Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a continuation of the previous Wolfenstein games, except this time we find ourselves playing as BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters, Jess and Soph as they search for him in Paris in what is less of a linear shooter and more of a sandbox, semi-linear co-op shooter with RPG elements. A huge change from the formula fans of Wolfenstein are used to.
When I was playing through Youngblood something felt off. At its core it was still like the previous two Wolfenstein games. You had the same style of combat, with opportunities for stealth, leaning around and under cover as well as having plenty of Nazis to shoot. Except it just felt worse. Youngblood went and changed Wolfenstein into more of an RPG. The upgrades you gain overtime aren’t just optional tools to use in your fights, they’re essential,and without upgrades it’s just straight up impossible to progress to certain areas since both the player and the enemies each have levels, so seeing a high level enemy is certain death, which kind of defeats the purpose of the new way missions are structured, having a couple of areas around Paris to travel to, allowing you to complete the missions in any order.
Except you can’t actually do them in any order or go where you want because there’s going to be enemies restricting you until you do other missions and get some levels. Of course, some areas are going to be restricted behind some higher level enemies but even being just the slightest bit under your enemy’s level means you’re gonna be throwing away a lot of lives and ammo trying to put them down. Yes, you read that right, there’s lives. You can have a maximum of three lives shared between the twins, losing one each time one gets themselves up over getting revived by the other. It’s extremely generous in letting you survive encounters you probably shouldn’t have because of the levelling and boss fights. When you do die it’s not as generous however, checkpoints aren’t too common to come by and there are some weird choices like not giving you the ammo back you had at that last checkpoint, meaning you have to wander around some more and get ammo of hope you get lucky in some cases if you get thrown straight back into a boss fight.
As a co-op focused game it doesn’t really mesh as bad when you consider the game is always balanced around two players, but on single player it never really felt like the AI was capable of really playing well alongside you. Often they’d run into strange positions or alert an enemy while I was trying to hide. With Wolfenstein being known for being a single player game, Youngblood felt like I was being put at a disadvantage by choosing to go through solo. The only advantage I can honestly say the AI gave was that for some reason it could bypass the revive animation and instantly get me back up if I went down.
To get you through this levelling process so you can get to your main objectives there’s a handful of things to do. You can just go on killing sprees for experience or wait for Abby to call you about a “dynamic action” in the area which can be one of many objectives. There’s also side missions you can take on from people by speaking to them around the main hub area in the catacombs. Ultimately it all boils down to just killing any Nazis that get in your way and then flipping the switch, planting the bomb or rescuing the hostages. Amongst other things. I feel like the more open system that has been put into Youngblood just hurts the game since it just shows that the series should just stick to its strength in being a more linear, level based shooter.
Dispatching all of these Nazis in Paris requires weapons. Youngblood gives you a good amount to work with as well as deeper customisation to change the behaviour and looks of them. Some examples of different weapons behaviours are being able to turn your assault rifle into a single fire DMR or make your Laserkraftwerk full auto rather than the default single fire mode it comes in. Most of the changes to the weapons are split into three trees that affect damage, fire rate and accuracy. An extra bonus is granted if you have three parts of a tree on your weapon.
There are visual changes to accompany each part you have on but a couple of changes affect core behaviour of the weapons like the ones mentioned before which are more drastic or simple things like putting a suppressor on. Weapons are upgraded by spending silver coins. Coins are found all around the environment as you play, on dead bodies, simply laying on tables or in some cases there will be crates of them in hidden stashes. Coins can also be used to get cosmetics and change the look of your weapons and armour. Having customisation is never a bad thing and although limited, Youngblood’s allows you to mix things up a little so you can cater towards your own playstyle or even adjust your weapons depending on the area you’re going into.
Improvements to your character are made by levelling up and using skill points to purchase new abilities, most of which gradually unlock as you hit certain levels. All abilities are shared between each twin so it doesn’t matter if you join a friend and have to play as the other twin from the one you chose. You have your passive abilities which can give you more health and armour, allow you to double jump with heavy weapons, move faster while crouching etc. Alongside them are the active abilities. One is a “pep” which is an emote the twins can do to each other mid-battle and give a short boost. Each emote has its own effects so you can see what suits you. There’s also the Crash and Cloaking abilities that you choose from the start. Crash is a ramming ability for players who like to run and gun while Cloaking caters more to stealth players.
Stealth feels a lot less viable in Youngblood compared to its predecessors. With the more open world design it is a lot more difficult to close distance and take Nazis out one at a time without being caught. There’s also a lot more verticality in the world now since the twins start out with a double jump ability, meaning the Cloaking ability is pretty much a must if you want to be stealthy and even then it’s not a consistent in its ability to let you go undetected since you’ll have drones and guards from higher angles able to detect you much easier since your cloak disables when you’re stealth killing someone.
While the world design doesn’t exactly benefit the gameplay in a lot of ways for stealth, it makes rushing around much more fun. Being able to tear through an entire street and destroy a Panzerhund, double jumping around high balconies is very satisfying provided you’re the right level. World exploration also benefits a lot from each area being its own little sandbox with all the increased mobility and little rooms hidden away on higher ground or behind destructible doors. Small things like collectibles, floppy disks that can be decoded to track down crates and hidden stashes make exploration worthwhile, especially when you need some more coins to get that weapon upgrade you want.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher