Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the latest in the long-run franchise and the fourth overall entry from MachineGames. With Arkane Studio working side-by-side with them, can the two studios back a worthwhile punch and propel the Wolfenstein series forward, or does this coop focused entry drop the ball while on the run? Find out in our review.
+The Buddy Pass is a worthwhile experience allowing players to be joined by their friends free of charge
+Absolutely requires multiplayer cooperation making for an absolutely amazing experience for friends to enjoy
+Gunplay is sharper than before
+Levelling up continues the power fantasy without making players feel too overpowered at all times
-Level-gaps can cause a small rift between newcomers and veteran players
-Small performance hiccups do appear from time to time
It’s almost 9pm when we finally realize how long we’d been diving into the carefully crafted world MachineGames has been working on since the reboot of the Wolfenstein franchise with Wolfenstein: The New Order. I could see it, David rubbing his back, we’d been at the BYOC in QuakeCon almost for the entire day for its opening day. Since the last week of July, we’d bounced the publishing date for our review by almost a month.
Not because we felt that we hadn’t sunk a good 10 hours into the game, but because we realized just how big Wolfenstein: Youngblood is compared to its sister titles. While the game is clearly a spin-off, much like its recently released Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot sibling, this one a different beast of its own. A semi-open-world FPS with RPG mechanics running as deep to its core as one could ever quite imagine.
I could hear David for a moment, he’d said we had only time for a few more missions. Before we knew it, 11 hours of gameplay had been clocked in, even as we chuckled to ourselves. The Blazkowicz twins were everything we had imagined they would be up to this point: Funny, self-aware, and not giving a damn about the Nazi’s they were punching holes in with a wide array of weapons.
After all, this is the game we’d been waiting for: One we could play together and not alone. We’re coop buddies, already eyeballing a few new coop titles to add to our library, but at the time of writing, we’re still punching Nazi’s in the face, but we’ve done so much – it’s time to get this review underway.
The Blazkowicz twins are 19, they are killers, and they have no love for the Nazi’s – just like we’d hoped
Set 19 years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, a “‘Second American Revolution” has been ignited, causing the Nazi’s to get ousted from the United States after the franchises titular character – BJ Blazkowicz – has killed Hitler and caused the Nazi regime to lose much of the power that they had once had.
Now married to Anya, having raised two twin daughters, Blazkowicz has gone missing with reports having come in that he had traveled to Paris in search of a new possible problem with a location called “Lab X”. With this information, Soph, Jess, and their good pal Abby have headed off to Paris with one goal in mind: Find their dad and kill a few Nazi’s along the way.
In Paris, the girls get to have their own playground for them to enjoy, allowing them to burn, blast, and punch their way through Nazi forces with reckless abandon. The story itself? Just what you’d hope when featuring the offspring of the franchise lead himself. They’re just as crazy and they hate the Nazi’s just as much as the rest of us.
For a semi-open world, Wolfenstein and Dishonored fans won’t be disappointed
One of the biggest changes from the rest of the series is that a large chunk of Wolfenstein: Youngblood wasn’t handled by MachineGames themselves, but rather, their good friends at Arkane Studios who are known for their critically acclaimed franchise by the name of Dishonored in recent days.
With that knowledge, there’s no doubt that one thing will come of this, namely the fact that every district of Paris is massive. Not a single one of them isn’t large, open, and filled to the brim with operations to undertake and items to discover. To be quite honest, my time with David in Wolfenstein: Youngblood for our review and post-review gameplay, we noticed one parallel we couldn’t not draw between the games: It’s an extremely immersive approach that does not disappoint.
The areas are beautiful, different, and bring forth the reality of what a world run by Nazi’s could have been like. The architecture, the propaganda, and even the way each district is designed feels entirely unique, giving a true sense of depth and immersion. It’s clear, however, the devastation the world has felt from the Nazi regime. The world is in shambles, filled with hope by those who fight back, but even a sense of distress from those we will never see within the game.
Each district is designed with more thought than previous entries, allowing for a sense of verticality to play its role, giving a sense of depth to each and every level. Secrets are scattered about, rewarding players for the effort it takes to find them, and even their time backtracking from one point to another. That’s not to include the arrangement of enemies that seem to litter each and every district.
