If there is a more enjoyable group of people to kill in video games than Nazis, I haven't found them. I know, I know, violence is deplorable and all that, but it's just a video game, after all, and if there were ever a group of people more deserving of being shot in the face, it's the Nazis.
A prequel to the pretty outstanding Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Old Blood is a standalone expansion pack that returns the Wolfenstein franchise back to its roots. Whereas Machinegames took a more serious approach with The New Order, The Old Blood features a lot of the campiness of earlier titles including zombie Nazis and bosses in giant mechanized suits with chaingun arms. Some critics decried the tonal shift, but to me, this is Wolfenstein. It's a silly revenge fantasy, like Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (man, spellcheck really hates that movie's title), not a poignant statement on the horrors of World War II. Stuffed to the brim with callbacks to the exceptional Return to Castle Wolfenstein and the original Wolfenstein 3D, The Old Blood is an old school good time.
As usual, you play as William "B.J." Blazkowicz - the once silent protagonist of the series - on a mission to stop the Nazi war machine from rumbling on. Disguised as SS officers, BJ and his partner must infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein and steal a top-secret folder containing the whereabouts of Oberst-Gruppenführer Wilhelm Strasse, better known as "Deathshead" - the main antagonist of The New Order.
The Old Blood is actually split up into two distinct parts. Part I focuses on BJ's mission at Castle Wolfenstein, which naturally doesn't go as planned, requiring a daring escape and culminating in a battle with Sturnbannfuhrer Rudi Jäger in a small town tavern just outside the castle. It's the more serious of the two campaigns, though definitely not without its own degree of silliness. Part II introduces Standartenführerin Helga von Schabbs and a heavy influence of the occult. It's no secret that Adolf Hitler did, in reality, have a fascination with the occult, but I'm pretty sure there were no Nazi zombies like you'll be fighting off here in World War II.
Both parts feature a mix of guns-blazing action and stealth with a decidedly old school feel. There are no meters to tell you how well you're hidden. You regain health by picking up health kits scattered all over the place, and you can pick up armor to deflect damage - though how BJ carries dozens of Nazi helmets is a mystery. You're still a walking munitions depot, capable of carrying half a dozen guns and plentiful ammo for all of them, as well as a few grenades and even throwing knives. The action is fast and frenetic, with only the slightest hint of modern shooter conventions in the form of health that regenerates only to the nearest integer of 20. There's also an excellent cover system that keeps firefights tense while you peek out to thin out the Nazi herd one by one.
Like The New Order, there is also a simple perk system, and like that game I barely noticed it. Perks include permanent health and armor upgrades or the ability to carry more ammo, but ultimately it still feels tacked on and doesn't really add anything noteworthy to the experience. On the bright side, it also doesn't detract from the game either. It's just kind of there.
Which part of the game you enjoy more will depend partly on what you expect from Wolfenstein. I loved everything inside Castle Wolfenstein. Visually, it looks like a beautiful upgrade to the version in Return to Castle Wolfenstein. I wanted to explore every hallway for secrets skirted away in hidden passages and false walls. Most of Part II takes place in the village of Wulfburg, which I appreciated just as much for the change of scenery, but I felt like the levels (or chapters, as they're called) were noticeably shorter. While neither portion of the game is as serious as The New Order, Part II definitely lays the camp on thick, right down to the final boss fight against a giant, ancient abomination.
Right up until that point, I enjoyed the whole of The Old Blood, but the final boss is annoying and out of place, even after mowing down hordes of zombies. I would have preferred a fight against Helga or another high-ranking Nazi officer over a goofy monster with set attack patterns. To make matters worse, my game glitched out pretty severely, stranding dead Nazi soldiers (who also enter the room to shoot you instead of the giant monster in front of them) in mid-air, though thankfully Nazis apparently lose corporeal properties in death and you can walk right through their bodies.
One clunky boss fight doesn't ruin the overall experience, however. The Old Blood is still a great time. Running on id Tech 5, it still looks pretty damn good, and the musical score is fantastic - including some callbacks to classic tunes, such as a percussion-heavy rendition of Wolf 3D's first map theme. There are plenty of secrets to discover as well, including "nightmare" levels that put BJ back in all the pixelated glory of Wolfenstein 3D - though I must say, these levels do highlight the somewhat tedious nature of the original game in the modern day. The guns are fun to wield, and the Nazis even more fun to shoot. The story isn't as strong as The New Order, but it's unmistakably Wolfenstein and it still features some terrific interactions with the villains you'll love to hate. Between the satisfying game mechanics, exciting battles, superb level design, and the throwback tone, there's a lot for people who grew up playing Wolf 3D to love here.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood was completed on a PlayStation 4 with no cheats.