Review: Wolfenstein: Youngblood

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The sisters do it for themselves!

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has become an incredibly controversial game since its release in 2017. While it brought a hefty, frantic shooter with an excellent presentation, the real gameplay aspects took precedence over a poorly written and sloppy-paced story mode. While BJ Blazkowicz was still quite a deep and interesting character (as well as being played wonderfully by actor Brian Bloom), most of the supporting actors were caricatures in the vein of grindhouse movies without the same charm. It also didn’t help that the story mode peaked in the middle and died out without much fanfare at the end.

When Wolfenstein: Youngblood was announced, I was happy that MachineGames put BJ aside for a bit. While the man is captivating and a clear anchor for this series, stepping away from the legendary figure to focus on his offspring could bring new insights that could reinforce the inevitable. Wolfenstein III. Turning it into a co-op game could also allow for more focus on gameplay over the overwhelming story bits of II.

MachineGames has certainly managed to cater more to the gameplay aspect than last time around, but it hasn’t quite nailed the same formula that has made The new order smelling so refreshing five years ago.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein: Youngblood (PS4, PC [Reviewed]Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
Developer: MachineGames, Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released: July 25, 2019 (PC), July 26, 2019 (Consoles)
MSRP: $29.99

The start of young blood makes it feel like it will be another experience steeped in history as Wolfenstein II. In a cutscene where BJ Blazkowicz’s children, Soph and Jess, practice, the iconic figure gives a speech about how girls should be aware of their surroundings at all times. It’s a clear setup for the new co-op focus, which sees you and a friend blasting Nazis together and supporting each other. BJ is basically a god, at this point, so he knows a thing or two about spotting Nazis without looking.

After thatyoung blood cuts to you and your partner on a mission in the Catacombs of Paris. With Hitler dead (spoiler alert, I guess), Soph and Jess are tasked with cleaning up the Nazi regime’s stragglers. When you return, you discover that your father has disappeared during his last expedition into the heart of the Nazi forces. Not a duo to sit and wait, you take up arms to locate your father and purge the Nazis from this world once and for all.

It’s really about the gist of the story too, because it takes over what young blood is really about: shooting the Nazis. As I said above, the gameplay part of the latter Wolfenstein the game leans far more in favor of players being able to interact with its game world than new colossus been. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse because I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I’m also not sure I totally agree with the changes to the formula here. Previous Wolfenstein games were more like old-school shooters in that you only had to worry about enemy positioning and ammo count. They worked with very light RPGs and leveling mechanics to give you an idea of ​​progress throughout your game. young blood might as well be called Borderlands: Nazi Edition because it’s pretty much a looter shooter with heavy RPG mechanics.

By killing Nazis, you will gain experience which will make you progress. As with any RPG, you gain permanent stat boosts for each level and receive experience points to invest in various attributes. These replace the perk system in the last two Wolfenstein securities. In these games, using guns and performing specific actions gave you permanent buffs for BJ that would increase his rate of fire, give him more health and ammo, or allow him to move silently.

For young blood, you are now working on a skill tree that you unlock with the aforementioned experience points. A separate currency of silver coins is also catered for allowing you to unlock weapon upgrades, cosmetic options, and “Peps”, which are co-op specific actions that provide you and your friend, temporary improvements. You’ll find things like a health booster that restores 50 health when used, to a power-up that will grant you 10 seconds of invulnerability to get out of tough situations.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

I can’t believe I’m writing all this about a Wolfenstein game, but young blood really goes against the trend you would expect. It even fits into the level design, which has much more expansive and open layouts than the previous three games. Thanks to advice from Arkane Studios (famous for Dishonored and Prey), young blood almost feels like Deus Ex with how many different routes you can take to reach the same place. It’s not an open world, but more of a sandbox than the linear corridors of what MachineGames used to do with Wolfenstein.

This really is the best aspect of the game as the RPG systems trip up the shooter a bit. Instead of being a skill-based shooter, it’s now a numbers game and you’ll get instances where you unload entire machine gun clips at an enemy without them falling. I’m particularly surprised by how the gun, which was super versatile for stealth kills in both The new order and The new colossusis now virtually worthless since he cannot perform headshots.

However, the most affected weapons are heavy weapons. For all its faults, Wolfenstein II had those amazing moments where you’d rip a turret off its mount and go to town with some Nazi fools. Much like pistol sterilization, heavy weapons are basically useless against your enemies’ inflated health bars. In an interesting move, specific enemies have weaknesses against different weapons which forces you to think smarter about what you’re shooting but it seems that none of them are weak against these heavy options.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Even with those flaws, it’s hard to deny that coordinating with your buddy and hitting from multiple points is downright fun. I guess those health bars were increased as the game would be too easy otherwise. Even on “Challenging” difficulty, the hardest available setting in the game, my co-op partner and I barely broke a sweat. It was mostly us hiding behind cover, throwing close to 100 bullets at an enemy, and watching the AI ​​not stick to a single target. There were incredible moments when I would be face to face with a jerk, peppering him with bullets with reckless abandon, while my partner was on the other side of the map distracting him. It’s quite hilarious in its stupidity.

What further reduces this difficulty is the nifty system that comes into play when you are downed. While there was obviously going to be a resuscitation state (what co-op shooter doesn’t have that?), young blood provides you with a shared life system to get you out of tricky situations. While this doesn’t avoid the issue of being downed while stuck in a revive animation, the game doesn’t end immediately when both players are down to zero health. One of you can choose to live together to heal on the spot and get back into action. When you exit these shared lives, the game is over and you will need to reload your checkpoint.

Surprisingly, the checkpoints are irregular. While the first missions allowed us to get regular saves in scene transitions, the later ones completely restarted us from the beginning after death. We’d get to meet the boss (which this game has a few of), die, and have to navigate the whole map again. You don’t lose your XP or loot, but it’s a total pain in the ass to shoot the same enemies again in what feels like artificial length padding. The same could be said for completely useless cooperative actions as if you both had to open a door together. It also doesn’t help that Nazis level up alongside you, making the whole XP system redundant. It’s mostly a reminder that you’re playing a video game instead of an interesting new development.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Worse still, my co-op partner and I were never quite sure what we were doing. The main missions aren’t clearly marked, and there are hardly any interstitial cutscenes to keep you motivated. The same way as Metal Gear Solid V felt like too far of a course correction from the overloaded narrative of Solid metal gear 4, young blood might as well be a mod for Wolfenstein II. There is a story, but its presence is rarely felt during the campaign.

It’s a real shame, too, because the dialogue and short interactions between Soph and Jess are honestly a lot of fun. They’re written like silly, but the way they sound when they take down Nazis or correct each other’s mistakes creates an authentic connection between the duo. You feel there is a lot of respect shared not only for each other, but also for their father, and it helps make the Blazkowicz family such an unstoppable force of nature. The dumbest parts of Wolfenstein II are still present, but a lot has been done to keep the tone consistent instead of fluctuating all over the place.

I appreciate this aspect and even the well thought out level design, but I’m so torn about everything else. It’s nice to make an RPG shooter, but there’s not much care in incorporating those elements into Wolfenstein. It’s fine to let the narrative take a back seat, but you also need to remind players what they’re fighting for. young blood never feels like a fully realized idea, which ends up hurting what could have been a great game.

Maybe I expected too much, but I miss the delicate balance between story and gameplay that The new order had low pat. young blood makes a lot of progress for this series, but he also takes a few steps back that end up hurting the whole thing.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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