I love the Wolfenstein franchise as there’s no thinking required, just run and shoot with a massive gun in each hand as you mercilessly slaughter a bunch of Nazis and their blood-thirsty machines. Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes the parts we love about the series (mindlessly gunning everyone down) and changes a few things around, there are even some major changes which some people aren’t currently happy with. What you need to remember is, this is a ‘spin-off’ title within the series, it has some relation to events within Wolfenstein II but it’s its own thing which has made a few alterations, for better or worse.
So, after playing through the entire story and about 60% of the side missions in just over 23 hours, do I actually like the new direction this particular title has gone in or would I prefer to go back and play a previous game in the series? Let’s find out…
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is set twenty years after the events in Wolfenstein II, in 1980. B.J. Blazkowicz and his wife have raised their twin daughters, Jessica and Sophia, in the countryside after liberating America from Nazi rule previously. Everything’s fine, they’re all happy, the daughters have been skillfully taught the skills required to fend for themselves, and there doesn’t appear to be any indication of uprising throughout the whole of the U.S.A. However, B.J. vanishes without a trace one day and apparently cut all communications with everyone, advising nobody of where he was going and why.
Whilst messing around with Abby, the daughter of Grace Walker, the twins come across their father’s secret office. It’s here where they find a clue as to his whereabouts, Paris – in search of the French Resistance. So, off they set, behind their mother’s backs, as they fly over to follow the only lead they have. However, although America is free of the terrible Nazi control, France isn’t as lucky, with soldiers and machines patrolling the streets. So, after finding those you seek and discovering a bit more about what’s going on, you agree to help the small Resistance as you complete various missions for the team, liberate the streets of Paris, and ultimately help them regain control over that which they once called home by helping them infiltrate a secure facility known as ‘Lab X’.
That’s pretty much the story you’ll gain in the opening cutscenes, from here on it’s all about helping people out and listening to their stories, picking up documents and reading them, completing the six main missions, and exploring each of the various locations in search of all the hidden items and lore.
The controversy with Wolfenstein: Youngblood at the moment doesn’t seem to be what you’d expect. Usually, when a game has swapped from a male protagonist to a female one, we see a group of people complaining about this and refusing to buy it for whatever reason – just look at the whole Battlefield V debate when a woman was on the cover. Instead, the issue lies with the actual gameplay mechanics as some have been changed in order to accommodate the forced-cooperative play and, I presume, to make this game seem ‘different’ from the mainline series. The troubled mechanic is the addition of enemy ‘levels’, health bar and shields above the enemies heads.
Whereas previous games were ‘clean’, having nothing but the breathtaking environments, brilliantly designed characters, and visceral mayhem, Wolfenstein: Youngblood now almost restricts you from participating in missions it doesn’t think you’re ready for by throwing ‘higher levelled’ enemies at you which can take you out whilst you shoot their spongy bodies. Personally, I’m used to seeing this mechanic in modern games, I even turn it on usually in games like Dynasty Warriors as I like to see how much health an enemy has, but I do agree with the artificial brick wall progression and bullet sponge complaints. Not lying, some of the bosses took me easily over half an hour to take down, all because they have a number of shields (which take ages to destroy if you don’t have ammo for the effective weapon) and then you chip away at its health until it explodes. The final boss is something I pray I never have to go through again (after the seven attempts it took to beat them).
Throughout the game, you’ll gain experience and pick up coins which you can use to unlock new abilities and pimp out your weaponry. I found the majority of these new skills and more powerful weaponry to be a Godsend as sure, you gain 2% extra damage per each level you go up by, but when you’re up against an enemy give or take five levels off yours, you’re equally matched so the more tools and tricks you have, the better! In a way, the ‘level-based’ system the game utilises, in order to let you know if you should even bother fighting an enemy at this point, reminded me of The Division, a game built around four-player co-op rather than single player. This is most likely what’s happened here as Wolfenstein: Youngblood was built for two players at all times, which brings me to…
Whether you’re playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood on your own or online with a friend or stranger, you’ll always have the company of your partner in crime, your twin sister. As I said previously, the game has been built around cooperative gameplay, doors which require two of you to open, switches and levers which you both have to operate at the same time, and bullet sponge enemies which require one person to flank whilst the other finds the weak spot and takes advantage of it. In a way, this aspect reminded me of the Army of TWO games. As such, should you play solo, you’ll be blessed with one of the most annoying AI characters I’ve seen in a forced co-op game this year.
