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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

Transcript Edit

What's that, Skippy? Wolfenstein: The New Order is getting one of those standalone expansion type things? What good news, The New Order made it into my Top 5 last year for adding some real depth to the act of cutting an endless parade of Nazi throats like we're a tiny lumberjack in the forest of squishy pink trees.

What's that, Skippy? It's gonna be a prequel called "The Old Blood"? What good news, it comes before a thing that's new, therefore it's old, how heartening it is to see that id Software's investment in a dictionary is paying off. 

What's that, Skippy? Timmy's fallen down a well? What good news, this will give him ample opportunity to explore his interest in geology, and I can put a snooker table in his bedroom.

What's that, Skippy? Kangaroo meat is a lean and tasty alternative to beef? Oh Skippy, I already knew that, that's why I cut off all your arms and legs. Can you wiggle back down to the basement by yourself or do you need me to kick you down the stairs again? 

Wait a minute, you extremely tasty marsupial git, a prequel to The New Order? What made The New Order good was that it was kind of a knowing swan song for the whole World War II action shooter thing. "Yeah," it said, "World War II is not giving up any more drops, no matter how hard we wring it. Let's just push it to the point of maximum absurdity, i.e. space Nazis on the moon, and make all the characters visibly tired and wondering why they bother anymore when they've been murdering Nazis like popcorn for twenty years and there doesn't seem to be any less of them." Surely, to go back and set the game in World War II again misses the point completely. It's like making a prequel to Alien called "Let's watch some blue collar guys in hypersleep for two hours." 

B.J. Blazkowicz, a man the size of a fridge who so embodies bullet-headed American military strength he might as well have George C. Scott's face tattooed on both his nipples, is on an undercover operation, possibly as a prank. His job is to find some documents that will lead to the mission in the prologue of New Order, which we already know he will fuck up like ceiling-mounted Fleshlight. On the way he must foil a Nazi operation to exploit a supernatural power dug up from ancient times, which presumably will also fuck up because there is no mention of it in New Order. So what we have here is a bunch of predestined failures competing to see who can fail first, sort of like the British general election. But it does make it hard to stay invested. 

Besides, Nazis, castle, dig up ancient magic, zombies is literally the plot of every Wolfenstein game before New Order, that is to say before they got good. Nostalgia is a prevailing theme here, but New Order was turning that nostalgia around to go at it through a new hole. Old Blood lacks the same self-awareness and goes back to the missionary position. For example, falling asleep and finding yourself in the first level of Wolfenstein 3D was cool in an easter-eggy context, but Old Blood again misses the point by doing it seven more times. When you are locked into one of the longer and more boring levels of Wolfenstein 3D, all the surprise and impact is lost, but you'll gain a new appreciation for things like 3D models and colours that aren't either bright primaries or one of the two shades of grey the floor and ceiling use. 

Maybe that's the plan, the game locks us into these little retro sessions so that by the time you get out we're so astonished by the idea of one bit of floor being slightly higher or lower than another bit of floor, that we forget how bored we were getting. Because Old Blood doesn't seem to have much in the way of aspiration beyond reminding us of things The New Order did better. One might argue that that's the point, we had the big, tasty meal that was New Order and maybe some people came up and said "More please!", so now here's some more for those greedy fucking shitheads. 

Did you like that bit in the last game where B.J. was in disguise and a high-ranking Nazi started toying with him and you weren't sure if they'd sussed him out or not and things got kinda tense, in spite of the fact that prior performance indicated that B.J. could probably just reach out at any time and snap all their necks using only his armpit? Well that happens again, twice actually. Look B.J. mate, you look like Desperate Dan doing Schindler's List. I don't think practice is going to make you any better at the whole undercover thing! 

Also, remember how The New Order made you choose which of your two allies to save at the start and it changed a bunch of stuff for the rest of the game? That happens again, except it happens halfway through the game and doesn't affect shit. And I didn't know I was making a choice; I picked one of two corridors to go down and the next thing I know I've condemned the spunky resistance girl to the fate that she put up insufficient resistance to, ironically, spunk not withstanding. 

And all of that is buttered by a hearty feast of stealth and gun battling with fantasy tech Nazis so there's your "More please!" for all you slaves to the all-you-can-eat deal. But I would argue that "More please!" is what DLC is for, and that the end of the standalone pseudo-expansion is more the territory of "More please, but this time set it in hell!" or "More please, but set it in a corny 1980s scifi film that would probably star Michael Biehn and then actually put Michael Biehn in it in case case we're slow on the uptake!" The most Old Blood can do is introduce Nazi zombies and in this day and age, that's the fucking white noise of creativity. That's the fucking Jeopardy think music that plays inside the head of AAA game designers!

Really fragile Nazi zombies too, I found the perk system largely by remembering that New Order also had a perk system that it too was really bad at telling you about and the zombies were really useful for getting all those unlocked. Kill three enemies with one grenade? Done! Smash ten heads in with the melee weapon? Just the ten? Let's do fifteen for luck. I was perking up like nipples in a winter bra shortage.

But it wasn't an enormous help when I reached the final boss fight, which is the point where the game officially lets its head slap onto the desk like a sack of wet laundry from the arms of a frustrated housewife. The Nazis raise a giant zombie king just in time for standard boss fight 27-alpha, upper half of large man smashing ledge where the player is with big fists. If Nazi zombies are the Jeopardy timer music of action games, this is the point where the music abruptly stops because you've been hit by a tranquilizer dart, except it's traditionally the boss fight of the generic third-person game where you have some kind of dodge ability to avoid the fists, and in first-person it becomes a frustrating exercise in sprinting back and forth like a streaker at a football match, hoping that the attack brewing somewhere offscreen to the right will whiff if you keep moving.

And things get even more annoying when Nazis start streaming in, who for some reason prioritize shooting you over shooting the giant boss who smashes indiscriminately. I'm thinking these guys misread the orders. [With a fake German accent] "Gehen ze Bossfight, shooten ze massive Bloke" they read aloud. "Did zey mean ze massive Bloke or ze incredibly massive Bloke?" "It just says 'massive', Hans." "Fair enough. Die, Yankee scum! Ach, not mein German Sausage!"

Addenda Edit

  • Uber Alles: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • And now, an attempt to type B.J's last name without double checking the spelling: "Blaskowicz"?
  • "Spunk notwhithstanding" is the title of my new indie film

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells

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