The Wolfenstein series has been strong since its “reboot” back in 2014. The series has managed to deliver strong action with some great characters and a strong storyline that all combines together to make a standout shooter. Wolfenstein: Youngblood serves the great action but falls short of the other factors that make a Wolfenstein so well, great. After a couple of hours running around a handful of shallow and dull open world-like hubs following tedious and pointless missions, the game felt more like a sad spinoff than anything else with no real reason to invest time in its story and characters.
That is to say, it is not a bad game but a lot of Youngblood’s best moments slowly fizzle out a lot faster than they should. The co-op mechanics get boring very fast, its skill system feels like an unwanted add-on, and the weapon tweaks never fully come to life making the shooting mechanics feel very one-note.
Basically, two hours into the game you will have all the important skills unlocked and two guns that you will switch between for the rest of the campaign. Its is just bad game design that holds much of the game’s potentially-great mechanics back. Everything feels underpowered and like something you will never make use of so you never unlock it.
Where Wolfenstein: Youngblood does shine is in its cinematics as the characters, story and voice work are top-notch forcing you to become invested in its slap-dash plot. No, it is nothing close to its predecessors as the story and gameplay never expand on anything more than “go here an kill this guy to get this key and come back” but the shallow Blazkowicz twins are to blame here.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood follows the story of BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters Soph and Jess as they sneak out of the house to find their missing dad who has vanished on a secret mission. Along with their power suits and their lust for Nazi blood, they explore the occupied Paris districts hunting down generals to steal keys in order to unlock Lab X where their dad has supposedly vanished to.
Instead of taking on a chapter-based story, the game lets you explore the various areas of the game at your free will. Using the Metro to fast travel between hubs, you will take on missions given to you by people found in this under-utilized space called the Catacombs and head into the districts to complete them. They are mostly just about heading into a base and killing someone or destroying fuel tanks and never come to anything more than boring MMO-like missions.
You will then need to backtrack all the way back to the Catacombs in order to turn it in and fight off the same enemies again that spawn in the area you just cleaned out. The rinse and repeat process is not fun at all.
The districts are gorgeous though as you explore the occupied Paris areas from rural shantytowns to the clean and pristine rich areas full of shiny cars and fancy apartments. Enemies are littered around each district and have various levels to them which match your player level. As you kill you will gain XP and ability points used to unlock skills and upgrade your health and armour.
Skills range from going invisible for a short amount of time to using a strange dance move to give your sister more health or armour. There are a few that grant more ammo pickups and the range in which you can loot enemies.
Enemies not only have a specific level but also a unique armour type that matches weapons in your inventory. Using the correct weapon type on an armoured enemy will kill him faster and enemies without armour are killed faster by using a different weapon. There are only two weapon types and basically, all you need to succeed in the game is a shotgun and an SMG.
These two weapons can be upgraded quite early in the game and once maxed out with the best attachments, you will slay everything in your path. Sure, there are other guns like a lightning gun and a laser rifle but these have very limited ammo and when you find it they deplete quite fast. I often just overlooked them as I got tired of taking them out to see the “no ammo” sign.
Weapon modification is also half-decent. Each gun has one mod that drastically changes its ability giving the weapon a different feel. The Blitzgewehr, a lightning gun can get a shield that deflects projectiles and the Laserkraftwerk gets a charged shot that deals massive damage.
All these modifications add to the enjoyable gunplay. Running, double jumping and sliding into an enemy to pile a shotgun slug into their chest is fun and never gets boring. The game tries to push its stealth mechanics but going in guns blazing is just faster and after doing the same boring mission a dozen times, just easier.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a co-op game at its heart. Skills, weapons and the environment have all been built around this. Jess and Soph are a great team during combat as they cheer each other on and use silly dance moves to buff each other. Some doors cannot be opened unless both sisters are present and some switches cannot be switched unless done at the same time.
The co-op mechanics feel a little dull and never come to life the way I hoped. Getting a clearance code and shouting it at the player as they enter it is great until you realize they can actually see it on their screen so you just need to stand there and press a button.
I wished there was more to make the sisters feel like sisters. The co-op gameplay is never fully realized and the sisters are shallow and one-dimensional characters that feel dull. After a couple of hours, I was just running around shooting stuff with my brother as I could not care less about the story and the sisters. It is sad given how strong the series has been with characters and narrative.
The game can also be played solo and it works surprisingly well. The AI takes over the other player and it does a great job killing Nazis and performing the terrible co-op puzzles. Those worried about it being an online-only game, don’t worry when playing solo it is just as fun.
With everything new Youngblood attempts, it fails to leave an impression. The only killer feature is the gunplay which is as fun and satisfying as ever but again, it’s levelling system, armour and skills just left me feeling underwhelmed. You could have taken it all out and it would have still been a fun shooter.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a fun shooter and that is about it. The story comes across like the scrapings from the bottom of a barrel, the characters are dull and the half-decent world is brought down by tedious missions and terrible backtracking. The game could have been a great introduction to the BJ twins but now I hope I never see them again.
This review was based on a code sent to us by Bethesda
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 26 July 2019 | Price: R575
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