Wolfenstein: Youngblood is going to be one of those games that will be nearly impossible for me to convince anyone to play, and the worst part is that it is almost entirely due to the marketing around the game. I love Wolfenstein, as far as FPS titles are concerned, it is up there next to Duke Nukem 3D as one of the games that changed my childhood. In fact, I play through Return to Castle Wolfenstein at least a few times every year just because it is so much fun. It is one of the best World War 2 shooters, and is so good that my sixty year old father plays through it every once and a while too. RtCW was the first online shooter I ever played and in many ways, helped introduce me to the online world and turn me into the salty lad that I am today. That is why when I saw that another new Wolfenstein game was coming, I paid close attention to anything and everything that the developers had to show off.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios, MachineGames
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia
Release Date: July 25th, 2019
I hoped that even if it were just another standalone expansion like The Old Blood, it would be enough for MachineGames to prove that they figured out what did and did not work and they would make a turn around to save the franchise. In a way, they achieved that goal, I did find Youngblood to be more enjoyable than The New Colossus.
But unfortunately, for every step forward that it made, it took one step back, thus leaving Youngblood doing little more than spinning its wheels in the mud. If this is to be the end of the line for Wolfenstein, there are no words to describe my disappointment that it will end on such a whimper.
The story of Youngblood is probably my favorite aspect because it is structured more or less like a stereotypical 80’s action movie with all the flash and just as little substance. Youngblood takes place during the 1980’s, BJ Blazkowicz has gone missing and no one knows where he could have gone, simply that he must have disappeared somewhere in Nazi occupied Paris.
Anya, BJ’s wife, is unable to attempt any sort of rescue on her own because she has twin daughters to take care of now, Jess and Soph. However the daughters, along with their brainiac friend Abby, overhear the conversation and take it upon themselves to attempt a rescue of BJ on their own. Thus, the teens go on an adventure.
The setting takes place almost entirely in Paris and plays out like a semi-open world. There is a main underground hub called “The Catacombs” which is controlled by members of the French resistance. From within the hub, the player collect missions and can fast travel to different areas to complete them.
Even though there are main story missions, there are also side missions they will need to accomplish to level up enough to take on the main story. While there are some who would call this padding, I do not view it as such.
A lot of these side missions are about as fun as the main story are, and allow the player to level up rather quickly. Within the first three hours of the game, I was already level 20 and was not really held back from doing anything.
I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the criticism over Youngblood’s twin protagonists, Jess and Soph. While I can understand, to a degree, how upset people are about BJ not being playable in Youngblood, I think there is a very important fact lost on people.
This is a spin off title, a stand alone expansion, not a full sequel like The New Colossus. On top of that, while I would have preferred to see BJ’s story end after The New Order, I do not mind the idea of him passing the torch to his children.
While there are people on either side of this issue who will make a big fuss about the gender of these new heroes, I would rather ignore these people and focus on what matters the most, killing, maiming, burning, and butchering nazis.
While Youngblood is filled to the brim with female characters, I never felt like it was bashing me over the head with it, it just kind of was. In many ways, I thought that the abundance of awesome female characters was to the game’s benefit.
That all being said, that does not mean that the twins are not without their flaws. If I am being honest, they do not lack much of individual personalities, they are both goofy tomboys who are both into science fiction and mystery novels. They both talk and act more or less the same.
This was one of the things that did take me out of the game more than I would like to admit. Despite finding their positive friendship to be warming in one regard, the fact that if I were to close my eyes I would not know who was who bothers me.
When the game first starts, the player sees the home life of the Blaskowicz family on their home property in Texas. Jess is out hunting with BJ, and it seems like she has more control over her emotions. She is able to take in her surroundings, pick up on subtle changes in the air, and honestly comes off as the calm and collected one.
At the same time, Soph is at home working out and using a punching bag while her mother coaches her about the basics of CQC. From this I figured that Soph would be the one who would choose action over thinking. While this is not exactly an original pairing, I hoped that they would complement each other and it would work out.
Alas, almost immediately their personalities begin to blend together and there is almost no distinction between them. For a game that is in the same line as The New Order, this is beyond disappointing. Do not be upset that they are women, be upset that they are badly written women.
As stated earlier, the game is semi-open world, where the player uses a main central hub to select missions and zones to fast travel to. There is a decent handful of zones to choose from but admittedly most of them did not stand out to me.
While out in the world on the path towards a main or side mission, the player might receive a message about a target to kill or another mini quest that they can do for some more experience.
