Wolfenstein series has seen a resurgence this generation thanks to the excellent reboot made by Machine Games. There have been two mainline Wolfenstein games released so far and the idea of a spin-off, that takes the spotlight away from the series lead, B.J. Blazkowicz sounds interesting at first. It is when you play the game that the realization sets in, and the impressions quickly turns negative.
There are many issues with Wolfenstion Youngblood that I faced throughout my experience of playing the co-op with a friend, but the gameplay was something that remained a joy in every combat encounter. What was not enjoyable was how it was artificially locked behind an upgrade system so that you couldn’t enjoy some of the more open-ended combat until you put some time in upgrades. This all tied into cosmetic microtransactions that were thankfully optional but still questioned their existence in the game itself.
So as a co-op game, the developer opted to craft the narrative around this angle instead of assigning random partner for co-op. This time, there are two leads with Jess or Soph Blazkowicz. They are the daughters of B.J. Blazkowicz who teaches them the tools of the trade as seen in the opening cutscene. It is not until he is mysteriously disappeared that the daughters set out to seek their father and get him back on their own.
The issue with these two leads is that they feel practically interchangeable. They don’t have memorable dialogue or defining personality traits and are entirely forgettable. The story might not be exciting but the lack of an interesting protagonist makes it harder to sit through or care for details. The mission design was another issue that I had with the game where after the initial tutorial and first boss encounter, the game’s quality takes a nosedive as it shifts to a more hub-based open world.
To give the developer some credit, the level design is quite open and the world feels connected in a way where you are urged to explore and discover some of the secrets like collectibles or upgrades, but it is still held back by a confusing UI, mission design, and a narrative that struggles to hold your attention for too long. Co-op might have made the design worse but it is the only thing that also makes it fun. If you have a human partner, you will also avoid the errors that the computer AI continues to make through every combat encounter, often failing to help you in time of need.
The snappy and fast-paced first-person shooting is as enjoyable as in the past Wolfenstein games. Weapons feel like they pack a punch, offer sufficient recoil, and have many upgrades that you can utilize to customize their properties. The appearance of the characters is unfortunately tied to a system that is a mix of in-game currency and some microtransactions. You can also use in-game currency to purchase various “boosters” that let you get more ammo or health pickups. This is in case you are finding the combat difficult, which isn’t the case on the normal difficulty.
Wolfenstein Youngblood does suffer from awkward difficulty spikes thanks to a confusing world layout. Often, I was frustrated on where to go in the game itself since there wasn’t a proper map to show you the location or target, and you were just stuck following the directions on the minimap. In some of the accessible areas, this can lead to the player wandering into a high-level encounter and getting instantly killed.
There is a level up system but it feels like the main use is just to show you a level. Skill upgrades are locked behind specific levels and you gain some enhanced stats with each level up but their impact never feels like it matters in the game itself. The normal difficulty isn’t that hard if you stick to the main missions that can be taken from the hub, however, if you wander around to high-level areas and attempt some of the harder missions, it can be difficult even on the easiest difficulty setting.
Wolfenstein Youngblood is, unfortunately, a game that suffers from many design-related issues. It is clear that the focus on co-op ruins the pacing of the game, and the story itself is hardly interesting with a lack of memorable characters or events. You are just forced to sit through non-stop shooting with two boring protagonists who tend to repeat a lot of their one-liners.
Despite its flaws, there is some redemption in the form of the first-person shooting that is snappy and fast. The technical performance of the game itself is quite good with a smooth 60 FPS target that is mostly achieved on the PS4 Pro. The game is not exactly a looker, and it is mostly due to the reused assets, but the visuals fit in well with the intended art style. The story could have been better along with the mission and gameplay design, but the focus on co-op taking the center stage could be the main fault here.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a first-person shooter developed by MachineGames and Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. A spin-off of the Wolfenstein series, the game was released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in July 2019 and Stadia at a later date.
Final Score - 6/10
Wolfenstein Youngblood suffers from a myriad of issues including bad game design, unnecessary gameplay clutter, and a forced shift to co-op gameplay that hardly feels ideal. It is a disappointing entry in the classic Wolfenstein series that has delivered some of the best first-person narrative-focused shooters this generation.