As the latest entry in the series Wolfenstein: Youngblood offers something new to returning and fresh fans of the franchise by having a co-op focus with a pair of fresh protagonists but, despite all this change, this game ends up feeling familiar and a bit stale.
Set around 19 years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, old protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz has gone missing somewhere in Nazi-controlled Paris and it’s up to his twin daughters Jess and Soph to track him down.
The pair have been trained from birth by their parents to kill Nazis and even start the game both wearing the Da’at Yichud Power Suits that have made appearances throughout MachineGames’s Wolfenstein titles. Despite these two boons the twins have never even been in a shootout before, so the rescue mission is their baptism by fire.
Some people have expressed disdain with this premise but we were on board from day one when it was announced. We’d take any opportunity to return to this interesting alternate history setting and maybe the new co-op focus is what the series needs.
Immediately after booting up this game you will be hit with a cutscene, which wasn’t the best first impression. We recently played through The New Colossus which has numerous, drawn out cutscenes which get in the way of the gameplay.
Thankfully, however, Youngblood’s number of cutscenes can be counted on one hand, but they do show another problem right off of the bat.
This new game is not a full-priced AAA title, but is instead a cheaper entry into the franchise and should be treated as such. We say this because, as you see in the first cutscene, the insanely detailed animation from the first two main games is gone and the models here are of a much lower quality.
Thankfully, when you get into the game, that thought disappears and the absolutely great gunplay the series is known for returns. While the twins are green and need to be levelled up throughout the game, they can shoot perfectly right out of the gate and you even have access to a double jump and some other features granted by the power suit right out of the gate.
After killing your first Nazi the game quickly demonstrates how the co-op works, and the immediate flaws in them. Youngblood is absolutely littered with contrived reasons for there to be two players: doors that require two levers to be pulled at once, pairs of buttons which must be pressed simultaneously, computers which need two key turns, and so on.
There’s very little thought put into that aspect of the game, with co-op combat not being much better.
It’s soon explained that, as you play, the enemies of Youngblood will improve as the player(s) do, becoming more armoured and more deadly. Many people have reported that enemies become bullet sponges because of this and, while this isn’t true, it’s an intended part of the game design.
This title works best when one player fights an enemy from head on, and the other sneaks around and shoots that enemy in a weak spot.
All of that, together with some light, optional puzzle is most of what is on offer here in terms of co-op. It doesn’t feel special or unique in any way, and we’re just a bit baffled why this was pushed as a two person shooter when the mechanics around it are relatively shallow and seen in many other games.
Moment to moment shooting is where this title shines, however, and it is complemented by the light RPG mechanics on offer.
The other new Wolfenstein games had players scrounging for health, armour and ammo, and Youngblood introduces silver coins into that mix. You naturally find them as you play (or by completing the aforementioned puzzles) and they can then be used to upgrade your equipment.
Most of what you do in this game also awards experience points and every new level grants you an unlock token to improve your stats and add new abilities like carrying and upgrading heavy weapons.
It’s a simple system but one that scratches that “just ten more minutes” itch, but it too has its problems.
Unless you’re making a genuine effort to complete optional objectives, you may find yourself with not enough coins to experiment with the upgrades. You can spend silver coins to, for example, change your assault rifle from a fully automatic bullet hose to a semi-automatic sniper, but doing so would eat coins you could use to upgrade other things instead.
If all you want to do is run and gun through Paris cutting down bad guys, you will be a bit frustrated here. It doesn’t help that the game’s first patch removed the ability to cheat in more coins either.
The structure of the game is another area which feels uninspired and tired.
The resistance, which you’re aiding to find B.J. Blazkowicz, has a base in the Paris Catacombs where you can hang out and receive missions. From there you can use a map to enter large, opened ended sections of Paris to achieve those missions.
Unfortunately, everything here boils down to “go here, kill this, retrieve that” and, while the other games did much of the same, they had a payout in the form of story progression. Here you’re endlessly going through uninspired quest after quest for about a dozen hours until the game ends.
Not even having a human play with you helps here. We played both with another person and the AI on offer here, and both yielded similar results in terms of enjoyment.
Overall Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a lot of fun to play in the moment, but there’s really nothing new here to tempt you in. The gunplay and alternate history has been seen in other Wolfenstein games, the light RPG mechanics are popular in other shooters, and the co-op is bog standard.
Even the Buddy pass – an addition to the Deluxe Edition of the game which allows another person to play for free – is just a more complex “two for one” buying option that many multiplayer titles have offered before.
If you’re absolutely in love with this series and The New Colossus drove you mad with cutscenes, then we can recommend Youngblood to you. For everyone else it’s a much tougher sell and you may want to look elsewhere.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood was reviewed on PC with codes provided to us.