Artistically, each zone carries on the Parisian theme but also changes what enemies patrol them
One of the most creative parts of the game isn’t that it just carries on the whole theme of the game, but also, the fact it keeps those redeemable properties through and through. Each zone comes with its own set of enemies, each one coinciding with the potential heightened difficulty that comes with it, and even the challenges that lie in wait.
While each zone is separated by small metro exits, they still work, and they still give players a chance to work their way through different challenges that include human, canine, and robotic foes. Enemies such as the Zerstörer, the Zitadelle, and even the Panzerhund make their return from previous entries as some of the most challenging enemies within the series.
This time, enemies come with different defenses, giving the RPG aspect of the game a bit more life than before. Enemies come with resistances to specific types of ammo, some taking a bit more damage from penetrating rounds, laser-based ammunition or even explosives themselves.
This small change in pace makes combat more tactical, requiring players to understand an enemies weakness and to be able to swap weapons using the quick wheel on the fly, or even have knowledge of what abilities that the twins have unlocked. Defeating enemies also comes with a bit of a reward including experience, ammunition, and even health/armor supplies with each one taken out.
Cooperative play is where Wolfenstein: Youngblood shines the most
The challenge itself isn’t in the distinction of what enemies have what resistances, but rather, the coordination between the two players. The game, while supporting an AI partner, does shine the most when played in a cooperative format. Since the game itself is focused heavily on its cooperative elements, pre-rendered cutscenes are almost gone, taking a hefty note from 2016’s surprise smash-hit and critically-acclaimed title from id Software by the name of DOOM.
To emphasize on this very matter, Bethesda, MachineGames, and Arkane Studios have implemented a buddy pass that allows for the owner of the Deluxe Editions of the game, which in short, allows them to invite a fellow friend to tag along for the ride – only if they are in the same lobby with that person.
Drawing out the multiplayer aspect is important as the game itself has been labeled as a “coop focused experienced”. From beginning to end, the cooperative focus is never lost. Want to open a door? Soph or Jess will need to get the key, holding the switch for their fellow player while they enter the code for the door. Want that boss taken down a heck of a lot faster? Flank it, letting one player tank the enemy while the other gets it from the side or from behind.
A force to be reckoned with alone, but an unstoppable and godlike force when together
Want to take on a street full of Nazi’s? Light them up together. Got a buddy life box ahead? You’ll need one another to open that as well. Don’t get me wrong: The A.I. is nice; except it isn’t nice enough. It’s not strategic enough, it doesn’t have that “human” mindset we have that allows is to commit to a task at hand or adapt to the situation that unfolds on the fly.
That’s the reality of Wolfenstein: Youngblood: It is – in itself – a full-fledged cooperative experience set within the carefully crafted world that MachineGames begun work on nearly five years ago. With a possible vision for the future, Wolfenstein: Youngblood could set a trend and one that works rather well for the franchise moving forward.
Every situation is strategic, requires constant communication, and even in-game chat is well aware of the realities of being too far from your partner, making it near impossible to hear one another unless you are close enough to them. There were moments when the two of us (David and Dustin) got split apart, making it near impossible to communicate or even strategize without taking our headsets off during QuakeCon 2019 at the BYOC.
We even had moments like that at home when one of us would get lost and the other would meander off, grabbing ammo, money, and collectibles while the other wandered about in a mindless daze.
Some of its greatest strengths are also offset by some of its greatest weaknesses
While the overall experience has remained pleasant (one of us having already completed the game), the experience itself isn’t meant to be had alone. Even with random players, it felt hollow when there was a lack of communication, forcing coordination to be made through situational awareness.
One weakness we noticed most wasn’t just the absolute requirement for communication, but the inability to always ensure that both players felt like they were on level playing grounds. One player who is higher than the other will have a bit more ease getting into the groove of things, blasting their way through Nazi’s with – again – reckless abandon while the other may struggle a bit more than the other.
