Developer: Machine Games, Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 25 Jul 2019
Price: $29,99USD – Available Here $69.95AUD – Available Here
Wolfenstein games do a marvelous job with toeing the line of serious ad campy. On one hand, you have a game that’s not drawing anything from fantasy, but history and reminds us of the atrocities of war. On the other, it does not shy away to venture into occult and paranormal. To be fair, that also draws a bit from history considering that there are still a bunch of theories and folk tales involving Nazis and the occult. But I am digressing. The latest Wolfenstein entry gives us more weapons, more Nazis to shoot at and more gameplay features. Some good, some…….questionable.
The story continues quite a bit after the ending of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. The protagonist of all the previous games, BJ Blazkowicz has disappeared from the face of the earth and it’s up to his daughters to find him. Wait, what?! Yep, remember the pregnant Anya from the previous game? Well, she is slightly less pregnant now and a proud mother of twins. When I said that quite a bit of time has passed, I meant that the two Blazkowicz girls are now old enough to dual wield guns, bury knives and hatchets into the Nazi skulls and dig out some answers (occasionally brain bits as well).
With the story addition of introducing two new protagonists, there is also a gameplay addition of playing in co-op. The host usually takes the role of Jessica, while the other player is Sophie. This time, armored enemies tend to have a weak spot on their backs so the winning strategy most of the time is for one player to draw the attention of the enemy, while the other tries to get behind him for massive damage. Of course, it is a tactic that can be best performed in co-op since you can’t really rely on something like that while playing with an AI. There is also something called pep signal. It is a character rechargeable ability that you use when things get tough to either heal, buff up some armor, become invulnerable for a short while or deal double damage for a bit. One can also be chosen for Sophie. The weapon repertoire is decent (especially once you get the skill to use heavy weapons from super soldiers) and they are upgraded with silver coins that you find while exploring the streets of Paris. Speaking of exploring, one of the best news about Wolfenstein: Youngblood is that the Machine Games is now joined by Arkane Studios. Yes, that Arkane. One of my favorite things about Dishonored games and Prey was the marvelous level design by Arkane. I’m happy to inform that the level design in Wolfenstein: Youngblood is at the same level of quality. While the mission objectives will give you straight info on where to go and how, there is a lot more waiting to be discovered if you stray away from the usual path. Secret entrances, silver coins, secret rooms and so on. Now, let’s talk about those questionable features. At this point, you might have assumed that the game would be slightly easier thanks to the co-op. Two protagonists are stronger than one, no? Not really. To “balance” that, in a bizarre turn of events, enemies now have levels and health bars. Obviously, you can also gain levels by doing the main story and side quests, but it doesn’t change the fact that almost all enemies are now bullet sponges. And don’t you even dare to try to complete the game by following nothing but the story missions. No can do, some grinding and side questing is mandatory unless you want to deal with over-leveled opponents that can kill you in one hit. Fun. Every time you level up, you get a permanent 2% damage on your character which makes a difference after a dozen levels or so. It is also advisable to upgrade your weapons with new parts (that you can buy with silver coins). There is also something called gold bars, a currency that can be bought with real money but thankfully, those are only limited to cosmetics right now. There is one question that I haven’t found an answer for: just why? Seriously, who asked for this? In a really horrid way, the decision is understandable, since the main campaign is incredibly short (4 hours at most) and grinding and RPG mechanics are there to artificially boost the length of the game. On top of that, Wolfenstein: Youngblood features one of the most juvenile and over the top characters in a video game.
After that rant, let’s go back to some good stuff. The visuals. The game looks amazing even on medium settings and again, thanks to Arkane Studios level design never feels anything close to generic or boring. The lightning is great, interiors look good (say what you want about Nazis, but they sure loved cleanliness) and power suits on Sophie and Jess are incredibly detailed.
First promo trailers featured tunes from Carpenter Brut which was positively surprising. I was under the impression that synthwave would play a big part in Wolfenstein: Youngblood soundtrack but alas, it left me wanting more. After three games or so, the music does feel fresh this time around. It just feels like there should be way more of it. There were plenty of times where I roamed the streets of Paris followed by absolute silence and occasional gunshots. At least the sound design is as good as ever, weapons feel and sound different depending on where you shoot (outside or indoors) and sometimes it’s just fun to lurk behind a corner and listen to Nazis talk about their daily lives before you throw a hatchet at them.
On the surface, Wolfenstein: Youngblood seems like a decent game. It looks good, has a bunch of new stuff but unfortunately, in that bunch, there is a thing or two that nobody asked for. Funny thing is, I would even be ok with a significantly shorter game after you remove all the grinding bits. Right now, we have a mixed product where half of the time playing it feels super fun and half of the time it feels like a chore. Bethesda, take my advice for the next time, work more on writing the story instead of prolonging the already short one with cheap gameplay gimmicks that nobody asked for.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.