Gaming

Wolfenstein: Youngblood (Impressions)

It’s been a while since Wolfenstein: Youngblood landed on Xbox Game Pass and I’ve been unsure of whether to take the plunge or not. After playing through the wonderfully outrageous and satisfying Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus it’d take something special to fill the void until the expected finale of the series arrives. Does Youngblood do that? From my initial thoughts it’s a little bit yes but a lot of no too. Set in an alternate 1980, many years after The New Colossus, the game revolves around Jess and Soph: the twin daughters of BJ Blaskowicz. Now grown up (kind of) and living in a free America thanks to their parents, they head to the still Nazi held Paris in search of BJ who appears to have gone rogue. Making contact with the French rebels the girls work together to take down the Nazis and find their father.

Designed to be be played co-op the game tries to push you into playing online with a friend which is annoying as it’s obviously not necessary. You can solo easily enough with an AI buddy by hosting a private game and not inviting anyone. But still… why can’t you just say “Play Solo”? Makes me feel that the co-op is merely a gimmick as I’ve not seen anything so far to suggest otherwise. Plenty of other games have employed AI team mates before. The minor twist for this is that you rely on your team mate (AI or not) for both completing objectives and preserving lives. When a player/AI is down the other has a limited time to revive them before they expire and when that happens a life is lost. Your team can have up to three of those at any time by finding and activating specific chests on the maps but they are a limited resource so avoiding any losses is key to your success. Having an AI team mate isn’t too bad for handling these situations… often enough they’re able to revive you during a heated fight so I’ve not yet encountered anything to indicate they’re ever a problem.

As for the game itself early impressions are that it is an expanded version of the side missions from The New Colossus where completed maps were recycled with new objectives for the player to complete. The difference here though is that new passages and areas that you open up during your travels carry over to subsequent visits. As these maps are interlinked it helps to create an open world of sorts and that’s not a bad concept at all but is still reliant on finding certain transit points (such as the Underground Metro) to move around. Some missions will require players to travel across multiple maps to complete them so you’re never going to be stuck in one area for a long time but you might have to cross familiar ground a lot in doing so. There are some areas you may only need to visit once if you’re up to the task such as the 3 “Brother” towers you’re tasked with infiltrating early on but they will also provide a lengthy challenge on their own that makes up for it.

Strengths

  • Plays like Wolfenstein. If you enjoyed the gunplay and in-your-face violence of the series this has more of that.
  • Easy customization from the start. Players who like to try and 100% levels will quickly get access to enough resources to upgrade their character and weapons.
  • All weapons remain useful throughout the game; especially when upgraded. Dual wielding pistols never gets old. 🙂

Weaknesses

  • Weak protagonists. The girls turn out to be the least likeable of the characters you see in cutscenes and some of their banter really comes across as bad “dudebro” impressions. The elevator sequences I’ve seen so far are just plain dumb.
  • Visuals feel dated. Tech does not feel like it holds up as well as it used to or that could be to do with the art as well. Just didn’t impress me as much as The New Colossus.
  • Its easy to wander into areas where you are outclassed by your enemies and lose precious lives. Missions tell you levels of difficulty but the maps do not.
  • Why only dual wield pistols? That one seemed an odd choice considering the previous game let you storm around dual wielding most weapons in the game (loved using shotguns that way!).
  • The story seems a bit pointless. Maybe there’ll be a big reveal at the end that will lead into the next “real” Wolfenstein game but so far this is not the best way to do it. I really want to see what happens right after The New Colossus

If you’re looking at it as just a shooter then Wolfenstein: Youngblood will fill that void well with some over the top Nazi blasting action and it does that well. But if you’ve been waiting for a true sequel to The New Colossus that builds on the legacy of what that game had delivered in terms of memorable characters and story then this is going to feel like a big disappointment. It really feels like a stumble considering how a similar “filler” game in the form of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood served its purpose well by not deviating too far from a formula that worked. Fingers crossed this is just an aberration and not a sign of things to come.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Played on an Xbox One X via Game Pass.

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