Wolfenstein: Youngblood – Review – Another disappointing entry into Wolfenstein lore.

Played on Windows.
Also on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch

So with just reviewing Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, I wasn’t sure if I should cover Wolfenstein: Youngblood back to back, but after playing the newest Wolfenstein I actually changed my mind, It felt right to cover Youngblood for a few reasons, but ultimately, I think as a cautionary tale of being careful of what you wish for.

You see, after Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, I said the series should focus more on the story, and develop their main characters, more than trying to push a more subtle narrative, and ultimately that is what happened, however it seems that much of the rest of the game got away from Arkane Studios and thus we’ll have to dive back into Wolfenstein, this time with twin sisters and see what the ultimate result is.

I should mention that I received this game for free as part of a new computer purchase. Also, the game is 30 dollars for the game, or 40 dollars to add on a buddy pass. That last part might be more important than you realize, but we’ll get there.

Graphics

Wolfenstein: Youngblood got a lot of attention due to it being listed as one of the first games to support Geforce’s ray tracing. So I expected the game to impress me with its graphics. As stated, I received the game because of a new computer with a Geforce RTX card so I was a bit excited to see what my new hardware can do.

I’m not 100 percent sure what this game can do with my hardware. Unfortunately, the RTX enhancements are not released for the game yet. They weren’t available at launch and while I can’t speculate on the exact reason, it does summarize what is going to be a running theme through Youngblood. Features that are missing, features that are lacking and features that are buggy.

At the same time, the graphics as they are in the game look acceptable. The first cutscene that introduces the players to the main characters has the girls looking a little bit like plastic dolls. It’s not a good look and gladly it goes away quickly. Later, there are a few cutscenes with a woman who face just looks off strangely. It’s just odd for the game to be touted as bringing all-new graphics to bear and not shining. Admittedly, the major graphic overhaul is still coming which is problematic in its way, but ultimately, the graphics are fine.

Most of the enemies are the generic Nazi’s we’ve seen hundreds of times already, but there are a few new choices here. There’s more variety in the enemies which is important. The PanzerHund, which is the large fire breathing dog looks impressive, especially when you’re trying to shoot into its body to ignite its flame-throwing apparatus. Overall, it’s just that many characters feel similar. Not the same, thankfully, and there are multiple large robots to marvel at but after seeing two or three, you start realizing there are very similar designs to all of them.


Admittedly Panzerhunds look amazing and ferocious. .

While I should save it for the gameplay section, I will say that Arkane Studios has created a very compelling world. This feels a bit more like Dishonored’s world than what we have become used to in Wolfenstein. Almost every area or level is wide open and there are multiple ways around. There’s everything from vents, to doors with special locks. Vertical ascents, hidden paths and more, and it’s really clear that Wolfenstein 2 and Wolfenstein: Youngblood are from different developers.

But Arkane’s level design is really strong in Youngblood and, if there was something that stood out in a game filled with many Nazis that we have seen before, it’s a refreshing level choice. There’s three true levels in the main game, not to mention the finale, or the opening level of a zeppelin, but every level looks incredible. It would remind me of the original Wolfenstein: The New Order if The New Order was even better than it was. I think the original Wolfenstein’s levels were good, but Youngblood is extremely well designed and that made me excited to see each new area.


The levels can look just incredible.

Much of Youngblood is an open-world game, and while most hubs are limited in the number of special locations, there are usually at least two or three interesting areas as part of the hub area itself, and each of these areas are excellent locations to explore. Add in collectibles, and players can spend a lot of time exploring these areas, though they will find most everything relatively quickly. It’s still a great design and deserves a lot of credit for why I enjoyed Youngblood.

Story

Now after Wolfenstein 2, I’m sure some people will expect me to dismiss Wolfenstein’s Youngblood as a weak story, and admittedly it is a very weak story, with only about 6 proper levels, and only three are driven by story, it’s abbreviated at best.

The opening is odd, and I’ve talked in my preview about this odd trait that the girls have of using alternate names. This is explained at the beginning of the second mission and admittedly it is finally explained. I still think it’s strange for them to show a trait for an hour before even attempting to explain the trait, and while some people have said they understood what it meant, I would argue that it’s not until the later cutscene anyone could understand that. Of course, many people see what they want to.


You also get a decent amount of story from the missions people ask you to take on.

