Over the years we’ve seen a lot of different takes on Wolfenstein. Some have been good, others not so much, but they’ve offered relatively unique experiences. With the spinoff Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the goal isn’t to reinvent the series, but add new elements to it. Given it takes place after Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, includes co-op and plenty of customization, is it a great game to play with others or a confused title that might’ve been better off being its own thing.
As mentioned above, Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes place twenty years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This means Nazi control is dwindling and the world is looking at a brighter future. When Blazkowicz mysteriously disappears, his daughters, Jessica and Sophia, discover a hidden room indicating he might be helping the French Resistance. They confirm he was there and decide to aid them in hopes of it leading to their father and further decrease Nazi control.
After the introduction to the situation, most of your time will be spent doing various tasks hinder the Nazis. One mission is fixing a laser, another one involves killing key people, one asks players to gain access to a specific place and so forth. That isn’t to say there isn’t a story, there is, though progression is based off which missions you choose to do. You can gain power by doing side missions or get overwhelmed trying to rush to the end.
If this sounds a lot like an open world game, that would be because Wolfenstein: Youngblood is an open world game. That being said, it isn’t the most exciting world around. The world is presented as a number of different areas you can explore, interact with and kill Nazis in. Some areas require a quest or other means to gain access to, which means the world expands as you hinder Nazi plans.
While you always have the option to complete missions via stealth and tactics, most stages will come down to massive shootouts. This is also where Wolfenstein: Youngblood tends to fall behind. Depending on a number of factors, it isn’t hard to be overwhelmed. Sure, there are ways to mitigate damage, a lean mechanic that makes it easier to fight behind cover, a variety of weapons to choose from and more, they just don’t work well together.
Activating the lean mechanic requires a specific input and the key to be successful is less position and more weapon choice. More threatening foes will have either a filled in or empty square by their life to indicate which weapon you should use to take them down. This means, when five or six enemies are shooting at you, the most important thing is to be shooting with X gun instead of Y, making it easy to mess up.
Similar to Destiny, Wolfenstein: Youngblood places a lot of importance on level. When I played co-op with my significantly higher level friend, he was able to mow down enemies, where as I felt like they could blow me away in a single hit and I was hitting them with a nerf blaster. This isn’t the first game to handle it poorly and ideally co-op will be more balanced, as will progression.
For instance, I went to do a mission I was properly leveled for and ended up having to fight waves of enemies by a door that were all beyond my level. Needless to say, I died and had a ton of issues, ultimately ending with me giving up and retreating once I got lucky enough to not immediately end up in combat.
Even if there are some rough parts, customization isn’t bad. Weapons have a variety of mods designed to make guns match the experience you’re looking for. Maybe you want a shotgun with a lot of bullets or a really accurate pistol, both of which you can do. There is also a progression system with tons of tools to give players an edge. Perhaps you want more life, maybe the ability to aid allies that are further away, possibly better melee, all of which is possible through progression. There are also a fair number of costumes and weapon skins that can be unlocked and used.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a weird experience. The shooting mechanics could be a lot better and the RPG mechanics could be dialed back and it would be an amazing experience, but it isn’t. Most times you just out gun enemies, certain situations you simply can’t win or will need to avoid, even if it prevents you from finishing a quest. That being said, co-op is fun if they’re similarly leveled and the buddy pass included in the deluxe edition makes it super easy to play with a friend without both of you having to buy a copy. So, if you want a fun game to play with friends, Wolfenstein: Youngblood will deliver; where as if you want a finely tuned shooter, this isn’t for you.
[Editor’s Note: Wolfenstein: Youngblood was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]