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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PlayStation 4) artwork

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PlayStation 4) review

"Remarkable Turnaround"

After spending several minutes snooping around stair walkways, avoiding soldiers on patrol, and successfully killing two commanders who could call reinforcements, I reached the control room undetected. Unfortunately, opening the giant metal door that blocked my freedom from Castle Wolfenstein sounded an alarm, and within seconds, Nazis surrounded the exterior of the room. Windows shattered as their bullets flung everywhere, grenades were occasionally tossed in, and a ferocious robot was standing right in front of the control room's door. Surprisingly, I somehow escaped the small confines of the room, filled a couple soldiers with bullets, and immediately took cover just inches away from a gondola lift, due to that same robot blowing lead from its turret. All I had to do was enter the lift, flip the switch, and I was on my way out.

But I chose to stay.

As the robot mindlessly stared at my previous location, I slowly crept behind the sturdy monster and unloaded a couple rounds from my dual shotguns... until I realized this area had a lot more Nazis than I previously believed. With my armor depleted and my health steadily decreasing, I quickly escaped down into the electric generator room, where I recalled a med kit pouch was lying in a corner. Then I stood my ground, plucking away at the bold soldiers that dare round the corner at the opposite end, waiting for the opportunity to dash back up to the top floor. But, even though I knew there were more, the Nazis stopped rushing in from that location. Was the AI bugging out? Before I could even plan my next move, I was being shot at from an unknown location. I eventually turned to my right and noticed soldiers spilling in from an alternative route. I was being flanked!

I chose to stay because I was having fun with The Old Blood.

That specific segment occurs halfway through the adventure, not to mention it's only the beginning of a very hectic chapter, and at that point, I remember thinking, "This is from the same devs??" Like, The Old Blood reuses a ton of stuff from the previous game, The New Order, such as its core mechanics, stealth, the enemies, and most of the weapons, yet it feels like such a different beast. The New Order's greatest downfall was not being able to live up to its overambitious nature, and many aspects suffered for it, especially the action which felt too generic and uninspired. The Old Blood, on the other hand, just straight up wants to be an honest, conflict-heavy FPS with a stealth component, and without other, unnecessary elements cluttering up the game, there's a noticeably clearer, focused vision.

In terms of level design, The New Order commits a facepalming sin of constructing most environments where enemies come at you in a single, linear direction; soldiers can easily be picked off from behind a particular spot without having to move. I had to switch to the difficulty above normal, I AM DEATH INCARNATE, to even feel a semblance of challenge. I bring this up because The Old Blood approaches level design much differently. This is an embarrassing thing to admit, but when I participated in the game's first firefight, I died. I died super hard. I thought I could simply hide behind a wall, occasionally peek out to kill some Nazis, and be done with the fight. But the soldiers weren't having any of that, as was evident by their persistence in entering my small room via the opposite entrance. You're rarely safe in The Old Blood, as these areas are usually multi-floored, and always have at least two paths for enemies to reach your supposed refuge.

It doesn't hurt, too, that the AI is much more aggressive on the standard difficulty setting. More times than not, Nazis literally spilled into my location, and I often found myself shooting, running, and sliding away like some kind of headless chicken before regaining composure. And just when I do, they're flanking me again... That, or they're tossing an absurd amount of grenades in my little hiding spot, something that scarcely happened during my playthrough of The New Order. The Old Blood invites chaos and mayhem, so much so that many locations are loaded with weapon, ammo, and health stockpiles for upcoming fights, because the devs knew you're going to need everything to fend off the hordes.

For a supposedly mindless thrill ride, the game has surprisingly varied settings and setups, making its predecessor's overall design more questionable in comparison. What if I told you the entire second chapter took place at a giant gate beside a small docking port, and that it still manages to be diverse and engaging? The devs do this by making the chapter nearly vertical in design, prolonging what appeared to be a seemingly small area; in one spot, you have to climb upward and through windows to reach one switch for the gate, and in another, you move downward into the castle's twisting, damaged catacombs to reach the other switch, both conveniently exiting to the front gate. Now that's level design. This even extends into stealth segments, which feels more layered and lengthy than in the last game, such as being able to walk on wood beams above a kitchen, or making a patrol-infested u-turn to kill a commander. Shoot, the first chapter alone is boldly dedicated to using stealth.

After my mediocre experience with The New Order, I was very hesitant to give The Old Blood a go, in fear of reliving a similar episode. I'm really glad I did. The shift in tone was a pleasant surprise, but also a tad bittersweet, because it made me wonder what The New Order could have been if it acted more like this. The game isn't flawless, however, as it wavers in quality during two specific chapters towards the end, not to mention a threat is introduced that made me go "Really?" when I first saw it. I won't flat out spoil, but I will say it's an overused threat in video games. Even then, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood still outshines its immediate predecessor with a sweet combination of hectic battles, aggressive AI, and logical level designs that does justice to its namesake.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 12, 2016)

Do I wish there was a sequel to Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe? Sure. But not if nothing new or drastic was added. We don't need another Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move mess on our hands.

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Masters posted November 24, 2017:

Nice job. I'm interested in knowing what 'threat' you're referring to at the end of the review?
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pickhut posted November 24, 2017:

Zombies. Thinking back, I don't know why I wanted to keep that part vague.

Zombies and Nazis, two of the most overused villains in modern action games, now in unison; still wasn't enough to ruin the game, though.

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