Review: Wolfenstein: Youngblood (Computer)

Reviewed by Alan John, posted Aug 13, 2019 at 5:25 AM, last updated Aug 1, 2019
Aug 13, 2019 at 5:25 AM
  • Release Date (NA): July 26, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): July 26, 2019
  • Release Date (JP): July 26, 2019
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: Machine Games, Arkane Studios
  • Genres: First-person shooter
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
  • Also For: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Set 20 years after the previous title, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a spin-off to the beloved, classic first person shooter series. Not being a mainline game, does it live up to the standards of the previous installments? With new features, such as online cooperative multiplayer, as well as a campaign built from the ground up as a 2-player experience, expectations are high for the newcomer.
Alan John

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Gameplay

Unlike previous games, Wolfenstein: Youngblood has multiplayer in mind, while still being at core a story-driven game. For me, a seasoned Wolfenstein player, the starting screen was confusing, as it had no clear option to choose single-player mode, which led me to believe that this was a multiplayer-only game. Thankfully, this game has a fully working offline mode that can be accessed in "Host Match", and setting the parameter to 'Offline'. Starting the game, you are required to choose one of the Blazkowicz twins, Jessie or Sophie. Both are practically the same, with the only difference being the first gun you obtain, as well as the ability to crush enemies or be invisible. You can also choose what temporary buff you conjure mid battle - more Health, or more Armor.

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What Youngblood still carries from it's predecessors is the fun gunplay and fast paced movement. Unfortunately, that's pretty much it. Youngblood introduces new game mechanics that have not being characteristic of Wolfenstein before; some of which work and some that don't fit and stand out like a sore thumb. Starting with the newly implemented RPG aspect of the game. Players can now level up by acquiring XP, gaining "Ability Points" which allow you to purchase upgrades for your character, ranging from the ability to increase your invisibility cloak, max health and armor, to essential abilities such as duel-wielding weapons (which has been downgraded heavily in this game, with only pistols and a small machine pistols allowed). By acquiring currency, you are able to purchase upgrades for the 6 guns you have in this game, increasing their magazine capacity, fire rate, accuracy and damage. I'm not against innovation, but this doesn't fit this type of game at all, at the very least it could have been done much better. Due to the implementation of an upgrade system, your character is underpowered from the get-go, forcing you to complete tedious, repetitive side missions in order to get those aforementioned ability points. Guns are basically castrated without upgrades, they feel stiff and clunky in the beginning of the game. So much so that I honestly thought something was wrong with my computer during the intro mission, thinking it was a v-sync issue (for those who experienced v-sync and screen tear issues in The New Colossus, they are still present in this game). It was only after reaching level 20 and unlocking upgrades the game actually started to feel like Wolfenstein. If anything, an upgrade system should add more to the gameplay, not squander and gradually restore it to the level of previous installments.

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Weapon customization is well visualized in-game. You can buy skins for coins or premium currency that costs real money.

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Shooting nazis with futuristic weapons is still cool

Maps are built to be explored by 2 sentient players, with symmetrical designs and pathways in most levels. Practically all exit doors and crucial tasks require 2 players to do something at the same time in order to progress further, which can be annoying when playing with a deadbeat friend, but thankfully the AI just teleports where you need to and turns the knob. In Youngblood, after going down to 1 hp you're knocked out like in a battle royale game requiring your teammate to save you. This is where the AI shows its incompetency. Countless of times, I was knocked out and practically right next to the AI, for it only to be busy fighting some large nazi robot, then getting knocked out herself, forcing me to use an extra life to get back up and save her. Unfortunately, I did not get to exeprience this game with another player, since the people I could play this game with were in different timezones or in different stages of the game,and did not want to be spoiled. From what I gather, the online experience isn't much better, with players reporting issues with poor netcode. It's a shame, since on paper, coop Wolfenstein sounds cool.

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Sophie is just letting me die while standing there and doing nothing. Oh and I had to re-do the entire mission from the beginning after I died because this game has NO CHECKPOINTS!

The Catacombs act as a hub much like the Resistance base in The New Order and the U-boat in The New Colossus. Paris is divided into segments that can be accessed by using the metro, so it's somewhat of an open world. Doing side-missions require you to travel to these segments many, many times in order to complete some menial tedious tasks such as "kill this Nazi general" or "save this prisoner".