Missions and murder are the way to gain experience to level up in Youngblood. As the player levels up, they will get tokens that they can put into stats to improve their character. They will also earn in game currency that can be spent on customizing their weapons and bodysuits. One aspect about this currency that I really enjoy is that it can be found everywhere.
It does not even require exploration to gains hundreds to thousands of the in-game currency to properly deck out your preferred nazi smashing equipment.
I never ran into a point while I was playing where I had to suffer through long stretches of time unable to upgrade my equipment which is good because as I progressed through Youngblood enemies began to level up and became harder and harder to kill.
As far as the gameplay itself is concerned, it is more than serviceable. If you are one to enjoy killing Nazis with a small arsenal of weapons, there is enough here to get a few hours of entertainment. However, despite the gunplay being okay, I never really felt any amount of joy while I was playing through Youngblood.
This is a game that, when I played it at E3, I walked away feeling very positive about it, I even bought a shirt. But between then and now, all the luster seems to have faded and what I have been left with is a rather generic shooter with a Wolfenstein splash of paint. At no point did I ever say to myself “Oh man that was awesome!” or feel any sort of rush of excitement.
While Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the first time that Wolfenstein has had co-op, I was not able to have a chance to enjoy it because of the almost impressive amount of bugs and problems the game still has.
Our review code for Youngblood was for the deluxe edition of the game, which comes with the Buddy pass, a fantastic option for people who want to play co-op games with a friend.
The Buddy Pass allows you to invite a friend to play through the entire game in co-op with you, all they have to do is download the demo and you can invite them.
Sadly, after nearly three hours of trying, I was completely unable to invite my friend to play with me because no matter how hard I tried to send him invites, no matter what we did, he could not accept them. Instead, he kept getting messages telling him that the session was closed.
At first we thought it was an issue on our ends, but upon further investigation on the Steam community hub, it appears that almost everyone who is playing the game is suffering from the same or similar issues.
However, it would be hard to tell due to the massive amount of unique problems everyone seems to be having. It almost feels as if Youngblood was shipped in a state to stop people from playing it. I myself noticed many bugs or glitches, like enemy AI completely freaking out, enemies themselves clipping or glitching out, and even a few full game crashes.
One of the last things that I want to mention are the microtransactions. Like most of you, I am no fan of the increasingly predatory nature of microtransactions in video games we’ve seen lately. But, while I will always take a hard stance against microtransactions that I feel are abusive towards the consumer, I do not believe that Youngblood fits that bill.
While the player is able to buy cash shop currency, the only thing that they are able to spend it on is cosmetics, such as new body suit skin, helmets, or animations. All of these things can also be purchased with in-game currency as well, thus making the Gold Bars a completely ignoreable feature.
From what I have seen these are only meant for cosmetics, and until I see otherwise I believe that the fans upset over these microtransactions are wasting energy, especially when there are so many other areas where this game makes mistakes.
There is no better example of my issues with Youngblood than its graphics. Without sounding rude, Youngblood is ugly. The environments are fine but completely uninteresting.
Nothing really pops, the guns all look nearly identical in your hands and left me struggling to remember what gun I had when I was trying to swap around on the fly. But most importantly, the characters look wrong.
There is something about them, in their faces, that just does not feel natural, especially for the female characters, which this game has a lot of. Every character looks almost gross, and it hards to enjoy.
This is a turn-around from The New Order, where everyone looked great. That is not just that I am saying they looked attractive (though BJ Blazkowicz is certainly a hunk of a man), rather they just looked like real people.
They did not look sickly or that they had died and made their eyes bulge from their sockets. This is a massive step backwards for the visual quality of Wolfenstein. Perhaps it is a lack of creativity or a lack of interest. Maybe it is a simple lack of passion for the IP, but at the end of the day it produced a game that just lacks.
Honestly, there are people who are saying that Youngblood is the worst game or one of the worst games that they have played all year, and I think that just means they have not played that many games. But I will say that it is not hyperbolic to say that Youngblood is one of the most disappointing games that I have played since, probably The New Colossus.
There was so much here that I wanted to see properly succeed. This could have been the chance for the developers make up for their previous mistakes, but instead we got a game that can be summed up as one of the final nails in a coffin.
At this point do I believe that MachineGames can make another good Wolfenstein game? Honestly, I do not know, even with the help of a talented studio like Arkane, they were up able to learn from their previous mistakes. Honestly, Wolfenstein fans deserve better than what they got here and that is saying something.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Bethesda Softworks. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.