Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Old Blood review
I had heard for a while now that Wolfenstein: The New Order was a solid shooter. I didn’t get much else beyond that, but hey, it’s good enough for me. The game’s 2014 launch date is recent enough that it will look good when playing but far enough back that it’s easy to get on sale. Bought it for PC on a Steam sale a while ago along with Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. At the time though, I wasn’t sure if The Old Blood was an expansion or just its own game or something. It ended up being a shorter prequel game, which was perfectly fine for me.
Both games were, overall, a lot of fun and I’m glad I scooped them up. I played both on Uber (highest) difficulty, with the exception of one little bit in The Old Blood (TOB) that I’ll talk about later.
The New Order (TNO) is another entry in the game franchise famous for being about fighting Nazis, but has a cool time skip component in it that I was unaware of. You begin the game in 1946 as an American soldier (William Blazkowicz, not sure if he’s a recurring character as this is my first foray into the franchise) just doing your regular WWII thing against Nazis who are impressively well-equipped compared to what we know today. It’s set in 1946 because in this universe, D-Day was a terrible catastrophe and just didn’t happen anywhere near as well as was hoped. That was the beginning of the end for the Allies.
The first one or two levels are in 1946, but then the time skip happens. You then continue the game in 1960, with Germany having won WWII. Your personal mission has largely remained unchanged in those 14 years, so you just go at it again, but now the Nazis have some really bonkers equipment, which makes sense given where they were at during the war. I really liked that whole aspect of this game. You go in expecting another regular Nazi war game, but it ends up becoming something substantially different with some alternate-history stuff going on.
The guns all felt great, and I found myself switching between them all with incredible regularity. It’s typical for me, with a lot of shooters I play, to find a particular gun or pair of guns that really get the job done for me, but I enjoyed all the weapons in TNO. The AI was not stellar though. I feel like Uber should have been a hair harder than it was. But enemies will only rarely converge on your position if you’re behind cover for a while. They love to work on their squats while you guys are in the middle of a firefight, just bobbing up and down without a huge desire to push forward. This isn’t ALWAYS the case, but I found it to be the case more often than I’d like.
The level design was really solid, at least for me. You end up in what I consider to be a fairly varied group of environments with reasonable to semi-reasonable transitions, so it never feels boring. In general, I REALLY enjoyed the aesthetics of the game. Six years of graphics changes since the game’s launch haven’t been that jarring for me, so I was definitely able to appreciate the look of both games a whole lot.
The story in TNO was… passable? It plays out almost like a heist movie. You have this series of objectives you have to accomplish in order to make it to the final important one. You get missions in a sort of “hub room” and the transitions between missions feels rather rushed in some cases. Perhaps some suspension of disbelief is needed, but how the characters get from one area to another with no issue can be A LITTLE hard to swallow some of the times. You get to know some characters, but not terribly well. Some of them live and some of them die (OH NO), but there only a couple I could say I cared about. Some of major plot points in the game take a turn for the fantastical, and maybe I should have accepted that given the tech the Nazis had by ’46, but SOME of it was still a hair jarring.
By no means does this break the game for me though. The gunplay is really the main reason I’m after any FPS games these days, and TNO was pretty well put together in that regard. Because of this, a passable story is perfectly acceptable to me, but admittedly might be a turn-off for others.
On that note, unfortunately, the end of the game is hot garbage. The final boss fight is two stages. However, the first stage has to be done a certain way with, what I felt, no clear indication of how to do it. I was running around dying a bunch of times before I had to look it up online to see what I was doing wrong. If you got it the first time, or in general got it on your own, I’m proud of you. But I definitely couldn’t. Stage two of the fight gave me a lot of trouble, but eventually I found a way to cheese it from a strong position, but I didn’t feel all that bad because I was still disgruntled with stage one.