I’d love to look at these scenes and think about it, but sadly, I’m unable to. There’s no way to go back and look at a missed cutscene without replaying the whole game a second time. The beauty of this was I had to go do something so I finished a cutscene went off to do work and came back the next day to find out I missed out.

Besides, if you join a co-op game of a player who is farther than you, you can wind up with a spoiler. I saw who the final boss was before I saw their proper introduction because of this, and it’s a shame because the game feels like it was made a little more generic since this could happen at any point.

Part of the lack of replay of cutscenes is likely due to the fact the game doesn’t pause, so to replay a cutscene wouldn’t work well in-game, but even on the main menu, there’s not a choice to revisit the cutscene. Luckily we live in the age of Youtube but this is a cop-out, ultimately this is a missed feature.

As for the story itself, it’s a bit weak. BJ Blaskowitz goes missing so his two daughters decide to hunt him down, being led to Paris and, ultimately, on a mission to take down the Nazi presence in France. It’s a flimsy idea and made flimsier by the minute.

The girls reveal to the player that they have never killed Nazis, and ultimately we see their first gruesome kill. But then they start talking as if they’re war heroes and never give even a glimpse of weakness. There’s even a line where one of them asks why the other doesn’t hunt animals and she quips back “I only hunt Nazis.” after only 10 minutes of game time. Whether this is false bravado or just “macho” writing is unclear, and I’m not even sure if the game knows.


There’s also a number of collectibles as well as floppy discs that require decrypting on terminals.

If it wasn’t for the opening scene where they admit they are novices at this, I wouldn’t be able to tell. Both girls are quite awesome and badass in the game. They talk and quipped, and even discuss what they’re doing. While it’s not always clear what action triggers which quote, both girls are capable of doing amazing things.

The strangeness is that it feels like the people writing the script for the cutscenes didn’t talk to the dialogue writer, because in-game you feel like you’re playing the two offsprings of BJ Blaskowitz and in the early cutscenes they’re little more than sheep. Either way would have worked, but since a majority of time was spent with the strong women, I think Youngblood is better for it.

At the same time, the fact that there are two characters and they’re constantly talking and developing their relationship helps build the world. I would put this up with The New Order for how well the story works here, even though there’s a minimal amount. Yes, I like Youngblood even without a wealth of story, because Youngblood didn’t make me sit through a wealth of

story when having a weaker part. You have a gun, you have bullets, use them to kill Nazis, that’s all the story this game needs, and by not requiring very long cutscenes it makes it work better. This game is based on the adrenaline of the fight, rather than a poor narrative around who these enemies are.

Without spoilers, I’ll even say the bosses and the major moments of the game work. There’s not many, but I did find myself looking forward to final fights, and ultimately I felt a driving force toward the end of the game, that’s the bare minimum of what a story needs to deliver to the player and Youngblood does very well at that.

Gameplay

Up to this point, I would say this review works no matter what type of player you are. You’ll see the same graphics and same story cutscenes, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, I think the gameplay is going to be the most varied.

You see, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is different than both Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, Wolfenstein: Youngblood offers a co-op mode, and thus two players can team up and take on the entire Nazi horde. This will change up the formula, and it explains how BJ’s twin daughters will be controlled throughout the game.


You’ll stick by your partner, or AI for the entire game, if you’re smart.

Co-operative play changes how a game can be judged. I remember the original Gears of War and playing it through with one of my closest friends at the time, it was an amazing experience as we laughed at corny dialogue, helped each other up and worked together. We called out for assistance and experienced an amazing game as a team. When I played it solo, I didn’t enjoy it that much, if at all.

Now games can improve or harm the experience. Smash brothers, for instance, does a lot to ensure players have a great time whether it be tools, fighting style or just experience, and that goes a long way to help.

I would feel wrong to play this game with someone and judge it based on friendship, so I tackled Wolfenstein: Youngblood solo to truly experience it. Though working cooperatively is essential in Youngblood, many enemies will quickly bear down on your players and hitting a target from multiple directions is critical. While both players are equal in every way, the ability to have two shooters hitting a hardened target, or take on the wealth of enemies charging the player will be a major boon.

Also, if either player takes critical damage, the other player can help them up, though that may expose them to gunfire, it also helps avoid the dreaded game over. Youngblood uses a shared life system, so if either player is downed too long, they will sacrifice a shared life. While the players can earn up to a maximum of three shared lives at a time, if this number hit 0 and both players go down, or one player bleeds out, the game is over.