Okay, that’s exaggerating a bit, your sister isn’t that bad. She’ll get behind cover, rotate her weapons (which are the same as yours depending on what you’ve picked up), attack oncoming enemies, and she’ll even try and stay hidden if you’re sneaking by activating her cloaking ability. However, she’ll regularly run into danger with a ‘YOLO’ attitude and require you to go help her up, she’ll sometimes just stand there staring at you as you bleed out and watch you die – even if you’re smashing the button to ask her for help, and there’s no way to directly boss her about and give her orders (which I think is the biggest issue here).
If we could give her commands, such as attack and flank a certain enemy, goto a set location, revive your character or other such requests, it would add a strategic element into the game and allow you to gain more control over the gameplay. If you’re playing with a human player online, you won’t have to deal with hoping they’ll come and revive you because they will instinctively come to your rescue. Also, the AI sister won’t flank for you, if you have her shooting and you run for cover, she’ll appear or run behind you, thus bringing all the nasties with her!
What’s mine is yours
Did you ever play Golden Axe as a kid? I did. Me and my brother would usually fight over it constantly, all because the game only gave you a few continues to complete the game with. The continues were issued based on who dies first, meaning a rubbish player could end up using all the continues before the other person has had the chance to utilise any of them! Wolfenstein: Youngblood is similar in that both of the sisters are connected by the sacred bond of being twins and thus, sharing their lives – literally.
The way it works is, you have up to three shared lives (which you find in boxes you can only open with the help of your sister, obviously). If one of you loses all your shields and health, you’ll lose the ability to shoot as you wobble around the place and begin to bleed out. Now, if the other sister can get to you, or you get to them before the timer runs out, then the injured can be pulled back to their feet and continue as if nothing ever happened. However, if you don’t make it in time, or you’re both injured (as you also lose the magic healing touch when you run out of health), then once one of you runs out of time, you lose a life. That person will then regain all their health and if you’re also about to die, they need to hurry and revive you otherwise you’ll also eat away a life in the process.
Should all of your lives run out, you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the area you’re in. This wouldn’t really be an issue, as I only fully died a few times, but the AI can be quite inconsistent with coming to save you. As I said earlier, there were some occasions where we had no hearts left yet she was just stood next to me, staring at me as I frantically hit the button to ask her to come and revive me. Basically, my own sister purposely watched me die. I believe she had some sort of deal with the Nazis! Also, the final battle (which I’m trying so hard to forget) really annoyed me because I would run over to where my downed sister was only to find she had ‘teleported’ to where I just was, so as I ran over to her, she ‘teleported’ back to the other location. I’m sorry, I really disliked that final fight.
One thing I found a bit irritating, but won’t really use as a negative in the review, is the lack of direction. I had the same issue with RAGE 2 so I don’t know if it’s just me or if the game really didn’t push me in the right direction. Basically, once you hit a certain point in the game, you’ll unlock the hub area. This is where you can talk to everyone you’ve found out in the city, do target practice, accept Daily and Weekly Challenges, and generally faff about for a bit. When I first arrived, I was told the story element and advised I could talk to people to get side missions, so I did. This then filled up my mission list and I had no idea which were side missions and which were the main missions as there is no indicator.
Later on, I realised the main missions were the ones to do with infiltrating the ‘Brother’ facilities and then ‘Lab X’, but I didn’t know that so I ended up doing a lot of side missions whilst I worked my way through everything in my list. There’s a lot of content in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, not in regards to story content and long drawn out narratives, as there are only six main story missions to work through, but there’s a bunch of side missions which has you finding new people to bring back to the base, as well as random missions which pop up as you’re out such as placing wiretaps and blowing shit up!
