Much like the battle-hardened B.J. Blazkowicz might do, let’s start by getting right to the point. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a standalone game releasing on May 5, 2015, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. It’s a direct prequel to last year’s smash-hit Wolfenstein: The New Order. You don’t need to own New Order to download and play this release. And for just $19.99 / £14.99 / €19.99 / AUD$39.95, you’ll get two interconnected stories: “Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves” and “The Dark Secrets of Helga Von Schabbs.” The gameplay unfolds across eight crackling chapters stuffed with guns, grenades and a cavalcade of all-new Nazi nemeses. And it’s all developed by MachineGames, the same team that brought B.J. back in The New Order last year.
Got it? Great. Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s get to the good stuff.
In order to acquire the very latest intel on this upcoming prequel, we flew to scenic Sweden and snuck through the heavily fortified halls of MachineGames to gather up some top-secret insights straight from the source. After some tough interrogations (and an even tougher exfiltration… but that’s a story for another day), we’re back with 7 things you need to know about Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.
1. Back in Time
First, the big question: Why a prequel? Why not, say, explore what happens after the cliffhanger ending of The New Order? Or even tell a side story, from another character’s perspective? The answer is twofold. First, the 1940s is the perfect fit for the distinctive vibe that sets this DLC apart from the main game. “It works well with the pulp B-movie thing we’re going for,” says Executive Producer Jerk Gustafsson.
Going back in time also offered an opportunity to fill in some story gaps while delivering completely new gameplay. “We get to explore things that were only hinted at in New Order,” says Senior Producer John Jennings. “We get to find out what the Nazis were up to, and reveal a little bit about how they actually got some of this advanced technology that let them win World War II.”
Because the Nazis were still discovering and developing this technology, B.J. will face off against early iterations of known foes, like the lumbering Supersoldaten (super soldiers) who, this time around, are tethered to a power source – creating all new gameplay possibilities. And that’s just for starters…
2. Everything Old Is New Again
The Old Blood might send players on a nostalgic trip back in time, but don’t think that means recycled assets or shopworn gameplay. “In terms of features and content, almost everything is new,” Gustafsson says. “That includes everything from the environments to the weapons and enemies.”
Of course it didn’t begin that way. Initially the team was planning to build the DLC using The New Order as the foundation. “The idea was to reuse pretty much everything,” says Art Director Axel Torvenius. “But in the end everything is at least touched in some way or another.”
That means all-new enemies (like the aforementioned Supersoldaten), new ways to move through the world (more on that later), and even some subtle adjustments to already-existing elements, like the well-received commander system – a key component of the stealth gameplay.
3. Pipe Dreams
“Everyone groans when they see the takedowns in the trailer,” Jennings laughs. “That’s a good reaction!”
Jennings is talking about B.J.’s newest toy: the metal pipe. Yes, pipe. Early in the game B.J. acquires this handy helper, which then plays a key role throughout The Old Blood. And in more ways than one.
“The idea was to have something new – something different than the knife,” Gustafsson says. What sets the pipe apart from the knife? For starters, B.J. can connect and pull apart the pipe, allowing him to single- and dual-wield this melee weapon. B.J. also uses it for climbing, breaking through weak walls, and even reaching high hatches in the ceiling. “It’s equally a progression tool as it is a weapon,” Gustafsson explains.
As for those brutal takedowns? Get ready to grimace. The takedowns vary depending on whether you use it as a single- or dual-wield weapon – but one thing remains consistent: these pipes are hollow. Meaning that if you gank someone, there’s a good chance a geyser of blood’s gonna spurt out the other end. “We had a lot of fun doing takedowns for it,” Gustafsson grins.
4. Dead Rising
The Old Blood has plenty of nods to the 2001 classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein. But it’s not just the setting. Sure, old-school players will get a nostalgic thrill as they sneak and shoot their way through the castle walls, and they’ll run into a few familiar faces along the way, including Agent One and Kessler. The weapons and collectibles – while completely new – are reminiscent of the classic shooter. Even the plot shares some similarities with the earlier game. “Everything is of course very, very different, but some of the storyline is still there,” Gustafsson says.
And then there’s the undead.
Don’t expect these Nazi zombies to be exactly like you remember from the 2001 classic. “These types of enemies can be tricky, because they don’t typically have range weapons,” Gustafsson says. “But in The Old Blood, some of them actually use a rifle, and we also have some intense dash attacks!”
5. Grand Adventure
Speaking of fun, The Old Blood is all about heart-thumping, pulse-pounding, bullet-blasting thrills. While there’s a fully developed story, it’s got a much more pulp B-movie vibe – which matches perfectly with the overall direction of this standalone DLC.
“We wanted The Old Blood to be more gameplay focused,” Gustafsson says. So expect a heaping helping of high-intensity moments, loads of fast action, and a rollicking sense of adventure – from start to finish. “It’s something you can just play through and immediately have fun,” Gustafsson promises. (And having seen it in action, we wholeheartedly agree!)
6. Any Order
Worried that you haven’t yet played The New Order? Not a problem! The Old Blood not only teaches you everything you need to know about the gameplay, but it also won’t spoil a single thing in The New Order. “It really is a prequel,” Jennings says. “The last scene of Old Blood is a couple of hours before the start of New Order in terms of the timeline, so it sets things up perfectly.”
And if you have played The New Order? Even better! “There are elements in The Old Blood that fill in some blanks in the New Order story. There’s more stuff about Da’at Yichud technology, even though we don’t necessarily call it that. There are hints and clues and nods to The New Order hidden throughout the game,” Jennings says. “People playing it in different orders will get a unique experience, but both of them will have a good time.”
Yes, The Old Blood is a fantastical take on alternate history, swirling with mysticism and suffused with retro-futuristic tech. But that didn’t stop the MachineGames team from pursuing the highest level of verity. Especially when it comes to drunken Nazis singing in a tavern.
Midway through the second half of the game, B.J. has to infiltrate said tavern, which is overstuffed with those aforementioned inebriated Nazis. While the mo-cap was all properly done by a team of trained actors, when it came to those drunkenly dulcet tones, the developers stepped in and took one for the team.
“It was a request from our audio director,” Jennings smiles. “The voices were all done by us. We got the lyrics a couple of days before and had to learn German. Several cases of beer were purchased a couple of hours before the session, to make sure our vocal chords were sufficiently lubricated. We were so bad performing it. Everyone was overlapping each other, getting the timing wrong. You couldn’t actually hear half the words half the time!”
So how did it turn out? “We ran it past a native-speaking German, and he said it sounded fine,” Jennings says. “Clearly, the beer was kind of important. It was a lot of fun.”
NOTE: Wolfenstein: The Old Blood will also have a physical release in Europe on May 15, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.