If you’re playing with an AI, be prepared for it to be quite oblivious to you.

This is one of my big issues with Youngblood. Gameover is anything from a slap on the wrist or a benefit, to soul-crushing. It all depends on the place it happens. For a majority of the game, it’s not a major penalty, and most of the game isn’t hard enough to warrant a major problem as even just one life is usually more than enough.

As I said, this can be a major issue. There are three major towers in the game, Brother 1, Brother 2, and Brother 3. Each tower becomes a level, and while there are some changes to the beginning of the level, players will eventually have to ascend the towers. Now, these are substantial towers and can take anywhere from 20 minutes, if rushed, to closer to 40 or more if each enemy is tackled.

In particular, I’m going to call out Brother 2. It seems to be the one that caused people the most trouble, at least 75 percent of all the games I joined still had that one left to do, and personally, it’s the one I fell the most on.

The thing is Brother 2 will take players a good amount of time and there’s a decent amount of challenging fights, but if the players die, even if the players reach the final boss of the tower, the game resets to the beginning, twenty to forty minutes lost each time, and to be clear, I died on that final boss a few times, on different games. I also beat him a decent amount, at least 3 separate occasions, but the fact is, this is an extremely harsh penalty, losing 40 minutes of slow progress sucks.

After all these long replays I found out something. A majority of enemies in Wolfenstein: Youngblood don’t have to be fought. In Brother 2, I was able to get to almost the end of the level without killing a single person, because of the way the buddy AI would teleport to the player to assist doing two-person actions, and the fact that there’s a slow ramp-up to the enemy’s attacking the player. This isn’t a good thing, it just shows how poorly the encounters in this level were designed, and I was able to do this same trick in many other levels because enemies aren’t aggressive fast enough to stop people who ignore the battle and just rush past it.


Look how many enemies I left behind me… because you literally can just run past them.

There are multiple places in these levels that a simple checkpoint should have been placed. Is the checkpoint system broken, or is this just a cruel designer? I’m not sure, I’d almost guarantee it’s going to be fixed eventually because it’s obscenely hard and pointless. But what’s even odder, is that the three towers all lack checkpoints when there are clear places for them. However, the other three levels all have extremely good checkpoints. Well, mostly. But why have checkpoints on half the levels and not the other half? It’s a strange question but I don’t have a good answer.

As for the other levels’ checkpoints, well most are good, but the one I have a major issue with, is the final checkpoint of the game. Without spoiling anything, the checkpoint is in a good place, right at the final boss, so players will be able to take as many swipes at him as they can. However, as I was trying to take down the final boss I noticed my ammo depleting, and when I died, I found out that the game doesn’t appear to restock the player with full ammo on the checkpoint. It didn’t even give me the amount I entered the level with. Instead, I entered the level with the amount I died with, which means for every good attempt I had at the boss, I was left dry and had to farm my ammo back up to even get a fair challenge. Why? This is just another design choice that seems unnecessarily cruel to the player.

We haven’t even touched on the RPG elements of the game, and while RPG should mean roleplaying, in this case it means leveling. Your players level up, and while many games do this with some success or a lot. In this case, the leveling system is boggling.

As you level from level 1 to level 2, you earn a skill point, which makes sense, your player can get a new ability, and some of these cost more skill points than others, but the progression system there works for the most part. The problem is, the leveling also grants you 2 percent more damage. So for some reason, your gun will magically do more damage at level 2. This isn’t very noticeable until you’re facing enemies that have a minimum level. Most enemies level with you, so your extra damage doesn’t become that apparent, and it’s a shame because there’s no reason for you to level up if your enemies level up at the same time.


The skills are important but sadly the rest of the level system doesn’t work.

However, the major Brother Tower missions mentioned are limited to level 20 and up, so as a level 10, you’ll do less damage, have fewer skills, and struggle, but the difference between level 20 and 30 is barely noticeable because the enemies are set to your level, so you won’t be able to out-level them.

This becomes a way to gate the players. I reached the final boss at level 32, which made me feel good, and then I found out he was a “Skull” which essentially is the same as Borderlands level system, where it means he’s at least five levels above the player. I struggled a lot, even turning the game down to the easy difficulty, but ultimately I had to go farm more levels. 8 levels later, I returned and easily took him down on the normal difficulty.