Personally, I wasn’t too invested into the narrative – the story got interesting after I took out the three Brother locations, but before then, I was just having fun killing people and blowing things up. Another negative of the game is the level variety. There are four sectors, each with a few segments and an underground area (as well as the Brother and Lab X facilities), so not really that much diversity. Also, the enemies all respawn fairly often, usually when you move to and from a segment within the section, or when you’ve completed a task. This makes the combat slightly repetitive and annoying (especially when it respawns the enemies with lots of shields).
Upgrades and abilities
I touched on this before, advising that if you want to progress in Wolfenstein: Youngblood and not die over and over again, you’ll need to constantly keep on top of your skill trees and upgrades. Let’s go back a bit though. The first choice you get within the game is which sister you want – this would have been a great time for MachineGames to give you the choice of two very different women with different skill trees, abilities, playstyles and personalities. However, the game tells you that both girls are identical outside of their looks, thus making picking your character purely a shallow physical appearance one. Sure, you can pick if you want to turn invisible or smash through crates, but you can buy the skill you didn’t pick about 20 minutes into the game.
I imagine this is all done on purpose to balance out the gameplay and ensure nobody is better than the other person, but it just felt like a missed opportunity to me.
The good news is, there is a decent amount of customisation which you can perform in order to mould your gal into the perfect killing machine. From your standard health and shield upgrades to increasing the amount of ammo you find or making a late-game special ability even more powerful. This is on top of the weapon customisation which allows you to swap out numerous parts for every weapon as well as upgrade the parts and paint them in different pre-defined patterns. For fans of 50 Cent’s ‘Army of Two’ rip-off, I’m afraid there are no solid gold weapons in this game.
There is one thing I really miss in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, double wielding weapons. Sure, you can double up the Uzi or Pistol, but you can’t double up massive machine guns or rifles like B.J. could previously. Again, it would have been nice to see some custom-built or customised weaponry which Abby built for the girls that allowed them to double up with special versions of weapons that use the same bullets as the heavier versions, but we don’t.
On a side note, there are Microtransactions within Wolfenstein: Youngblood – don’t get your pitchforks ready yet! You can buy ‘gold’ which can be used in-game to unlock certain boosts and cosmetic unlocks, such as new visual styles for your weapons and Power Armour. However, everything you can buy with ‘gold’ can also be bought with the thousands of in-game currency you’ll get from completing the side missions and picking up off the floor. As such, I played the game before the MTs were live and I never felt the game was holding anything back. Personally, I don’t even know why they are in the game as I couldn’t see any benefit in wanting to lay down real cash and getting some!
Aside from the side missions, what else will you be doing in Wolfenstein: Youngblood? First of all, the collectables. The developers have gone crazy with things to find in this game (could be a good or bad thing) as there are loads of documents, cassettes, 3D images and other items to find and pick up. I’ve picked up a lot as I play and I think most of my tallies are only around 10-15% complete. However, I did enjoy seeking these out as they all offer you something to look at, read or listen to. Plus, you can also unlock an ability which puts all the collectables on the mini-map, making it even easier to find them all.
The base hub has a ‘Wolfstone II’ arcade cabinet, a two-chapter retro Wolfenstein 3D game which you can play through in hopes of getting your characters name on the leaderboard. I think I spent about an hour playing this game, it’s lots of fun and can get quite tricky later on.
If you pick up the Deluxe version of Wolfenstein: Youngblood, you’ll get access to a bunch of new gear for you to choose when you start a new game. Items such as a hatchet, a new power suit and helmet, and a new weapon skin for all your weapons. However, the best part of the Deluxe edition is the introduction of a ‘Buddy Pass’. The Buddy Pass works like the Keys to Kyrat system in Far Cry 4 and the whole premise of A Way Out. Another player can download a special ‘demo’ version of the game (which is unplayable), then you invite them to play the game and it’ll boot it up and let them join in and play the entire game in co-op mode with you. So, if you pay around £10 more for the Deluxe Edition, you essentially have two copies – bar one major omission…
The guest who is playing with you, via the special demo, won’t earn any achievements or trophies. So, if you’re really into your trophies and your mate owns the game, so you were hoping you could piggyback without buying the game – that won’t work. I’ve not personally tried this for myself, but I’m going off the information we received about how the system works and it specifically said the secondary player won’t unlock any trophies on their respective platform. In that situation, you would have to own at least the standard version yourself should you wish to unlock them.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood looks bloody amazing. The actual gunplay and visuals are among the best we’ve seen in the franchise so far. Not only do all the weapons feel different and weighty, with guns ranging from silenced pistols to massive electrocuting death cannons, but you can literally blow off peoples limbs, heads, or simply make them go ‘splat’ as they combust from within and spray their guts all over the floor and walls. It’s quite a glorious game in terms of its gore and violence.
