe.

A year later, Machine Games has returned to their world of Nazis and ultra-violence with the stand-alone expansion to “The New Order,” “The Old Blood.” And while the fantastic action of “The New Order” remains intact, the game’s story sadly needed a little more time in the oven.

“The Old Blood” is a prequel, taking place in 1946 right before “The New Order” picked back up. In this alternate universe, the Third Reich has developed strange new technologies that have allowed them to win the war by the events of “The New Order,” but they haven’t won just yet in “The Old Blood.” Protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz has plans to locate the man behind this technology, Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, with hopes of turning the tide of World War II. He must venture into the forboding Castle Wolfenstein to learn his location. Naturally, as is the case with any “Wolfenstein” game, things go downhill from there.

The gunplay in “The Old Blood” is as tight as ever, with new enemies and weapons for veterans of “The New Order” to master. Players can be just as sneaky or loud as they were in “The New Order,” and they’ll be rewarded with the same unique perk system from “The New Order” that powered up abilities by completing challenges. Combined with the frenetic action of the game itself, this makes the main gameplay feel as great as it did in “The New Order.”

However, the story just isn’t up to snuff. This is a huge letdown, as “The New Order” had an incredible story with great character and atmosphere. The atmosphere is still there, as the halls of Castle Wolfenstein moan and creak with the player’s every step. And the characters are still likable, with B.J. delivering funny quips as he listens in on bumbling Nazi conversations. But the narrative doesn’t flow like it did in “The New Order.” The shooty action is never broken up with the careful character development or exposition that broke up the action in “The New Order;” the levels just flow from one into the other, like the older “Wolfenstein” or “Doom” titles. While some may see this as a positive, as it allows the gameplay itself to flow more freely, it comes as a true shame after “The New Order’s” awesome narrative.

But nitpicks are nitpicks; this is a $20 downloadable game, after all. And for that price, players get an expansive campaign with lots of varied levels. It is sad that the story had to suffer, but for twenty bucks and some great new ideas, weapons, and maps, who can complain?