Levels matter, but this is a Wolfenstein game, Levels really should be the last thing the player is thinking about. Slaughtering Nazis, fighting for freedom, and playing with a buddy are the major reasons to play a Wolfenstein or a co-op game. Leveling up to beat the next Nazi makes no sense in context or out of it. This isn’t even a looter shooter like Destiny, Borderlands or Anthem. You aren’t getting stronger weapons, your guns just magically do more damage.

If that wasn’t enough, the game also introduces armor. While previous games had armor systems on the super-soldiers, Wolfenstein: Youngblood switches it up and gives different armor to different enemies. There’s thin-lined armor and thick square armor. As well as life bars over enemies heads so you can see how slow many of their life bars go down.


This could have worked, as a major or unique boss mechanic, like the Zitadelle, but instead at least half the enemies have armor.

The issue though is that to deplete this armor, players are expected to switch to different weapons. Each weapon can damage one of the two types of armor. For a majority of the game, you’ll have only 5 guns, but only two of them will do significant damage to the square armor enemies, the slow pistol, and the assault rifle which I enjoyed using.

As much as I loved the Assault rifle, I was forced to give it up over time, because it was one of the only sources of “square armor damage” and that is a very valuable resource. At one point I found I was out of pistol and Assault rifle ammo and the game became almost impossible to play until I found more because any enemy with “square armor” was near invincible.

This might sound ok, and maybe it would have been, but add in levels that change the damage the player does, and the fact that a decent amount of the enemies use that square armor, and even by the end of the game, it only had 5 sources, whereas the thin line armor was damaged by 9 of my guns, and you start to see the problem.

If the majority of the game involved players just fighting the same enemies from Wolfenstein 2 without this armor system or even just waves of unarmored Nazis, it would have been a lot more fun, but instead the armor system creates this odd mechanic that never really works, especially with how slow the game was to switch guns, and the inability to dual wield two large guns. I think that how the armor is set up made it so dual-wielding different weapons was removed because it was considered too powerful for the game.

Even the co-op system had issues for me. The biggest thing is that there’s no text chat, and while console gamers definitely won’t care, or even have the ability to send system message, PC players only can communicate through tagging enemies or voice chat. In at least 10 different co-operative partners, I only heard two players talk through the voice chat system, and one was so soft I couldn’t hear him.

Most of the time I joined a co-op game, I would usually end up in Brother 2, that extremely hard tower and fight my way through with my partner. This usually ended up with both of us dying and restarting the whole map, which often ended with me being kicked or the other player rage quitting. I got kicked a lot, and without a chat, I’m not sure exactly why people didn’t want me playing with them, it could be as simple as they were looking for someone, not actively playing, or just toxic. After being kicked, I could rejoin the quick match and oftentimes I would rejoin the same player’s game.

This wasn’t on purpose but there’s no ban, and no game search, as well as no controls on what I was searching for, I just got the first available player and we were stuck together until we stopped.


Sometimes the AI does weird things, like this pair just stands here after you untie them from a detention center.

I did find some wonderful people and I’d love to tell ninjafeets69 how much I enjoyed playing with him, but sadly I can’t, I’m not even sure if that was his exact name, because I don’t have a way to see who I played with or a way to message them. The one guy with a good mic was a fantastic partner, but that was the very rare exception.

Ultimately, I really struggle with Wolfenstein Youngblood, now if someone was to say they wanted to play a game with their best bud, Wolfenstein Youngblood wouldn’t be a bad choice, if you had a constant friend you could trust, it would be a lot of fun, but as a single-player, a lot of these choices are really bothersome and I’d love to end here and score the game. But I can’t.

You see a lot more happened during the game and rather than going for longer I’m just going to run through some of the other issues. Many of these should be solved one day hopefully soon, but I think the amount of them is more than troublesome and problematic.

The Rest

The biggest problem I had and the one I never see mentioned is that in single-player, the buddy AI seems to be broken. Often I would see my sister just stop and stand still in the middle of a firefight. I’ve died at least seven times while she stood next to me. That’s just the times I noticed she stopped moving. I wonder how many times I charged into battle and didn’t realize she was stuck again. This is a major problem and the fact that so few people are yelling about it makes me wonder what exactly is going on, or if everyone played in multiplayer.

At least one quest in the game was bugged, where the disc the game was supposed to provide for me wasn’t there. I even rebooted the game, and the disc still didn’t appear.

The buddy AI teleported at times to different places. I don’t know what caused it or why, and again I only saw it twice when I directly looked at her but tied it with her freezing I wish she would have teleported and fixed herself more often.