One of the interesting things, which may have been in Wolfenstein II as well, is the ability to pick various resolution options. Instead of the simple ‘Performance, Balanced or Resolution’ options, you can opt to turn the dynamic resolution off, turn it on, or apply an aggressive mode. What does this mean? I don’t have the exact resolution count but it simply means that if it’s off, the game will run at its maximum resolution despite incurring frame drops below 60fps, if it’s on then the game will lower the resolution so there is hardly any frame drops for the majority of the game, and the aggressive mode means it’ll preempt what’s coming up and drop the resolution much more, ‘just in case’. Technically, it’s the same as a ‘Quality, Balanced and Performance’ mode, respectively. This same toggle was also on the base PS4.
I thought the music was great, the voices were well recorded and delivered, and the overall sound effects were really good. I did have an issue with some of the accents in the game, such as a French woman pronouncing Paris with an S at the end (A french person would say Par-ee, not Par-is). Other than that though, I found the random chatter and banter of the girls quite amusing, the snort-laughs they both tend to do quite often was rather cute, and the interactions between the two of them within the elevators made me giggle a few times as you forget you’re playing as two young adults when you’re out slaughtering the Nazis all day.
Despite changing a number of mechanics and aspects of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood. If you’ve got a friend to play with, or don’t mind jumping in with a stranger, then the enjoyment you’ll get out of the title will be a lot more than playing solo, not because it’s bad if you play on your own, it’s just a bit harder as your AI companion can be a bit unpredictable. There are tonnes of side missions, collectables and secrets to uncover, but the game does begin to get a little repetitive and annoying with the respawning enemies and level-based bullet sponges. However, I don’t mind monotony and repetitive games as it means I can play them without being 100% focused all the time, so I personally found the experience enjoyable and entertaining, especially the narrative later on into the game.
If you were looking for a 1:1 copy of Wolfenstein II, only with the option to play with a buddy, you may be disappointed with Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Although I had a lot of fun and can see the good aspects hidden beneath the surface, I can see the issues people have with the levelled enemies, bullet sponge enemies, confusing mission structure and lack of diversity between the characters. However, if you go into the game with expectations that it’s a new spin on the franchise to accommodate the co-operative aspect and it’s just a light-hearted game about killing Nazi scum and saving the world, then you’ll enjoy it much more.
Also, if you own a PSVR or PC VR headset, why not check out my Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot review. It’s not as in-depth and content-rich as I’d hoped for, but it’s a fun experience which will let you turn things around and take down the Nazis by turning their machines against them!
Wolfenstein: Youngblood Deluxe Edition£34.99
- - Looks fantastic and offers various resolution/performance options
- - Fun weapons with a decent amount of upgrades
- - Personal upgrades via three skill trees
- - Lots of side missions, daily and weekly challenges, things to find and replayability reasons
- - Can play with anyone with a single purchase of the Deluxe game (but they won't get trophies unless they buy the game too)
- - The AI sister can be a bit clumsy and stupid at times, walking into gunfights and also watching you bleed out and die
- - The mission structure was a bit confusing as I wasn't sure what would progress the story. This may be an issue with me though
- - Enemies now have recommended levels before engaging and a health bar with shields, making them massive bullet sponges sometimes
- - The combat and sections of Paris can get a little repetitive as everyone respawns each time you come back to explore further or do another side mission
- - There are Microtransactions but I don't see the point as all the items you can buy can also be bought with in-game currency