Wolfenstein Youngblood Review
The Second American Revolution was a major push against the tyrannical Nazi rule over the world, but it’s not enough for Billy’s family. They will not rest until the Nazi threat has been fully eradicated. Fast forward 19 years, where Billy and Anya have raised their twin daughters in this dangerous world. Billy has gone missing, and it’s up to the new destructive duo to find him, and put a significant dent in the Nazi forces!
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the new standalone title which serves as a sequel to Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and prequel to the confirmed Wolfenstein 3 entry coming in the (hopefully) near future. Developed by MachineGames alongside Arkane Studios, and published by Bethesda Softworks, the game has been released worlwide as of 25 July 2019 for Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. There are plans for release on the Google Stadia once the services goes live as well. This entry into the series introduces some new mechanics, the most prominent of which is the cooperative multiplayer mode, which is optional, but definitely a lot more fun. How do the new “Terror Twins” fare in the Nazi-riddled streets of Neu-Paris?
Double The Chaos
It is the year 1980, and America has been freed from Nazi tyranny thanks to William J. Blazkowicz and the American Resistance, but now the famous hero has gone missing. His daughters, Soph and Jess, eavesdropped on a conversation being held between Anya (their mother) and Grace Walker (the leader of the American Resistance), and found out about his disappearance and subsequently the mission he had been on, as well as the location of the mission after discovering a hidden room in the attic of their home. The twins, as well as their friend Abby, who also happens to be Grace’s daughter, steal a helicopter, and gain access to powered armor suits, to go to France and meet up with the Global Resistance in the Paris catacombs. During their first mission before heading to the catacombs, the Resistance tasks Jess and Soph with the assassination of General Winkler on his zeppelin over Paris. Upon successful destruction of both Winkler and the zeppelin, the girls fall back to land and find their way to the Resistance catacombs.
Hereafter, in order to find their father’s whereabouts, as it is suspected that he has been captured, the Resistance leader, named “Juju”, suggests that the girls take on a mission that the Resistance has been meaning to get to for a while, and that is to activate and hack the three main Nazi computers, called the “Brothers”, which holds crucial intelligence and keys to a location called Lab X. Before the girls can do this, however, they need to gather strength, by taking on some of the smaller tasks that the Resistance needs done. These side-quests will grant the girls the means to gain experience points to hone their skills. There is a leveling system in the game, a bit more involved than in the previous Wolfenstein game, with a “Talent Tree” of sorts that boosts your stats like Total Health or Armor, or unlocks abilities like being able to carry and use Heavy Weaponry, new attacks, and more.
Aside from the experience gained with kills and skill points from level-ups, you are also able to collect silver coins in the various locations of France. These silver coins are used to unlock and upgrade the various guns that the girls make use of in the game, of which there is nothing new to add since Wolfenstein 2. All of these improvement mechanics are nice and all, but it feels a lot as though the developers tried to turn the game a little more into an RPG instead of the chaos-driven destruction action genre that the game is well known for. You don’t even get a chance to decide on a game difficulty like with all the previous Wolfensteins, which already took away from the experience we all know and love, choosing our difficulties from the beginning menu and avoiding the first few difficulties that pretty much call you a wuss for even selecting them. I would have loved to try my hand at the more hardy difficulties with my brother, and laughed at all the moments we get trampled in one-hit by the Panzerhunds!
There also aren’t as many story-based cinematics that take place in this entry to the series, and when the game starts, you almost feel a little bewildered by the developments, while many questions get raised that you might feel you needed to know before pressing forward. Slowly, these answers get provided the more you play, but it does not take away that first past feeling of confusion when starting up the game. Where does this leave the overall gameplay? Like I said before, the more you play, the better it will become, but it is missing that initial grip that the previous entry had when you started up the game, so you might need to be patient while the game gives you tutorials mid-starting-mission. “All shall be revealed in time” and all that jazz. I was quite happy to see that not much has changed with the weapons, as all the weapons that the twins’ father wielded in the previous game is in Youngblood. The only annoying thing is that the girls can only dual-wield the Pistoles – which is understandable, if you think of it in the context that the girls aren’t as hulky as Billy – but the girls are wearing more advanced powered armor suits than their father used, so surely this would boost their strength to enable them to dual-wield Sturmgewehre! (It’s a sore point for me)
Speaking of the weapons, I mentioned that they are upgradeable thanks to the Silver Coins that get picked up in all the levels. This means that you can upgrade the Stock, Sights, Grip, Barrel, and Mags of the guns if you have enough coins to spare. You get multiple kinds of upgrade mods, made by companies within the game, and if you have three of the same kind of company mod, the weapon will receive a special bonus, which can be very useful, as these upgrades cater to different play-styles. I usually used my Sturmgewehr as a Tactical Sniper, and my Maschinenpistole as overpowered penetrative SMGs – these I would usually stick to in all my enemy encounters – but as I progressed in Youngblood, I often needed to make use of every type of weapon, so I needed to find a playstyle for every situation by tricking out all of the weapons. You also increase the power of your weapons by killing as many Nazis as possible to gain Weapon Mastery Ranks.
It’s necessary, because all the enemies have levels and health bars now, and the higher level enemies will be more sturdy against your weapons as time goes by, even if you blow an entire magazine from your Kugelgewehr in their face, and as an FYI, Kugelgewehr literally means “Pellet Gun” in German – quite a fitting name in these scenarios. There are different levels of enemies in different areas, which is once again a different experience to all the previous Wolfenstein titles. You encounter enemies your level who present a fair enough challenge, but some areas have lower level enemies, which shrink in terror to your strength the moment you walk into the area, being treated as fodder in the wake of your weapons of mass destruction. Other areas have you quaking in your boots with the “Skull”-level enemies that bring you down in two or three shots, who become mere bullet-absorbers as their health depletes with extreme effort, yielding low results in XP. This forces you to complete side-missions to get your level higher and upgrade your weapons and gain more Weapon Mastery, which I can understand, though at the same time, a lot of these encounters are accidental, and it leads to many headaches. Although, admittedly, it can lead to a lot of laughs with a friend, if you troll them into exploring said area!
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a unique experience in comparison to the other games in the series, but it still missed a great opportunity. It feels like it departs slightly from the systems that worked, and even though the overall gameplay was a bucket of fun, it doesn’t feel like a true Wolfenstein experience. The new characters, Billy’s daughters, are a fun duo to play with, and have obviously been given an extensive amount of training from their father and mother, judging from how well they deal with eliminating Nazi forces. The apples don’t fall far from the tree after all. There have been no significant improvements upon the graphics, though it wasn’t unpleasant before, and the musical score and sound collection in the game is top notch. If it wasn’t for the flawed combat, and the lack of story to fill in certain gaps, it would have made for another brilliant addition to the series.
The game is not terrible, but it’s also not brilliant. It’s loads of fun to play with a friend, somehow allowing you to look past some of the flaws during co-op. Fortunately, the game isn’t too expensive in comparison to others, and I would say it’s worth playing, especially if you’re a fan of the series’ story, waiting in anticipation for the finale, as this game will fill in some blanks and introduce a new enemy for Wolfenstein 3, and it doesn’t look pretty! At the time of this review, you can get the Deluxe Edition of the game for R575.00 at BTGames on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, and R599.00 on Steam for PC. The Deluxe Edition will allow you to give a friend a “Buddy Pass” to play with you, as well as some nice in-game goodies to use, though the Standard Edition is cheaper.