Developed By: MachineGames / Arkane Studios
Published By: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4 / Xbox One / PC / Switch
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Wolfenstein: The New Order came out in 2014 and at the time was reviewed quite favourably with critics for rebooting the series successfully combining satisfying first-person gun mayhem and a great story. I for one was quite surprised how incredibly deep the story was and it was one of those games that I was invested in completely from start to finish. The sequel to The New Order was The New Colossus which launched in 2017 and I was excited to see more of the same great storytelling and what new direction the game was going to go. Funny thing though, somehow The New Colossus did not grab me the way the previous game did and even though I progressed very far into the game once I took a break from it I just didn’t find any reason to go back to it. The story was pretty good but the gameplay felt like it was going backwards instead of evolving for the better, making some things worse like the damage detection and difficulty scaling.
Fast forward to 2018, Wolfenstein Youngblood was announced at E3 2018 and was said to be a side story instead of a direct sequel to The New Colossus. Although I was somewhat disappointed with the previous entry, I was still curious to see how Youngblood was going to turn out and after watching the launch trailer featured below, I was ready to give it another go.
The story in Wolfenstein Youngblood is set 20 years after the events of The New Colossus where B.J Blaskowicz defeated and repelled most of the Nazi oppressors. He started a family with his wife Anya who bore him twin girls, Soph and Jess, raising them to be tough and prepared with anything life may throw at them (Nazi’s go figure). One day B.J decides to disappear, leaving Soph, Jess and their best friend Abby the tech genius to search for him. This brings them to New-Paris which is conveniently taken over by Nazi’s but not before they both conveniently get power suits just like dear old Daddy B.J. They meet Juju and her mute assistant who oversee the resistance. The twins then keep pulling the threads to see where it might lead them. Now I can’t really say more about the story without going into spoiler territory so consider this fair warning.
*START OF SPOILERS*
So well let us get this out of the way, the story in Wolfenstein Youngblood is so threadbare but at least they tried? Or maybe they didn’t? I really can’t tell to be honest. The game starts out with the girls getting rigorous training only for B.J to vanish almost immediately and we are shipped off to Neu-Paris When you meet Juju, I knew she was going to betray me. “Please child would you like more chocolates and cigarettes?” Lady, I read Hansel and Gretel when I was a kid and I know a witch when I see one. Points for effort? Then after the tutorial mission barely anything happens as you have to level up to a certain point to take on three different towers all called Brother which then leads you predictably to B.J who is in a secret location that was inaccessible called Lab X, deep in a cave that for some reason no Nazi goes to investigate. I will admit I liked the twist of Juju’s mute assistant to be the main antagonist General Lothar who is trying to access a weather machine to start (or speed up I’m not sure) the apocalypse. Dear old Daddy B.J was in that cave trying to figure out a Da’at Yichud doodad that will maybe save the world. Conveniently as soon as his daughters arrive, he only then discovers the thing splits in two and gives each daughter the God Key power to only be able to stop bullets and blow doors down. The Blaskowicz family won’t have to worry about forgetting their house keys anymore. You defeat Lothar and the parents decide to travel the world and leave the girls in charge of further murdering the rest of the Nazi’s in Neu-Paris. That’s it. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, B.J also drops a little nugget that this is an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE.
*END OF SPOILERS*
To be fair all the pieces in the story have a lot of potential but it’s almost very jarring moving from the quality of the narrative in The New Order to this. Everything feels so brief and although I did enjoy them, I was not invested in them as much as I would like to be. I liked Soph and Jess and how they have goofy laughs and their exchanges most of the time is great but they don’t linger in your thoughts the way characters in previous entries did. Honestly, every character in Youngblood feels that way.
Graphics & Sound
The graphics in Youngblood would be on par with The New Colossus. The game runs at a smooth framerate (60 fps) on the PS4 Pro and compared with the other title published by Bethesda this year which I also reviewed (Rage 2), this game is quite the looker. I enjoy the different environments the game leads you through and although they are not wildly varied, the lighting in some of these areas is truly something. I particularly enjoy the gory ways the Nazi soldiers blow up in a pile of bloody goo. Strangely though, I encountered constant slowdowns during the cutscenes for whatever reason and during the final boss fight the map glitched out, so I had to battle the annoying last boss and the wild popping textures. Thankfully I won even though I personally think that boss takes way too many shots to go down.
Musically, I dug that there were remixes of the alternative history hits updated to match the era the player was in but I will say that the soundtrack gets drowned out to the point where you barely notice it is there sometimes. I also liked the little touches of how the elevator music starts and stops almost in a whimsical way. Gun sounds are serviceable, but I would not say that they sound particularly satisfying. Some guns sound great while others feel pretty underwhelming. Overall it was just okay.
Presentation & Gameplay
Alright, so this is going to be the big one. Since the game’s release, there have been a lot of incredibly differing opinions on what the game is and what it is trying to be and how that affects the player. Some have said the game’s RPG-lite mechanics are the developers trying to make it like Destiny and the game is full of microtransactions that it is not fun.
