With a little digging on the Internet, you’ll find World War II histories reporting that under the direction of Gestapo leader Heinrich Himmler, the Nazis once pursued bizarre occult studies in a place called Wewelsburg Castle.
Were there also oversized robotic war suits, radioactive death rays and battalions of frenzied magic-created creatures filling that old fortress keep? Well, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood suggests there were! So why not just change Wewelsburg to Wolfenstein and get all your history lessons from a first-person shooter game?
A Bit of BJ’s Bloody Backstory
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is a standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order. And once again this game showcases the heroic and nearly indestructible talents of one William “BJ” Blazkowicz—a guy who can be shot, stabbed, pummeled and shoved off a 20-foot drop, then get right back to pursuing his Nazi-nailing mission with nary a limp.
His mission this time? Well, in this reimagined alternate WWII of 1946, the Nazis are really giving the Allies a thumping, and SS forces are on the verge of hitting the world upside the head with a great big “Achtung!” A lot of that is due to the Germans’ use of unstoppable killing machines developed by the obviously named General Deathshead. So what BJ must do is impersonate a Nazi officer, slip into Castle Wolfenstein, find a file of intel on the Germans’ superior weapons-grade tech, and then slip back out to give the Americans a much needed shot in the arm.
Standing in his way is a big muscly guy named Rudi Jäger, who wanders the castle hallways and can almost smell if an American spy is in the vicinity. This deadly dude loves to torture the truth out of people—even if they’re not lying. Thus, upon catching BJ, Jäger straps him into an electrified chair, jams a sharpened blade into his leg and proceeds to flog him with screaming jolts of juice.
Then there’s Deathshead’s second in command to contend with, one Helga Von Schabbs. This fatiferous Fräulein is right on the verge of unearthing a gigantic mummified creature powered by otherworldly forces. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of heavily armed Nazis and … zombies all looking to take a bite out of our hero.
I did remember to hint at the notion that this game series isn’t exactly historically accurate, right?
One thing the game does represent pretty accurately, though, is what a man might look like when he’s blown into wet, reeking chunks. Indeed, the Wolfenstein franchise is best known for two things: It helped establish the stealth-action genre back in the early ’80s, and it pretty much singlehandedly created the hyper-bloody first-person shooter craze that still burns hotly today.
B-Grade Yarn With A-Grade Yuck
As BJ sneaks around, trying to reach his goal without raising the alarm, the game gives us scores of ways to silently butcher baddies. You can, for instance, sneak up and jam a pipe repeatedly into a soldier’s ear and head. Or silence him with a blade up through his jaw. Or ram something sharp in and through his eye socket. Or send a silenced bullet into his armpit (or head).
If things get noisier and crowds of Nazis and their accompanying flaming zombies rush in, then you can pull out larger weaponry such as assault rifles, double-barreled shotguns, machine guns and sniper rifles. There’s even a segment where you rampage around in an oversized minigun-equipped battle mech, ripping foes to pieces. With these high-caliber armaments it’s possible to blast off limbs or pulp heads, tear huge craters into torsos and disembowel with aplomb. And if you want to just flat-out mulch those meanies, you can always toss in a grenade or send a stack of explosives sky high.
It’s all designed to be as bodily fluid splash-happy as possible. In fact, gamers are making a game out of recording (and then posting to YouTube) all the many gleeful ways they can decorate the Wolfenstein digital scenery with fountains of gore, blasted-apart body parts and splattered entrails. Accompanying those foul displays? Foul language, of course, including multitudes of f- and s-words, abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, etc.
The Wolfenstein installments have always been known as the video game equivalent of an outlandish, cheesy, B-grade war/zombie movie. An FPS version of, say, a pulpy grindhouse pic made by Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino. The Old Blood doesn’t bring anything new to that barren wasteland. But you might say it does try to merge all the crimson puddles into one big pond.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.