The satisfaction of killing Nazis with excellent guns in an incredibly well developed if a little crazy story is exactly what I expect of a Wolfenstein title. Weirdly, while still good in many ways this newest addition to the series, Wolfenstein Youngblood doesn’t exactly deliver on this promise.
Where the first two in this current series deliver incredible single-player FPS action, Wolfenstein Youngblood chooses to diverge into a co-operative experience. The famed BJ Blazkowicz has gone missing and so the role of the player is replaced by his two daughters who seek to rescue him. Solid cooperative gaming is something I’m a really big fan of, as is the current Wolfenstein series so I was very excited for this premise.
Unfortunately, adding co-op play isn’t the only way Wolfenstein Youngblood diverges. It feels less like a cohesive story drive journey as it does an excuse to grind and explore and level up. In doing so it feels almost more like an offshoot of Destiny or The Division 2 and other shared-world shooters than what I expected.
Wolfenstein Youngblood Review
I remember in previous Wolfenstein games feeling that incredible sensation of fighting for a just cause alongside like-minded and genuinely likeable characters. As good as those on your team were, the villains were also satisfying to hate and defeat. Thus there was always this tremendous sense of victory to your actions. Wolfenstein Youngblood lacks both the craziness and fun of the other titles and means there’s far less direction and drive to finish the story.
The story itself takes place mostly just in cutscenes before the major story missions. There’s only really four of these on top of the introduction so not a lot of time is really dedicated to fleshing out the sisters or anyone they interact with. It’s sad because I enjoyed them when I was allowed to.
They’re dorky and real while still supportive of each other and their family. It’s an odd thing to enjoy but often they’d make grunts or laughs that weren’t attractive or ladylike. They’re badass killers but they’re also teenagers and they fit the bill for a humorous take. You believe that these could be the daughters of Terror Billy despite the occasional cringy eighties cliches in their language.
Similarly, I wasn’t given the time to truly hate the villains the way I wanted to. Unapologetically killing Nazis is a sort of cathartic experience in this weird day and age. I wanted to feel like I was up against a terrifying and morally bankrupt force that believed in the literal genocide of those who don’t look the same. In this game, there’s hardly any meaningful time dedicated to those you’re fighting. If it wasn’t for iconography slapped on everything I could forget I was fighting Nazis and start thinking, god forbid, that I was shooting decent human beings.
When you’re not doing main story missions the goal is to level up your chosen sister and her weapons. Both can have identical abilities but it’s up to you on how you use and upgrade them. Doing this takes different kinds of currencies which can be earned or found in the world.
These RPG elements really change the face of a Wolfenstein game and while I usually really enjoy them, the way they’re implemented can feel like a grind. It’s nice to have a way to lengthen the 10-hour campaign but I wish it felt more meaningful.
This is where Wolfenstein Youngblood really hit me with notes of The Division. You go out and explore city areas for sidequests. Some include randomly generated missions which repeat, such as freeing hostages or placing car bombs. These are still available after completing the main story so there’s infinite content but it does get samey very quickly.
Specialised Nazi Killers
Something that’s kind of neat is you can absolutely complete the game without maxing out your character, so you won’t need to spend too much grinding and choices you make can really change your style of play. Similarly, guns can be changed in so many different ways truly tailoring to your play style. Playing cooperatively with my friend, we ended up with vastly different load outs and styles which both worked in their own ways. Sadly with all this choice, Wolfenstein Youngblood does not really encourage experimentation.
Weapons all level up with use as well as paid upgrades. The more kills you get with any weapon will unlock different levels of mastery making it more effective. This means you tend to want to stick with whatever has become your favourite gun. You’ll need to swap to one with a different ammo type to be effective against some enemies but mostly, having two preferred guns is the way to go. My co-op partner, who’s a notorious kill stealer, managed to have a sniper rifle infinitely more powerful than anything in my loadout due to his favouritism for this weapon and ability to shoot my enemies in the head, seconds before I was finished with them.
Part of the fun for me in previous Wolfenstein games was trying out all the new and crazy weapons that enemies drop. I don’t recall ever feeling quite so married to my loadout and while all the guns felt good I was a little sad about this. I used to relish the opportunity to pick up some wild electric laser gun but this time I was hesitant because there was a good chance it wasn’t going to be as effective. There’s a satisfaction to having your own perfect weapon but there’s perhaps more satisfaction in burning Nazis alive.
Though there are fewer levels than what I’m used to, Wolfenstein Youngblood has the same excellent level design in its DNA. There’s so much to explore in all the areas and I often found myself wondering off to find new paths throughout the city.
