Bethesda / MachineGames / Arkane Studios (studio)
26 July 2019 (released)
29 July 2019
In the last 5 years, Wolfenstein as made an epic and gory return to form. The New Order was a masterfully constructed journey through a dark alternative reality where the Nazis won the war. The Old Blood was a glorious and entertaining monster mashup which showed the roots of the series. The New Colossus was to be honest a weaker instalment that didn’t know what it wanted to be but still had some great moments. Now Youngblood is the next instalment and one to be most dynamic in the series yet! The new co-op element is set to make this much different from any of the other games in the series. Does it work?
Let’s find out.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes place 20 years after the events of The New Order and The New Colossus. The US has been fully liberated from Nazi control and everyone is trying to rebuild their lives and the country. BJ Blazkowicz and Anya are have grown old yet they are happy and with two beautiful daughters. The twins Soph and Jess are a spitting image of their father and have been trained for the last several years to take on the remaining Nazis and their ruthless war machine. They thought the day would never come where they would have to fight, but sadly it has when the legend that is BJ Blazkowicz goes missing. Soph and Jess along with their friend Abby (and daughter of Grace Walker) go to Nazi controlled Paris in order to help the resistance and find their father.
So from here on in, Soph and Jess with the aid of the French Resisitance and their friend Abby, will take down the Nazi war machines (or the multiple war machines in this case) and kill as many Nazis as possible. Now the main issue with the previous instalment (New Colossus) was the mixture of different tones, the darker, grittier harshness of war and the weird goofy overtones that tried to make it more comical. The first game was sombre yet had elements of comedy to break it up. The Old Blood was just goofy yet had darker elements injected. Youngblood decides to follow Old Blood and just be fun, goofy and inject some darker tones into the mix.
It works as it’s consistent and the tonal flow is better overall. Soph and Jess are very entertaining and a likable pair as they stand-in for BJ. The dialogue is witty, sharp and the banter between the bloodthirsty twins is very amusing. The story itself doesn’t do anything remarkable for the series and it’s just a case of building the twins into the ultimate Nazi killing, destroying three points of interest in Paris and setting off for the endgame in a secret lab. That’s really about it. There are some neat twists and even the end of the game proposes an interesting direction the third game could take.
But a plus is that there are less cut scenes throughout the campaign. Something which is a nice as the action keeps on rolling and you’re never disrupted by numerous, lengthy cut scenes.
Speaking of action! Youngblood delivers the same, highly refined and highly brutal gunplay of the previous games. MachineGames understands how to pace out the action, the placement of enemies and how to make guns that have tremendous impact and show their devastating nature. Action is intense and killing Nazis is fun again!
The co-op aspect to Youngblood works particularly well, whether you’re playing alone or with another person. Soph and Jess can kit themselves out with certain perks before the start of the game including an invisibility cloak or the Ram shackles manoeuvre. So there’s the chance to go in all stealth (for the most part) or just pure and brute force. Having both players use the cloak can make certain sections a little too easy to walk through but there’s enough enemies and other obstacles to ensure this isn’t game breaking. But it’s worthwhile to combine both tactics as it keeps things interesting during the larger encounters. Playing this alone will mean you have to rely on an AI partner, but collecting certain items such as coins will ensure you level up a little bit faster than playing with another person. But it’s worth noting that certain bosses are an absolute chore if you’re playing alone, but you do reap more rewards by doing so.
Both Soph and Jess can upgrade weapons their guns by obtaining coins throughout the world and even level up through progression. This will then allow players to purchase new perks and abilities.
Now the interesting thing is that Arkane Studios (the people behind Dishonored) have lent a hand is developing certain aspects to this spin off. The world of Paris is beautiful and the level design is tremendous. Multiple layers, different paths and plenty of secrets to discover make exploration meaningful and lends beautifully to the co-op play. As one player can take on route while the other can flank, provide cover or find resources during a difficult encounter.
Now the only things I will say are at fault is the lack of other, interactive NPCs within Paris, making it feel a little empty (aside from the endless Nazis). You do have a hub world which lies within the Paris catacombs where you can accept side quests and speak to members of the resistance. But it could’ve been nice meet other characters hiding out on the streets and gain an insight to Nazi controlled Paris.
The other thing is that this Wolfenstein is a little more focused on levelling up and having enemy ranks. Meaning in order to progress, you’ll have to level up rather than completing story missions. It’s a little tedious at times as you’ll from time to time come across super powerful enemies which just end you instantly. This also means that a lot of enemies will feel like bullet sponges and this tends to happen just before the last objective in an mission. Meaning it can be prolonged until you get stronger by doing other stuff. It’s all about numbers and it’s a little odd to have that in a Wolfenstein game, considering some enemies just take a load of bullets but then die instantly with a single axe thrown at them.
Overall, these are very minor issues and something that can be patched out or fight through (with another person ideally). Youngblood was a big risk but MachineGames have thankfully shown us they’re back to what they do best. The level design is impressive, the action is amazing and the inclusion of co-op (while a little rough around the edges) is pulled off very well. This is definitely what the series needed and a fine side story before the upcoming Wolfenstein 3. Check it out and go out and kill some Nazis with a buddy (or an AI buddy).
++ Intense and brutal action (now with a friend)
+ Great level design and pacing
+ New and cool characters
- Some balancing issues
A PS4 copy of Wolfenstein Youngblood was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.