The lack of checkpoints gets mentioned here because I do believe that could be a bug, and it’s a bad one if it is. It makes the player avoid fighting just to get further in a level, and rushing past enemies, then tackle the obstacles in front of them. Which oddly works but feels like it breaks the game’s flow.


The boss are just brutally hard at times due to the level system.

I also ran into a glitch in the final level. The player I was talking about who I spent a large amount of time with, where we probably played for two hours, was with me when the final level glitched and left us in a situation where we had to quit the game, breaking our team up and sadly I was unable to find him again. The fact that a level can break in that way is unacceptable.

I also lost connection with another solid player because I “lost connection to bethesda.net” not the other player but something happened to the server I believe, and all of a sudden I was disconnected from another game. I was able to join another quick match so I’m not sure exactly what was going on but this was also frustrating.

All of this is bad for any game, but without a strong game behind it, Youngblood isn’t good enough to get a pass on many of these bugs. I’ve played games where I’ve enjoyed the game so much I would ignore a major bug because I just want to get back and play again. Youngblood doesn’t have that addictive quality, and it’s a problem. But there’s one more thing.

One More Thing

So I’m not going to go all-in on this, but Youngblood has microtransactions. I think my positions on Microtransactions are pretty well known and this isn’t going to change my opinion. As much as I would love to rip into the Youngblood for them, it’s the buggy mess that ruins the game, Youngblood is a problem without even considering the Microtransactions. The lack of compelling gameplay that hurts the experience, the annoying leveling system, and the armor system that gives this game my full opinion.


I might not let it change the score, but I still find this gross.

Yes, there are microtransactions and that is bad enough but it doesn’t affect my score. It just shows exactly where Bethesda’s end goal is in 2019. It’s not in making a perfect game anymore. It’s getting as much money as they can out of consumers. But what’s insane is that if they found a better game, they could get a flat 60 dollars from every consumer, rather than 30-40 dollars for one or two copies.

But anyone thinking that this is just an addition to a great game can look at the first post-launch patch that came out on the Tuesday after release. It appears to only have been made to patch consumers who were using the Cheat Engine to get unlimited funds in-game. That’s where Bethesda is focusing their attention. It wasn’t fixing a majority of issues people have, but saving their bottom line.

Conclusion

Listen, I’ve said this, but if you have a best friend or just a close friend and want to play this with them, I can imagine you enjoy Youngblood quite a bit, it’s not completely broken, and being able to match up with the same person and play together would fix a decent amount of issues. Having a good buddy to play with makes even a bad game enjoyable.

But for anyone who is looking at this game openly and honestly, not just because they want to kill Nazis with a friend, it’s not a great game. Even at 30 bucks, it’s lacking, and the problems with the game are blatant that I wonder if this was rushed out to capitalize on this franchise before it cools off.

But worse we’re continuing to see what Bethesda has done with their games. While I thought Fallout 76 was a misstep and that they learned from it, which is what they claimed at E3, the state we find Youngblood at launch makes it clear nothing has been learned. Bethesda has released another buggy game and added microtransactions.

If we look back far enough, the fact is, almost all of Bethesda’s games have had bugs, most of the Elder Scroll and Fallout games have had bugs. I don’t know if the difference is that they’re bigger, or that we no longer have a mod community dedicated or able to fix their issues, but this isn’t a good look for Bethesda, and it’s frustrating enough that I really can’t recommend this game.

I give Wolfenstein: Youngblood a

2/5

The worst thing about Wolfenstein: Youngblood is that it has shaken my faith enough with Bethesda that I’m not going to preorder Doom Eternal. That was the first game I played at E3 this year for a reason, but if Bethesda isn’t willing to confirm no microtransactions ever in it, and the game doesn’t come out a lot more polished than Wolfenstein: Youngblood, I don’t think I can keep doing this.

Fans have raised their voices, fans have demanded better, but ultimately the only thing Bethesda seems to understand is the bottom line and there’s only one way to start affecting that, it’s by stopping to contributing to this problem. It’ll be hard, but perhaps that’s the only way to avoid writing a similar piece in November.

Final Thoughts: An interesting idea, but sadly a weak game for single players, or people looking for random people. It’s a game that could have worked, but bugs and microtransactions hold it back

Stats: Bethesda’s launcher doesn’t provide times or achievement counts, my save slot had 12.5 hours in game and completed the game.