Double jump is unlocked from the get-go thanks to the power armour and this is used fantastically to make full advantage of this world. Sometimes there would be no path directly in front of me forcing me to look above and below and I always felt rewarded for my exploration.
Furthermore, Metroidvania elements are added as you unlock weapons to get into new doors and areas. This means there’s plenty of incentive to go back to places you’ve been and you probably will do so in completing side missions or levelling up.
Doors unlock allowing you easier access for return trips and it’s generally just really smartly laid out. The seemingly random respawn of enemies does take from this a little bit but I think overall it’s necessary for those looking to level up.
Co-op vs solo play is another aspect which encourages players to go back and reexplore. It’s quite different playing with a friend vs an AI and both had their ups and downs.
I felt like when playing alone I had more control over the environment. The AI sister was almost entirely useless at the difficulties I was playing at which could be annoying but also made me the star. I could run through and stealth kill and really set the pace of battles. Obviously, some of this comes down to how your partner plays but even when we both agreed to be stealthy it rarely worked out with two of us for whatever reason.
Having two humans allowed for complex strategies as well as really reinforcing the support the sisters seemed to have for each other. It felt really wholesome to hear the characters cheer each other on, knowing in a way it reflected our own banter and feelings.
The inclusion of a buddy pass mechanic in the deluxe addition feels really smart to me. I think Wolfenstein Youngblood will shine best when played with others on a whim and not needing to have the other person own the game is a really nice and classy touch.
There is however one super questionable piece of design in the final boss fight. Normally I wouldn’t feel the need to call a single battle out like this but it was such an incredibly frustrating act. I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible but if you’re super sensitive to this kind of information, perhaps skip the next few paragraphs.
Towards the end of the game, you’re given a new ability which allows you to capture enemy fire and throw it back at them. It’s specifically used to take on the final boss in a sort of first phase. There’s an escape in which you must make chase to the true battle. Once you catch up again rockets and other heavy projectiles are fired at you but your new ability just doesn’t work on them. In fact, it’s fairly useless aside from that one fight minutes earlier.
This wouldn’t bother me so much but that last boss battle is absolutely terrible. Co-operatively we played on Very Hard the whole game and rarely found proper death thanks to the Twins ability to revive each other. Really, Wolfenstein Youngblood is very forgiving until this final fight.
We ended up needing to drop the difficulty to easy and even then it felt like mostly luck that we won. The first time we died it felt kind of unfair just due to the bombardment of projectiles but resolved to do better on respawn. However, that respawn left us with the tiny amount of ammunition we had left and there’s just not enough on the field to replenish it. This enemy is a bullet sponge and I think I ended up trying to knife him to death in this war of attrition.
Deaths in this fight often felt random and most of it is spent running around the map in circles trying to hide from random fire. Once I attempted this without a human co-op partner and I’m not even sure if it’s achievable. Part of this fight you need to flank to hit a weak spot and my AI sister always wanted to be dutifully by my side.
I would be very surprised if there’s not a patch applied to this to at least give you more ammunition as the sudden jump in artificial difficulty was an incredibly frustrating finish that really tarnished the experience.
Wolfenstein Youngblood is a weirdly average entrance into the otherwise fantastic series that often feels like a Wolfenstein game in name only. It’s so frustrating to me that this new direction loses so much of what makes Wolfenstein great. It’s worse that they decided to take these risks on a game where they’ve changed protagonists.
I know that there will be plenty of folks who will blame the downfalls of this game on the female leads and it’s really not fair. They weren’t given the chance that BJ and the rest of that crew were. This entry isn’t as good as the others in spite of them not because of them and I can see so much squandered potential.
There’s plenty of fun to be had but it’s not quite the Nazi killing romp I wanted. I was after another super satisfying story with intricately crafted levels. Instead, we’re given a weird hybrid between shared-world RPG shooters and crafted linear story which doesn’t truly deliver on either. Youngblood shows us glimpses of greatness and offers a lot of mindless shooting fun but it’s just not of the same calibre as those who came before it.
Wolfenstein Youngblood was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by Bethesda.
Game Title: Wolfenstein Youngblood
Game Description: Wolfenstein®: Youngblood™ is a brand-new co-op adventure from award-winning studio MachineGames, developers of the critically-acclaimed Wolfenstein® II: The New Colossus, in partnership with Arkane Studios® Lyon. Play as one of BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters and undertake a do-or-die mission to find their missing father in 1980s Paris. Wield an arsenal of new weapons, gadgets, and power armor abilities in a fight to kick Nazis out of the city of lights.