Last year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order was an astoundingly pleasant surprise–a single-player only shooter that committed to creating an exciting campaign and compelling story. It mixed old-school, over the top action with sympathetic characters to create an experience that was plenty ridiculous, but one that had a lot of heart. Now developer MachineGames has elected to follow-up with a prequel in the form of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. This standalone downloadable offers much of the original game’s great action and creates some memorable moments of its own, but never manages to reach the heights of its predecessor.
But to even get to the good stuff, you’ve got to suffer through a terrible opening level, which slips you into a digital purgatory of gray hallways and forced stealth. Every corner you turn reveals a new hallway that looks exactly like the last, except a bit longer and with one more enemy patrolling it. It’s just one level, but a level so long and so terrible really drags down a game that’s only five hours along.
It’s a terrible first impression, but the quality slowly improves over the course of the next few levels. The first half is a natural extension of the New Order, with lots of open encounters in a fortress against hordes of Nazi enemies. The difficulty builds from where the previous game left off as well–these encounters are very challenging even on the default difficulty level, to the point at which I had to switch from using a controller to more precision controls with mouse and keyboard in order to stand a chance of success.
Old Blood doesn’t really hit its stride until you escape the fortress to enter the game’s second half, which introduces new environments, new characters, and new gameplay elements. It’s here that the game starts to feel like a worthy follow-up to the original–the story starts to take shape, likeable characters are introduced, and new weapons are introduced in order to deal with new enemy types. It’s like two different games.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is good, but it’s very uneven. The first half feels like a level pack for the original game, and at least one of those levels is just straight-up bad. The second half follows up on what actually made the original great and starts to offer new ideas of its own, but there’s not enough time for it to develop into a substantial whole. If you’re dying for more of the New Order, there’s just enough substance to make this prequel worth your time, but the original offers a much more cohesive, compelling, and complete experience.