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Like in previous titles, every map and mission offers you somewhat of a stealth route. But, in Youngblood, even with the introduction of the invisibility cloak, stealth feels severely downplayed. You can just run pass enemies, since they're all slower than you, and get to the next segment without any issue. But, Arkane / Machine games offer you a bonus for completing a segment without sounding off any alarms - 68 coins, which can buy you virtually nothing in this game. Also, this game doesn't even have a map other than the small useless minimap on the top right. There's no way to access the full map to see what route you should take. How is it legal to not include a full map?

Enemies in Youngblood are generic re-skins from New Colossus, with the addition of some new grunt level enemies such as technicians and medics that repair/heal nearby soldiers. Panzerhounds, along with some new variations, return. A couple of large nazi robots, which act as bosses in 3 levels, appear as well. No new, innovative and interesting enemies in this game unfortunately. That's not to say that Youngblood doesn't pull a twist on combat - enemies now have 2 different types of armor, which can be pierced more easily with different weapon types. At first this seemed interesting, as a way to "force" the player to use more than 1 gun (something I used to do all the time in previous Wolfenstein games), but it gets worn out real quick when you're forced to switch weapons mid battle with slow, clunky weapon switch animations. It's also painful when you're out of that specific ammo needed to kill an enemy. Feels like a system that was tacked on last minute without being given enough thought, which can be said about most game mechanics here.

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Some enemies can see you even when you're invisible, though I have no idea if this is a gameplay mechanic or a bug. Robots in particular can see you, somehow.

The best way I can describe this game, is it's looter shooter without any loot. The maps and missions are filled with secret places, boxes, safes and so on. But, opening and finding these secrets is extremely disappointing. You're not going to find any new weapons, since the game limits you to only a couple of them, nor can you find any upgrades to your armor or health, since those are only accessible through the upgrade menu. I found a large crate once, but it required a password to open. So, naturally I scoured the area for any info as to what that password might be, and eventually I found a floppy disk containing the information needed. I unlocked the crate, and guess what I found? 200 coins and some concept art. Who cares about concept art? I wasted about 20 minutes looking for some dumb password just for an image I can easily find on the internet, in better quality? Seriously? This killed any motivation for me to explore further in the game. Youngblood has destructible crates made out of wood that for some reason do not destroy instantly and require you to waste your ammo or time disassembling them piece by piece. Oh, and what do you get? 2-3 coins, maybe 25 health/armor. Screw this piece of crap loot system. If you see a crate, or box, or anything that's not an extra life crate, don't bother.

Graphics

Wolfenstein: Youngblood runs on the id Tech 6 engine, just like Doom and The New Colossus. Graphic fidelity is on par with The New Colossus, and I could not see any major differences. Which isn't a bad thing, as the id Tech engine is well known for it's high quality optimization and decent visuals. The game ran on a smooth 60fps with high settings and adaptive v-sync on my now old GTX 970, with some dips into the 50s during intense explosions and multiple enemies.

Something that still disappoints me in the Wolfenstein series is the poor custscene quality. Usually, cutscenes in games look cinematic and push the capabilities of the engine to the edge, sometimes even pre-recorded video files are played. I don't know if the cutscenes in Wolfenstein games are pre-recorded or real time, all I know is that they're shit. Seriously, I could forgive The New Order for having cutscenes that look like they were from 2009, but not Youngblood. The most frustrating thing is that in-game, in real time, the game looks beautiful. Fluid animations, great lighting, amazing detail and so on. But cutscenes feel like they're from an Xbox 360 port of the game, with clunky animations, bland camera work and 30fps. Hopefully, this is something Machine Games will fix in Wolfenstein 3 with the upcoming engine upgrade. In theory they could just ditch the cutscenes altogether and have the game follow a narrative structure like in Doom

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The game has good lighting effects. Ray-Tracing is promised to be included "after launch"

Sound

Gunshots are crisp and loud, as they should be. Enemies presence can be heard and easily located, with proper 3D audio spacing. Sound design overall is top notch and AAA level, as always.

