Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review

Richard Walker

Few games do wanton ultra-violence like Wolfenstein. And in Wolfenstein: Youngblood, that is very much still the case, although unstoppable walking tank BJ Blazkowicz is on the sidelines as twin daughters Jess and Soph take centre stage. Both are strong, badass characters, but unfortunately, their crack of the Nazi-smashing whip loses something in striving to deliver a more open-ended and intricate experience.

On a mission to track down their lost pa, Jess and Soph find themselves carving a path through one of the last Nazi strongholds in 'Neu-Paris', 1980, decked out in power suits and armed to the teeth. After an explosive opening few hours, Wolfenstein: Youngblood soon settles into a bit of a rut as you bounce from pillar to post, completing fairly unremarkable missions at the behest of an underground Parisian resistance, stationed in the catacombs beneath the city that also serve as your hub.


Each of the main regions you can freely visit at any time via the Metro network map is a detailed, relatively large area to explore with various objectives, collectibles and secrets to uncover, but upon trawling through the same streets for the umpteenth time, things quickly wear thin. Returning to an area multiple times proves to be a grind, as the same enemies respawn in the exact same place, and you're pressed into repeating the same passage of gunplay you've already completed.

There's a lot of new stuff in Wolfenstein, including XP and levelling, weapon upgrades, and unwelcome roguelike elements that mean when your three shared lives are expended it's back to the beginning of the mission. None of these really bring anything to the formula that MachineGames established with The New Order and The New Colossus, compounding what is still a slick and straightforward shooter with needless fripperies.

To date, Wolfenstein's new tenure has seen two cracking mainline entries deliver adrenalin-pumping, cinematic and pulpy shooters. Youngblood is a watered down, compromised experience by comparison, marred by mechanics seemingly designed to make you feel weak and hopelessly outgunned. Worst of all, despite the myriad tools and abilities in your arsenal, Wolfenstein: Youngblood just isn't much fun once you're in the thick of it. It's a chore.

As for the RPG aspects that have been shoehorned in, they're entirely pointless, weapon upgrades the only aspect that's worth bothering with. As you level up, so too do the enemies you're facing. Regardless of your character's steadily increasing damage output and what not, foes remain annoying bullet sponges. Raid Missions are perhaps the most frustrating part of Youngblood, however, and they're a necessary part of the game if you want to progress. Like most MMOs, Raid Missions are punishing, filled with challenging enemies and bosses, and if you die, it's a demoralising trudge back to square one.

The rest of what Youngblood has to offer is a procession of not particularly interesting side missions, primarily revolving around fetching something and bringing it back to a quest giver in the catacombs. There's the kernel of something truly special in MachineGames and Dishonored studio Arkane's collaborative attempt to imbue Wolfenstein with something more, and while the RPG elements are unnecessary, co-op is an excellent addition, enabling you to enjoy the action with a friend or the game's quite adept AI. Upgrading weaponry together, busting out pep signals to buff one another, and co-ordinating strategies is great.

It's unfortunate, then, that so much of Wolfenstein: Youngblood feels formulaic, the only way to push on the narrative being to complete four main Raid Missions, then a final, wretched boss battle. Character builds also go out of the window once you realise that stealth isn't much of an option, abilities like cloaking and faster movement when crouched doing little when you're faced with larger enemies you're unable to perform takedown moves on. You're better off charging into enemies like an enraged bull and launching an all-out assault.

Youngblood's shooter mechanics remain as brilliantly meaty as they were in the previous games, however, so even if the game's missions largely comprise busywork, you can always revel in blasting enemies to pieces, even if it takes a lot more bullets than it should. Youngblood's premise is also excellent, tasking Jess and Soph with infiltrating three heavily guarded Brother towers in Neu-Paris's oppressed Little Berlin, down and dirty shanty town of Political Detention Area 4, and the war-torn Victory Boulevard.


Each Brother tower is a fraught Raid Mission, with a different Kraftwerk weapon (Laserkraftwerk, Dieselkraftwerk, and Electrokraftwerk) to discover, each granting access to new areas in a MetroidVania style. Bosses are colossal machines that take a coordinated effort to destroy, which is when the AI struggles to cope. Playing with a human is most definitely preferable, as the AI will often stand in front of a boss and stupidly bathe in the lasers and explosive projectiles. It's the only real instance where the AI fails to properly help out.

Managing to successfully rip through dark Underground areas and Brother strongholds crawling with Nazis can at times prove remarkably rewarding, but only after sufficiently persevering and levelling up to a point where you actually feel powerful. For far too long Jess and Soph aren't up to the task, their burgeoning abilities something you took for granted as BJ Blazkowicz. Some skills you unlock are disappointing too, dual-wielding for instance only allowing the use of pistols rather then rifles and shotguns – it's pointless.

I don't play Wolfenstein to feel feeble and overwhelmed; the whole point is to live out a power fantasy fighting a faction of evil bastards while packing more guns than Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando. I don't particularly want redundant RPG elements in my Nazi shooter and they're largely throwaway here, obfuscating the fantastic gunplay that's always been at the heart of the series. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is at its best when it's just being Wolfenstein.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

On paper, Wolfenstein: Youngblood should be completely brilliant. A stellar shooter imbued with RPG depth and open-ended level design? How could it possibly fail? By making the RPG elements meaningless; that's how.

Form widget
60%
Audio
80%

The '80s-style synth soundtrack is fantastic and the sisters are portrayed in a wonderfully goofy, playful way despite being faced with insurmountable odds against a legion of Nazi scumbags.

Visuals
90%

Every bit as grimly beautiful as its predecessors, Youngblood doesn't overdo the '80s motif – Nazis, as it happens, don't really have a sense of style beyond high-tech Third Reich chic. Still, the new Wolfy looks great.

Playability
70%

Youngblood fundamentally plays as well as any Wolfenstein game, but this is an experience bogged down by RPG elements that don't really bring anything genuinely meaningful to the table. Weapon upgrades and co-op pep signals are a cool touch, though.

Delivery
50%

Granted, Youngblood is a budget release, and while it's remarkably polished, it's fairly repetitive, with perhaps one memorable set-piece and a by-the-numbers storyline. To be fair, there's a decent twist in the tale, but overall, this is lacking. There are microtransactions too, but not once did I feel they were necessary or intrusive.

Achievements
50%

An uncomplicated, not particularly inventive list, primarily focused on grinding out weapon mastery (kill X number of enemies), completing everything the game has to offer, and discovering a silly amount of collectibles.

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