Weapons, gear, and equipment are fully dependant upon a players progression, setting another uneven playing field for newcomers to one game or the other. While it is certain that the Buddy Pass system does work to some extent to resolve this issue, it does exist, and to some, it can be trying due to the limited access to the game.
One issue that players may face is prolonged load times due to players attempting to sync up to one another. This can even lead to some minor irregularities including sound cut-outs and small performance hiccups as the players sync up to one another. There are even moments where we noticed the game would attempt to freeze up for whoever wasn’t hosting the lobby.
On PlayStation 4, the secondary platform we played on a review playthrough on, we noticed the issue carried between the two platforms (PC and PlayStation 4), perhaps it was just the different load-times between a PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 4, while we encountered the same issue based upon what hardware specs we were using.
Audiovisually, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is an absolute marvel that improves upon the franchise
When it comes to the audiovisual experience, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is no exception on what it means to improve an already established series. Ambient occlusion, god rays, and even particle effects that are, if we’re to be honest, on par with that of what Digital Extremes has been letting friends experience over the past few years thanks to Warframe and their seemingly enhanced graphics engine.
The game, for what it’s worth, is probably one of the most optimized titles to come from MachineGames and Arkane Studios. Bugs are far and few between, oftentimes, you’ll find that load times will never exceed anything above 5 or 10 seconds on PC with consoles sitting around 10-15 seconds at most.
With the depth of graphics in, the realistic flames constantly jumping from cars, the number of troops filling each and every zone, and of course the performance optimization itself. On our current build, we rarely saw performance ever dip below 120 frames on our outlet’s PC Scarlet or even the Shadow we were using for this review.
Impressively enough, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is rather well optimized, ensuring that even on medium-to-high-end devices that the game itself will always run smoothly while delivering a graphically impressive experience. However, there is one thing to note: Despite the few minor bugs, they aren’t experience breaking, nor will they always break the immersion.
Upgrading weapons and gear is actually a game-changer
Just like in Wolfenstein: The New Order/Old Blood and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, you can unlock brand new abilities through leveling up. Abilities to come in wide varieties such as dual-wielding specific weapons such as the machinepistole’s or later on, the Schockhammer’s themselves.
You can even snag a few power-ups that will extend the range of your perk-up abilities to heal and armor up your partner. Other abilities include stealth suits, running through enemies, and even powering up both health alongside armor.
The RPG elements are a welcomed nuance as they do alter how the game feels, adding more tactical depth to the game, but also a consideration for how you as well as your partner play. Prefer going loud while the other prefers stealth? It’s a viable option, even weapons come with three possible builds: Nadel for stealth, Tempo for speed, and Stier for damage.
All three types of mods do come with their own perks, each one bumping up what they are capable of in the scheme of things. However, to master them, you will need to take time to really see what the sets do, such as Nadel, which adds in stealth optimization for some weapons, giving you more of an advantage for a more stealthy and tactical approach, ditching fire rate and damage for more accuracy and silence.
While this does change the pacing of combat and what accessories you have attached, as well as what three-set bonus you go for, it’ll allow you to adapt to the situation between each combat scenario, if you choose to do so.
The Conclusion – A New Colossus in a tiny package
When said and done, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is no small feat. It’s a small package with a colossal amount of content, improvements to the franchise, and a push for cooperative play in ways we’ve never before seen. Truth-be-told, this could very well be one of the strongest entries in the rebooted franchise, albeit a side-entry and not a core title for the franchise itself.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: PC
Developer: Arkane Studios and MachineGames
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $29.99 (Standard) | $39.99 (Deluxe)
Regardless, with graphical improvements, constant performance updates, and an upcoming RTX implementation on Nvidia’s side of things – Wolfenstein: Youngblood could very well be one of the greatest the series has to offer in quite some time. Our only complaint? The minor audio and video jitters that do happen once in a very blue moon.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.
David “The 8 Bit Gamer in a 4K World” Murphy is B.A.T.G.R.’s behind the scenes man who helps get things up and going as well as keeping things in order. Don’t be surprised to know that the old man contributes rather heavily to editing, news, and information he digs up so that editorials, as well as articles, are done properly. He also likes Fallout… A lot. We’re not sure he’s not secretly the Vault Boy in disguise.