Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Wolfenstein Youngblood is no mere spin-off. It certainly doesn't seem like one, at least, given the level of ambition on show; the kind you'd ordinarily expect from a full-blown sequel. A collaborative effort between New Order and New Colossus developer MachineGames and Dishonored studio Arkane Lyon, Youngblood takes the Nazi-smashing series in a slightly new direction, injecting some RPG elements into the formula alongside more open-ended level design.
Granted, the idea of Wolfenstein with RPG bits might sound like a contradiction; after all, it should be all about blowing away fascists with big guns, then maybe stopping for a nice bit of story interlaced between the shooty bits. Turns out, it actually works really well. And with co-op to boot, you can see why MachineGames is saying that Youngblood is a “bigger leap” for the series than the jump from The New Order to The New Colossus.
Immediately, you can see Arkane's influence in Youngblood's level design, especially once you've transitioned from the confines of the Nazi zeppelin, which is where you'll begin your journey. Landing in Paris - “Nazi country” according to Senior Game Designer Andreas Öjerfors – Youngblood opens up, and you're let off the leash to explore the cobbled Parisian streets in any way you like. While some parts remain on a set path, this latest Wolfenstein is “no longer strictly linear,” Öjerfors verifies. So while you're encouraged to explore, sticking together while doing so is usually the best course of action.
It's clear that this is a resolutely co-op focused affair, BJ Blazkowicz's twin daughters out on a “do-or-die” mission to save their old man from Nazi-occupied Paris. Set in the 1980s, 19 years on from the events of The New Colossus, Jess and Soph are all grown up, and during their childhood in Mesquite, TX (in a now liberated America), they've been trained for war but yet to engage in any real fighting. That explains why there are skill trees and ability upgrades to work your way through, as you hone the twins' skills and develop them from burgeoning Blazkos in-waiting, into lean, mean Nazi-killing machines just like their daddy.
Dual-wielding is something you can no longer take for granted, for instance - you'll need to unlock it through earning enough XP by blowing away Nazis and general progression for an ability point. These can also be poured into upgrading your power suit, making you better, faster, stronger. Weapon customisation too has been expanded, so you can fit guns with extended magazines, muzzles, scopes, and other components to boost damage output, rate of fire, and so on. Purchasing customisation items – including skins for your power suit – uses silver coins that you'll find as loot throughout each level, and you can also use coins to buy new 'pep signals'.
Wait. What the hell are pep signals? They're gestures like a 'thumbs up' or 'metal horns' you can make to your co-op buddy to buff your health, armour, or other attributes, and they're a fun way to communicate if you'd rather not chat. Not that you necessarily have to play Wolfenstein Youngblood with a fellow human; you can play alone with an AI partner, if you like. Either way, you also now share a pool of lives – just like one of those retro video games with lives, like Bubsy the Bobcat – and once you've expended them, you'll be forced to restart an entire section from scratch. Old-school.
Despite all of these new trappings, Wolfenstein Youngblood still feels every bit like a Wolfenstein game should. As long as there's an engaging story – it was difficult to get a proper impression of the overarching narrative during our hands-on – and gunplay remains resolutely meaty (it does), Wolfenstein is always going to be a compelling prospect, no matter what. Customisation, character progression, and weapon upgrades are all far deeper and more meaningful in this one too, which is a definite plus point.
Vitally, however, giving a Nazi supersoldat both barrels with a battle rifle or an assault shotgun, watching as bullets strip away armour and puncture flesh is still hugely gratifying, despite every enemy now having a health bar to be rinsed before they'll explode in a shower of giblets. But enemies do still explode in a shower of giblets, and that, ultimately, is the main thing.
Wolfenstein Youngblood launches for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on 26th July 2019.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 @ 02:43 PM
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 @ 04:45 PM
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 @ 10:54 PM
Thursday, July 25, 2019 @ 02:11 PM