Wolfenstein Youngblood Review: You’re better going it alone

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Okay, but not great.

Wolfenstein Youngblood is out now, the product of a pairing between Wolfenstein’s MachineGames and Dishonored‘s Arkane. While the combination of these two elite studios might seem likely to produce an epic, action-packed game, the actual result is a bit hit-and-miss.

Youngblood stars BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters, Jes and Soph, all grown up and on the search for their father in Europe. While Arkane may be praised for its storytelling capabilities — and MachineGames itself has done a stellar job with Wolfenstein to date — I sure wasn’t feeling Youngblood‘s narrative at any point. Right from the start, I was bored sitting through a series of long, drawn-out cutscene; while I’ve come to care for BJ and his wife, Anya, I hardly know anything about (and certainly don’t feel anything for) BJ’s spawn. By the time I’d gotten to the game’s hub world, there were so many random characters introduced to the mix that I just started skipping cutscenes (alongside confirmation by my co-op partner) to get back to playing.

I started playing in co-op with Stevivor’s own Ben Salter; we fired up its first mission, taking a bit of time to get back into the Wolfenstein mindset and were frequently getting downed in the process. While it was fair enough to have to start right from the beginning of the game when we both died five minutes in, but having to do that again after twenty minutes was just utter frustration. While we definitely got better — and more cautious thanks to horrible checkpoints — as we progressed, one thing felt certain: Youngblood is annoyingly brutal in co-op; frequently, we’d encounter bullet sponge enemies that literally spawned out of nowhere in front of us as we played.

After sorting out these enemies — popped-in or not — we then struggled with the map. Youngblood features an open-worldish structure that sometimes is a showcase of inspired level design and at other times a slog with lots of backtracking. A mission called Brother 1 is a prime example of this, showing some of the best and worst points of design. On the positive side, tight cooridors are paired with large open spaces for varied combat; on the flip side, the map has an area where you literally travel up and up and up via various elevators. Then, you go down and down and down again through at least half of them after completing your objective; that’ll take you to a “shortcut” (though it’s really not) that lets you skip a teeny bit of the level on the way out.

You don’t just have to meander through a single level to leave it, but you’ll also need to find an exit in the overworld to get back to a position where you can queue up another mission. If you don’t occasionally navigate back to your Catacombs base of operations, you might even find yourself without a mission to actually accomplish. We didn’t realise, at first, that you could talk to those in the base for side-missions and proceeded to jump into a main mission where we were underlevelled; the skull icons next to every single enemy as soon as we spawned as enough of a clue that we weren’t going to have a great time.

The levelling system is just one of a series of RPG-like mechanics that have been added to Wolfenstein, much for the worse. Better is a new series of gun customisation options that  let you purchase various mods that alter your weapons to suit your playstyle. While there are also guns best suited to take on specific enemies, I found that the shotgun and LaserKraftWerk did a find job regardless.

After Ben and I had reached our limit in co-op, I continued Youngblood in single-player, offline co-op mode with an AI sister. The result made things far too easy; your AI sister is basically invulnerable in normal battles, able to revive you without much effort, but than acts dumb as a post in other encounters. Fighting a boss inside the Raid arena, Jes literally decided to stand inside a lazer trap and die four times in a row. Despite some AI hiccups, you’re better going Youngblood alone — something that’s maybe also true for MachineGames in terms of development.

At the end of the day, Wolfenstein Youngblood is largely forgettable. It’s not bad, per se,  merely competent. I’m happy to set this one aside and wait for the next proper Wolfenstein sequel, far removed from half-baked RPG mechanics and Nazis who conviently design door switch and secret mechanism to be completed by two people instead of just one.

 

6 out of 10

The good

  • Okay, but not great.
  • A boring, forgettable story.
  • Some great level design at times.

The bad

  • Unnecessary RPG-like mechanics.
  • Too frustrating and bullet spongy in co-op, too easy solo.
  • Tons and tons of backtracking.

 

Wolfenstein Youngblood was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.