Geek Culture

Geek Review – Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein: Youngblood represents a new step for the Wolfenstein series, although it continues BJ Blazkowicz’s legendary Nazi-slaying antics. However, this time you take on the roles of his twin daughters, Sophia and Jessica. Be it solo or co-op, Youngblood offers a fresh new take on the familiar Wolfenstein first-person shooter formula.

That said, it is hard to shake the feeling that MachineGames might have messed with the formula too much when it comes to the overall presentation and development of Youngblood.

Set in the 1980s – nearly two decades since the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, BJ has mysteriously gone missing, so it is up to the twins to solve the mystery, rescue their dad, and kick some ass.

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While the premise of Youngblood’’s plot should shine, the story development, unfortunately, takes a backseat to the gameplay. The lack of development in the character arcs of either sister and the easily telegraphed plot no longer cuts it at this point.

Despite this, there is joy in watching the interaction between Sophia and Jessica. The twins are endearingly goofy. In many ways, their lighthearted personalities are a stark contrast to their father’s, which adds something fresh to the generally dark atmosphere of Youngblood. But while they are billed as two individuals, Soph and Jess are essentially the same characters in a  different skin. The strategy comes in depending on how you and your co-op buddy upgrade your skills and weapons.

Though they are definitely new elements brought into the franchise, Youngblood feels more like a giant mod than a proper sequel. In terms of overall scale and scope, it awkwardly straddles between a substantial DLC and a full sequel, despite being priced down accordingly.

Instead of linear gameplay – where you follow where the story takes you, Wolfenstein: Youngblood gives players a sandbox environment, and requires exploration as well as the opportunity to complete missions in any order you want.

The primary missions are simple, but players are forced to grind in order to be strong enough to tackle them, which can be frustrating. This would have been better if the side missions were even mildly interesting, but alas, they are not. Insipid and repetitive, the amount of backtracking required for the side missions wear out its welcome too soon into the game.

With each level up, you’ll unlock increased weapon damage and gain skill points that you can invest in health and armor, camouflage, or the ability to knock enemies off their feet. With silver coins, the in-game currency, you can also upgrade your weapons to do more damage or increase the firing rate. These light RPG elements do freshen things up a bit, but the plain focus on damage means prioritising DPS will serve you well. Thankfully, microtransactions are limited to just cosmetics only.

The game does feel unbalanced and more like a constant grind, even on normal difficulty, with enemies being more bullet spongey than before. With that it also feels there could have been so much more reward in terms of loot or variety, as currently, players get health points, armor points and some ammo. It would have been nice to see better drops to heighten that sense of reward if you decide to kill a hard enemy.

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It is clear that Wolfenstein: Youngblood is catered to those who want to play co-op with a friend, especially since the deluxe edition of the game comes with a buddy pass. This allows owners to essentially share their copy of the game with other people who do not own it, it is not limited to one person and you can invite multiple friends to play – and they’ll get a free trial version of the game.

With that in mind, you do get to have friends or randoms jump into your session without interruption and the AI will assume control until a player connects and again right as the player leaves. If players have identical missions in the quest log, completing it will record progress for both players. And if you’d rather go it alone alongside a decent AI companion, it’s just as viable an option for the entire game.

AI playability is alright for the game, though you can’t order the AI to standby or go to a spot and snipe of the enemies. Luckily, the AI isn’t a burden and helped when needed especially if players are down or low on health.

In co-op, both you and your buddy share 3 lives, saving you the trouble of restarting a level should either one of you bite the dust. However, with the frequent confrontations with large group of enemies, mini-bosses, and more, 3 lives may not even be enough. Expend all 3, and the death of just one of you will kick you back to the very beginning of whichever map you are on, so it is in your best interest to keep everyone healthy, or taking a risk to revive a downed partner before they bleed out.

Pep signals are a cooldown booster that you can change up/select progressively as you level up and heavily used in-combat. Be it, booster your health or your armor or even double your attack dmg. 

