Wolfenstein Youngblood Review - An unfocused blend of genres
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Wolfenstein Youngblood is the latest entry to the rebooted Wolfenstein franchise that began with The New Order back in 2014. The story continues on from 2017's New Colossus and follows twin daughters of B.J. Blazkowitz, Jess and Soph, as they search 80's Nazi-occupied Paris in search of their missing father.
Jess and Soph are interesting characters to root for. They both have dorky personalities but can focus on the mission at hand. Voice-line quips and cut-scene gags are plenty here, but they can often feel out of place (especially when they're surrounded by an oppressive setting of a Nazi invasion). The humour does not pick its moments well, and rarely lands.
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Youngblood was developed by Machine Games once again but was also assisted by Dishonored veterans, Arkane Studios. Arkane's involvement is most notable in the game's level design and artistic vision of Paris. The world is segmented into multiple zones which each resemble small sandboxes, all with their intricate passageways and secrets to find. Unfortunately, the Arkane immersive-sim design philosophy is at odds with the power fantasy of a Machine Games Wolfenstein title.
First and foremost a co-op game, missions are often designed around playing with a friend, which works when connecting with a friend or other online players. The AI is thankfully extremely competent if you'd rather play alone. If you own the deluxe edition, Youngblood has a buddy pass system which requires only one person to hold the game who can then invite a "buddy" to play alongside. It's a fantastic feature that makes the game incredibly accessible.
Missions are received from the many NPCs located in the Catacombs hub area, most of which are relatively bland and nowhere near as memorable as characters from previous titles. Some missions offer exciting plot points, like infiltrating an officer's apartment, disrupting science experiments or rescuing hostages, but many of the quests are menial tasks and can become very repetitive. This is made worse by having to continually retreat to the same areas over and over again as you accept new quests.
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Most often than not, Youngblood feels like a numbers game; you complete missions to earn more money and experience points which can then be invested back into skills and weapon upgrades. A system such as this works in other game, like Dishonored, because the weapon upgrades and abilities are all inventive and unique. Youngblood's weapon upgrades are all statistic-based, and most of the skills merely provide boosts to health, armour or ammunition. They're rarely rewarding.
The shooting gameplay is mostly fun and can be somewhat challenging at times. Numerous enemy types keep you on your toes as different armour types require different ammunition types to deal the most damage. Unfortunately, continually needing to switch to alternate weapons to deal the right damage can become tedious, especially when you start to run scarce on correct ammo types. It's a very basic attempt at making the combat more cognitive, which can be seen executed more successfully in DOOM Eternal's weak spot mechanic.
Courtesy of Bethesda PressThere are some very fun boss set-pieces later into the game that vastly improves on the rather dull first half of the game, especially when more inventive weapons beyond the basic Assault Rifles and Shotguns are introduced. Boss fights are especially fun when co-ordinating with a teammate in co-op.
Overall, Youngblood is a tough sell. It's clear that the franchise has attempted to evolve in a different direction from the narrative-driven shooters of its past. However, the live-service RPG mechanics that it introduces are so run-of-the-mill that it struggles to stand out. The lower price tag of £24.99 is welcome, though; especially if you have a like-minded friend to join you in co-op, which will provide the best experience by far.
Courtesy of Bethesda PressWolfenstein Youngblood is available on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Switch. Lead image courtesy of Bethesda Press