Also available on Switch, PlayStation 4, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 08/26/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Wolfenstein Youngblood is a pretty big departure for the rebooted Wolfenstein series in a number of ways, and that’s been pretty divisive among fans. In a lot of ways, it’s still Wolfenstein – you still run around killing countless Nazis with a massive arsenal of weapons – but make no mistake about Youngblood. It’s not the Wolfenstein that I’ve come to know and love with New Order, Old Blood, and New Colossus.
The first major issue I had with the game – and the pettiest – is that the protagonist twins aren’t as gruff and badass as BJ. Don’t get me wrong, Soph and Jess are total badasses in their own way, but I’ve come to adore the gruff badassery of BJ. The aloofness of Soph and Jess, while entertaining at first, just didn’t sit as well with me as BJ’s darker, quieter demeanor. On the topic of the two protagonists, the use of multiplayer not just as an optional inclusion but as a core gameplay mechanic felt odd and out of place for Wolfenstein. This is a game that, just a few years ago, prided itself on being a strictly single-player experience. I have nothing against multiplayer shooters – Left4Dead and Borderlands both proved how amazing they can be even beyond the dudebro Call of Dutys and prepubescent Fortnites – but it just feels foreign for this series.
My problems with the use of multiplayer don’t stop at its mere existence. The implementation left a lot to be desired, too. The game utilizes those obnoxious multiplayer gimmicks – doors that can only be opened with two players, chests that can only be opened with two players, etc. While the AI was competent enough, for the most part, to make playing the game solo a decent experience, there were some issues. One of the cooler team mechanics was the ability to revive the other protagonist if done quickly enough after going down. The problem here was that my AI partner would randomly decide that she just didn’t want to move. At all. Like, she literally just stood there shooting and taking every bullet flying her way. I’d half-dead crawl my way over to her and be like “Hey, sis, kinda dying of blood loss here. Halp plz,” and she’d be like “WHAT?? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF ALL THESE BULLETS PIERCING MY BODY BECAUSE I REFUSE TO MOVE.” And then I’d die and have to respawn by which point she’d need to be revived because she refused to move. Fortunately, that little bug seemed to go away after I revived her, but it happened probably half a dozen times throughout my playthrough and seemed most severe in the last quarter of the game.
Visually, aurally, and mechanically, the game the largely identical to New Colossus. The only major mechanic changes worth noting are the RPG-esque leveling up that’s used to unlock new abilities and the tedious coin grind to upgrade your weapons. I don’t have a problem with either of these in principle, and the level up system really wasn’t that bad, but the silver coins needed to upgrade your weapons just got annoying. Your weapons also get upgraded by using them and “ranking” them up, but the improvements that these silver coins buy are more substantial (so it makes sense that it takes more effort) and can shift the gun’s focus towards accuracy, magazine capacity, and damage. It’s less HOW you acquire these upgrades that bother me and more the fact that a large part of your coin supply is found just lying around in the world, making it a mundane Easter egg hunt.
The game’s story – something I’ve always loved about Wolfenstein – is…okay. And that’s sad because it’s been ten years since Wolfenstein has been just okay. The New Order, the Old Blood, and the New Colossus were all absolutely fantastic, but Youngblood is just mediocre. The story starts off interesting enough – BJ has vanished, and his twin daughters take it upon themselves to travel to his last known location in Nazi-controlled Paris and find him themselves. Far fetched, sure, but considering that the guy they’re looking for is just a head on a synthetic body, suspension of disbelief is kind of a must as it is. The problem is that, beyond that premise, the story just falls flat. Aside from Soph, Jess, and Abby Walker, none of the characters are even remotely interesting. There are only four “main” missions in the game – attack Brother 1, attack Brother 2, attack Brother 3, and attack Lab X – and until you do find BJ, it never feels compelling.
Wolfenstein Youngblood isn’t a bad game. It’s just a terribly disappointing game. It takes a series that’s always been known for badass Nazi killing and turns that into okay Nazi killing. At the end of the day, you’re still slaughtering hundreds and hundreds of Nazis, so that’s always a good thing, but it doesn’t have the charm or personality that other Wolfenstein games have. I can see this being a pretty good time if you have a friend to play through the campaign with, but as a single-player experience, it’s fully functional, but there just isn’t any real draw when you could just replay one of the far superior recent Wolfenstein games