The soundtrack is filled with cyberpunk, nazisynthwave and new wave music. I love synthwave, and I enjoyed this soundtrack very much. Some retro tracks from previous titles return, now posing as 60s and 70s classics in the 80s period this game is set in. Since the game is set in a world where Germany won WW2, all art is in German and contains thinly veiled propaganda, which fits perfectly with the world of the game. Creating music is a genius method of world-building started by The New Order and I'm glad to see it continue. 

The PLOT

What in the hell is the story supposed to be in this game? It's all over the place. Alright, so this game picks off where New Colossus ended, only 20 or something years later. Remember how New Colossus ended with a cliffhanger that led you to believe the next game will have you lead a civil uprising in the USA against Nazis? Well, yeah, forget about that. Blazko and Anya are living on a farm with their twin daughters Sophie and Jessie, training them to fight and survive. The war, in the USA at least, is over and it seems to be hinted that BJ led a successful campaign against the Nazis and liberated the country, oh and he killed Hitler too. Yeah. Remember when Machine Games said you're going to fight Hitler in Wolfenstein 3? Nope, that's out the picture now, because they've just confirmed W3 is taking place AFTER Youngblood. You're never going to see the large scale US rebellion. You're never going to see BJ fight Hitler. Wow, great job Machine Games / Arkane. 

The game, for some reason, decides to follow a non linear story path in the very first segment, which left me extremely confused. The first cutscene is a moment where BJ and Anya are training their daughters, and in the next one the twins are in armor suits in the Paris catacombs. I thought I accidentally skipped a cutscene, so I exited the game and started again. Same thing happened. Confused, I decided to briefly check on a walkthrough online to see if my game was missing cutscene files or something, but no, that's how it's supposed to start. Later on, after completing the first mission on a zeppelin you are shown a short cutscene that explains why you're in Paris and how you got the power suit. This is the only place where this non-linear Tarantino-esque storytelling is used. Well, there's another scene near the end of the game, but I won't spoil it, but it's extremely brief and doesn't involve any gameplay segments.

Without getting into spoilers, the overall narrative by the end of the game seems pointless, as if your struggles helped only slightly with the situation in Paris. Not going deep into side missions, the game can be completed within 8 hours or less. The main characters, Jessie and Sophie, don't really have any personality other than "American teenage girls that like to kill nazis and read YA novels". None of the more interesting characters from New Colossus return, and some that do only make brief appearances.

Overall, the story left a very strange taste in my mouth. I'm still confused as to what the point of this game was. Was this originally Wolfenstein 3, but Bethesda forced Machine Games to pump out a game quick? Was this supposed to be a game set after Wolfenstein 3, but then Machine Games realized how stupid that was and now they're forced to set Wolfenstein 3 in the far future again? What was the point of that story? I wish I could go into spoilers here, so many stupid things in this narrative it's insane. Feels more like a fanfiction than a continuation of the storyline.

Final Thoughts

If you're a Wolfenstein fan, don't buy this game. Not yet at least, wait until it's at least 30-50% off. This game is not worth full price. If you have a buddy who likes Wolfenstein too, just let him use your Buddy Pass and then you can play it together while you wait for Wolfenstein 3. I would not recommend this game to new players, as they won't have the slightest clue what's going on story-wise. If you want a good Wolfenstein game, play The New Order, The Old Blood, The New Colossus. Maybe dust off Return to Castle Wolfenstein and enjoy the nostalgia. This ain't it, chief. 

Wolfenstein: Youngblood seems to be hastily-made game with microtransactions crammed in by Bethesda, which makes worrisome for the well-being of Machine Games and the fate of Wolfenstein 3.

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Good gunplay (once weapons are properly upgraded)
+ Fast paced FPS
+ Decent Graphics
+ Well Optimized
Cons
- Poorly written, inconsequential story
- Poorly implemented RPG mechanics
- Broken V-sync (PC)
- Poor cutscenes
- Uninteresting MCs
5 Presentation
When your menu confuses your player, that's when you know your presentation is flawed.
7 Gameplay
At the core, it's still a fast paced Wolfenstein game.
5.9
out of 10
Overall (not an average)


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