Wolfenstein: The Old Blood review - a generous standalone expansion

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; £14.99; MachineGames

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The Independent Tech

Wolfenstein: The New Order – a B-movie, gore-soaked reboot for the granddaddy of all first-person shooters – was one of 2014’s genuine surprises in gaming. With an extensive and enjoyably silly campaign that took veteran gruff solider B. J. Blazkowicz from the alternate-history, steampunk strongholds of the Third Reich all the way to the Moon, developer MachineGames successfully revitalized a geriatric franchise.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a prequel that leads directly into The New Order, is an equally generous standalone expansion that carries over the satisfying gunplay and solid stealth mechanics from its parent title, while also ratcheting up the dumbness-dial by throwing Nazi zombies into the mix.

The Old Blood is literally a game of two halves as it splits into two parts, with the first returning players to Castle Wolfenstein itself. It’s here that The Old Blood occasionally falters, in a stale opening chapter that seems overly preoccupied with traversing walls with a new pipe melee weapon/climbing apparatus, pulling endless amounts of levers and dispatching napping canines. Thankfully The Old Blood hits its stride immediately afterwards as the welcome jettisoning of the pointless fetch-quest heavy expository chapters of The New Order make way for a constant stream of inter-connected battlegrounds - all of which are equally viable for both stealth or the traditional ‘all-guns-blazing’ approach.

New weapons like the Kampfpistol – a flare gun crossed with a grenade launcher – and two new endearingly maniacal villains prevent The Old Blood from feeling like a simple retread. One aspect of the original game that does make an unfortunate return is the wildly inconsistent tonal shifts. Having Blazkowicz poetically monologue about his troubled past one moment, and then fighting one of the main antagonists as he tearfully proclaims his love for his deceased pet (while suited in armour and wielding two chainguns) the next is utterly bizarre.

When The Old Blood takes itself less seriously, with the aforementioned zombies in the expansion’s occult-heavy latter half, or in incidental comedic asides such as when a Nazi soldier chastises his comrade for his shameful grammar (think about it), it carves out its own identity in an often po-faced genre. While Wolfenstein: The Old Blood suffers slightly from a lack of environmental diversity and the inevitable absence of the surprise factor that aided the original’s surprise popularity, it is a substantial addition to a resurgent series that, unlike the common slew of overpriced add-ons and expansions, is a wolf that wouldn’t be seen dead in sheep’s clothing.