The secrets in this game are BRUTAL to find. I’ve already played Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal, so I was in a great headspace to try and explore the maps to try and find whatever little “secrets” are floating around, but I think I found less than half of them? Christ I thought I was taking it slow and easy when it was searching time, but the way it ended up you’d think I was running through levels like the Roadrunner. Largely there’s not a great benefit to spending time looking for them, but in TNO, a health upgrade is one of the secrets, so each one you find gives you a small boost to your maximum health. I think I only found 2 or 3 out of the 10 possible ones. I’m honestly unsure how much of a difference it makes in the grand scheme of things. It felt like if you were in a position where you were getting shot at hard, having an extra 20 or 30 points of health wouldn’t do much for you, at least not at Uber.
ALSO, I didn’t realize this until as I was writing this and checking the Wolfenstein Wiki to make sure I got some information correct, but Mick Gordon (of Doom music fame) did the music for both games. It’s funny to think about now, because I definitely had moments while I was playing where I was thinking to myself “dang, this sounds like a softer version of something I’d hear in Doom,” and lo and behold. Needless to say, I was a big fan of the music.
Moving on to The Old Blood, this is a shorter game (Steam says TNO took me ~20 hours and TOB took me ~11), and is a direct prequel to The New Order, so the whole game happens in 1946. In TOB, still playing as Blazkowicz, you’re trying to get a secret intel folder to help you get to your objective in TNO. Part of the game actually takes place in Wolfenstein Castle, so that’s a fun throwback as well. Also, that castle is goddamn enormous. I’ve been to a few European castles, and they all feel like dog houses compared to this nonsense.
Because the game is back in ’46, you’re using similar weapons to what you started TNO with, which was a little refreshing. I’m not entirely sure why, but going back to the “simpler” times, within the context of this universe, was nice for me. I mentioned above that there were some fantastical elements to the TNO campaign, but at least that game tried to keep it SOMEWHAT grounded in reality. But man, they’ve got nothing on TOB. This isn’t inherently a drawback though, and honestly the execution in TOB was just the right amount of strange for me. I know it’s all up to personal preference in that regard though, so I won’t pretend to say that either execution is objectively better.
Worth noting that, for me, the beginning of TOB was pretty weak. I’m glad it didn’t turn me off of the game entirely, but the way you play the beginning of the game is pretty different from the way the rest of the game gets played, and it didn’t really hook me. I persisted because I had figured that the whole game wouldn’t be like that, and fortunately I was right. Eventually it got better, but oof, it took a moment.
Otherwise, TOB is basically exactly the same game as TNO with some adjustments made for context and environment. The game is split into two main parts, with each having 4 chapters. There are two main antagonists, each being a boss of their respective part. I enjoyed the first antagonist quite a bit because there is greater engagement with the character. The second one I enjoyed less because we DIDN’T get to spend any time engaging with them. Maybe that doesn’t matter a whole lot for a Nazi war game though. I leave that up to you.
There are also a handful of protagonists, but most don’t stay with you for very long because of the constant need for movement to get to the next objective, so none of them REALLY matter to you. It’s honestly probably the best way for a game this short. The amount of time needed to get really invested in a side character would probably require too great a percentage of time for this one.
I mentioned at the top though that there was one section I had to get out of Uber for. In chapter 4, you find yourself having to fight a large robot dog. I’ve read on forums that people swear by how easy it is to fight it, even on Uber, but I just couldn’t get it right. It moves incredibly fast, so trying to get out of the way when it lunges at you didn’t seem to do the trick for me. Anyway, blah blah blah, excuses excuses, I had gotten so frustrated with this boss that I turned the difficulty to the lowest one, beat the stupid dog really quickly, then immediately put the difficulty back up to Uber for the rest of the game AND I REGRET NOTHING. If you had no issues with the dog, then once again I am proud of you, but man, I have too many other games in my library to spend ages trying to figure out this one boss.
I think that about wraps up my major thoughts on the two games. I’ve heard that the sequel, The New Colossus, doesn’t get some things quite as right as TNO did, but I’m still looking forward to trying it for myself when I get a chance. In any case, on Steam, TNO and TOB come in a bundle and during sale season typically come down to $9 for the pair, and I would HEARTILY suggest these two games at only $4.50 each. They may not be groundbreaking, especially with a few years of content now ahead of them, but they’re both quite genuinely a good time with a good amount of content, and I certainly can’t ask for any more at that price point.