Youngblood is co-designed with Arkane Studios – the creators of the Dishonored series. So from start to finish, each and every district (stages graded by level) is different with vertical elements such as balconies and getting into offices and apartments through windows really gives the game a sense of dynamism – players can run into the streets, harass enemies and retreat back into a chokepoint, and kill them off one by one. The environment is filled with fallen concrete, burning rubble, vehicles blocking your route, and it shows just how devastating the Nazis are, with no civilians in sight. 

Youngblood does give recognizable style to the 80s of the German regime and it’s good to see what things would have looked like then. As in every district, the main goal in to infiltrate and disable security towers (Brother), these towers are heavily manned and going the front is definitely a death wish, so with side missions, you are able to find hidden pathways and information to make your approach considerably easier.

Collectibles and game currency are plentiful and not hard to find, though you can expect to revisit the districts as some places can only be entered once you’ve unlocked special weapons. There’s also a skill that helps you see collectibles in the mini-map which will aid those achievement hunters.

Overall, Youngblood’s Paris is both a beautiful and annoying place to explore. There’s always more than one route to your objective, whether guns blazing through the streets or stealthily through the alleyways, and underground catacombs.

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Unfortunately, though stealth may seem like a viable option, it does feel out of place at certain moments as the levels and enemies don’t seem to have the stealth approach in mind.

Though you can travel to zones anywhere you want, you still have to level up enough to get through specifics zones which negates the “open-worldness” of Youngbloods structure.

Graphics wise, the game runs very well on the PS4 Pro, offering smooth gameplay and constant frame rates at 1080p. Atmospheric lighting, water, textures look great in the game and it is what is expected from the Wolfenstein franchise. You can definitely recognize the 80s inspired Nazi look, and it gives depth in the immersion of the game. 

What is different is Arkane studios co-designed maps which added verticals (more on that later) and you can enjoy the vast scenery. Even in the dark and dank catacombs to the battle-worn apartment buildings. It looks like a Wolfenstein game and moves like a Wolfenstein game but simply with numbers and life bars. 

Character animations are spot-on like the previous titles, nimble and fluid though powerful and weighted. The sneak attack animations are great though we feel it’s a lot less hardcore as we seen in the past. It just doesn’t have that guttural gore element which made Wolfenstein stand out.

Audioscape design matches perfectly with what’s happening and where you are. The audio cues from the enemies direction are on point and you seemingly are aware of what’s happening everywhere you go. Gun sounds are impactful and feel like there’s stopping power, special weapons and powers sound sci-fi-ish with a retro kinda quirk to it. Grenades, missiles, explosions feel great and about what you would expect from any Wolfenstein game.

Background music has a deep, sombre feel and puts you on the edge and other lighter moods had a nice 80’s retro feel. Nothing out of the world or alien-like which helps with the tone and feel of the game.

Voice acting was good. The representations of characters were portrayed well by the voice actors as well as the NPC. The NPCs weren’t an annoyance and gave some side story to their origins and what happened to them and those they were close to, however, they still do feel more like quest-givers and don’t feel as involved as the supporting cast in the previous games.

After you get to the end of the game, you can still explore the map, finish any side missions and now even more powerful as you would have unlocked a special weapon. You can stay to complete dailies or weeklies challenges which would give you in-game currency and XP, as well as pick up the remaining collectibles you probably missed. 

You can do it all, but you do not have to. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a whimsical affair, which is best tackled casually and with a solid co-op partner to avoid frustration and fatigue. But if you’ve seen the credits, you can put Youngblood aside without much pain.

Considering the low price of the game and the possibility of having a friend to join you in the game, you can expect some late night action fun and the amount of content is proportionate to the cost. The campaign remains enjoyable even playing solo. Players can expect a fun ride and with this experimentation, we can have a glimpse of what the future titles in the Wolfenstein series will look like.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

This sequel will come as a surprise to hardcore fans, as the developers took a big risk trying to redefine their first person shooter. But while it retained certain DNA from the previous titles, it failed in distinguishing its structure from those games.

Overall
6.1/10
6.1/10
  • Gameplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Story - 4/10
    4/10
  • Presentation - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
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