FBT is returning to Castle Wolfenstein. Again?
Wolfenstein 3D is the granddaddy of shooters, but its progeny has been an inbred mangle, and The Old Blood is perhaps the most incestuous of the lot - a prequel to the reboot and a remake of both the original and its reboot sequel. And Wolfenstein 3D was a remake itself. Sweet Home Alabama should be its soundtrack.
Set in the midst of WWII, BJ and British spy Wesley infiltrate Nazi stronghold Castle Wolfenstein to find the location of ‘Deadshead’, the villain from the reboot (and others), so the allies can turn the tide of the war. Of course, it’s not long before our spies are discovered and captured and BJ escapes and tears the Nazis a new one.
I preferred this to The New Order. Since it’s set before the Nazi takeover, it’s freed of that game’s self-importance and feels much closer to the original - and being set in Wolfenstein Castle for once makes it feel like we’ve come home. This is a pure adventure like the great spy and war movies you’d watch with Grandad on a Sunday afternoon – unlike The New Order, with its sex scenes that would be mortifying to watch with Granddad. There’s even a strong stealth element, which is weirdly welcome; BJ sneaking? Sacrilege surely.
Stealthing in Wolf does seem off but it’s so well done and adds a palatable sense of tension trying to escape a gothic castle where we’re hunted by a gigantic Nazi called Jager who trains the robo-dogs sniffing us out - I still feel terrible stealth killing them while asleep; the huge Panzerhund I’m happy to put down though. Jager’s garrison also includes various Nazis, including Big Daddy-like armoured beasts that take some serious dual-wielding to take down. It’s not all stealth.
Although it’s mostly linear you do have to get your eye in to spot approaches and options, and BJ’s melee weapon is an old pipe he can separate to clamber up soft rock walls, giving nice vantage points and access to hidden areas. Although BJ gains a startling array of weapons, most of which can be dual-wielded, your friend is the silenced pistol; BJ is outnumbered, the guards are very wary and accurate, and there’s Commanders who raise the alarm if you’re seen.
It’s great being back in Castle Wolf and it’s rendered brilliantly even if it rarely reflects the original’s layout - an imposing concrete structure set in mountains, it's a medieval nightmare as we flip between catacombs, underground rivers, chapels, corridors and rooms filled with cobwebby suits of armour, tables with food (and dog food) to eat, secret passages and so on. While the Castle is linear it’s never feels that way, and it’s never not fun – this is just an escape mission, pure and violently simple.
Once you escape Castle Wolf, a fun gondola trip takes you down to a Nazi-controlled village, where Helga von Schabbs, the local ‘Obersturmbannführer’ (let’s stick to Helga) has her troops searching ruins for evidence of her ancestor’s secret project - bringing to life an abomination that could help the Nazis win the war. BJ links up with a couple of resistance fighters to make sure Helga doesn’t resurrect her family’s pet project.