I finished the game with my character at level 42 and clocked in at around 14 hours on Normal. Main Missions were all done, and Side missions were about 70% complete. In that whole time, I did not feel a single instance where the game was being cheap or was funnelling me towards any of the microtransactions that it offered because they were mostly just cosmetic items or boosters. You can just earn coin and use the coin on those items if you really feel like you need to. I just did the main and side missions. Granted the inclusion of the levelling system does make it feel tedious at times as if you meet an enemy that is of a significantly higher level than you (usually marked with a skull symbol) you die in seconds. So, players must be a little more diligent in knocking out the side missions to get the levels to a comfortable place where you don’t die so easy. Does the levelling system work in a Wolfenstein game? Possibly if it was done better. Here it just feels like artificial mobile game difficulty padding. Let me show you what I mean in the next screenshot.
When I first saw that screenshot above, I thought that the higher my level I would be meeting more varied enemies from the lower level one to the higher levelled ones. This was not the case. All the enemies scale with you and in some cases will be a few levels above you. Players will never get that feeling of rising power level where you can just mow down hordes of enemies especially since the game introduces another baffling mechanic in the armour types. What this means is certain enemies have certain types of armour (only two different types) which are distinguished by squares or matchsticks. And the weapons you come across have their own affinity to these types of armour. So, the game is basically trying to get the player to experiment with all the weapons, I get it. But the problem is eventually it gets tedious because it just takes too many shots to take down the right armour type using the right weapon every single time to the point where it feels like a bullet sponge. It goes back to the same problem of your level not really making you feel like you can slice through armour quicker than you did before. Oddly enough, I caught my companion A.I do just exactly that, what would take me ten shots would take her three. Maybe it’s a bug or just the game’s way of helping the player “cheat?”. Speaking of the A.I? For the most part, it was solid except for the occasional graphical glitches where her legs would wrap around something nearby or she gets stuck at an entrance or standing right next to me but refusing to revive me. That can get particularly frustrating due to the three shared lives mechanic the game has as if one sister dies a life is lost and when you lose all three you will respawn at the last checkpoint which can sometimes be quite a while back. To make it even more annoying, the player can only fast travel using the metro maps which are usually at the start of every level. When you are done with your objective, you must run all the damn way back just to teleport back to your Homebase, the Catacombs. I mean even with the verticality clearly influenced by Arkane Studios (of Dishonoured fame) in levels it just doesn’t feel right.
The Catacombs itself is reminiscent of the submarine in The New Colossus where you can run around and meet characters who give you side quests. Another issue I had with the game was at first, I was enjoying picking up side missions and even during these side missions the game will introduce a randomly generated one like getting an enigma machine or rescuing hostages but eventually I realized that they were just so hollow. There is a brief explanation about the mission and what you will be doing but almost everything you do in the game carries no weight whatsoever so after a very short while you will lose interest. It really is a shame as I expected so much more from a Wolfenstein game.
What I Liked
- Soph & Jess – I like their characters. They are goofy sisters who like to read mystery novels and joke with each other as siblings do. Sure, maybe at times it felt like the game was trying too hard, but I enjoyed it. The elevator scenes were a highlight. It’s a shame there were such little variations in the elevator scenes so that too gets monotonous after a while.
What I Wished was Better
- Campaign – It was a very high bar to reach and even for a side story it just feels like an insult that more was not done with the game.
- Side Missions – Feels incredibly repetitive after a while and it is a shame that they did not take the time to flesh out the characters giving out these quests.
- Combat – Although I enjoyed my time with the game, I also feel like there is just so much missed opportunity here. It just feels like The New Colossus all over again except the difficulty seems to be tuned a little better this time.
- Power Level – You cant have character levels but not let players feel powerful. Why bother then?
What I Disliked
- Fast Travel System – If I must run from one corner of the map to the other just to leave the level it just gets annoying after a while.
- Locking crates behind certain ammo types – So the idea behind this was probably behind this crate to which I can only obtain the weapon at the later date would hold something incredibly valuable right? Wrong. it’s always just not even worth it.
- Door animations – This is another thing that annoyed me greatly. The constant need to play these door animations every time you transition to a new area. Sometimes these doors are even so close together. I mean if that’s supposed to be a placeholder for a loading screen it is probably the worst idea ever.
- Dual Wielding – Limiting it to Pistol’s and Uzi’s only? Lame!
I think I enjoyed the game more than I rightfully should probably because of the low cost of entry initially. I do believe that the game is a let down on multiple fronts due to the new systems that the talented developers at MachineGames have put into Youngblood. It’s almost as if I can see what they were trying to go for, but it just never feels like it works or fit in this universe. It’s strange to think that this may have just been an experiment to gauge how players would react to a lower-priced game but had microtransactions in them which could potentially fetch higher revenues down the road. I think the one thing that MachineGames and Bethesda didn’t count on is how this affects the Wolfenstein brand moving forward as after multiple reboots with lesser degrees of success they knocked it out of the park with The New Order. Since then its just been regression and disappointment. Is it worth a purchase? Probably not because even though I initially enjoyed it quickly became tedious and mostly throwaway. The further implication that it might have been just another way to shove microtransactions in a game depends on what your tolerance for that will be but just know that for me it didn’t feel too prominent. Wolfenstein Youngblood just ended up being a game that although can be fun, doesn’t really do anything quite particularly memorable and ironically just lacks soul.
Final Score – 60/100