When Wolfenstein: Youngblood was first revealed, I genuinely felt joy. Because Wolfenstein is a game that I remember for its Nazi-slaughtering antics and chaotic run-and-gun action but now it’s bringing the co-op gameplay to its arsenal. The series takes a brand new spin to an already beloved franchise but despite the good intentions, it never really took off the way I expected and would simply be remembered as just another co-op shooter.
Maybe it’s the looter-shooter mechanics of the likes of Destiny or Borderlands… but without the looter and more of the shooter aspect. Maybe it’s the unnecessarily placed armor types and enemy levels that didn’t fit the entire setting. It could even be the overuse of the very same areas to justify the length of the game’s narrative and replay value or maybe I’m just being too hypercritical with the matter. But at the end of the day, it never felt right and lacked the hook to suck you into more hours after the first. Unlike games of similar genre, it throws out the linearity and approached it in a more mission-based pseudo-open world scenario where you’ll take quests in the hub, complete it within the specified areas, rinse and repeat.
The character development and story progression also took a hit due to the sudden change. While it is a £24.99 (£34.99 Deluxe Edition) spin-off game, having very little interaction towards the main narrative and putting it all on the line with the repetitive tower infiltration was obviously a terrible decision. Most of which only differentiates itself with environmental design changes but most things rely on the very same aspect. Tons of bad guys, a boss and a hackable central computer.
“Killing Nazis is never a bad thing… or so we’re told.”
There’s a lot of things Youngblood has done wrong but I can never fault it for trying to be different to the series it was born from. It was simply a gamble and sadly it didn’t pay off. Despite its mistakes, there are things that I found fun even if it wasn’t enough to keep me interested for long. One of them being weapon customization and upgrades. There might not be a lot of weapon types to go through like the billions that Borderlands 3 claim it has but Youngblood’s arsenal provides a definitive distinction to one another at the cost of a few hundred coins each. There’s the base pistol you can upgrade to full-auto, the rifle that induces penetration rounds or the multiple heavy weapons that just screams bad-ass in every angle.
Skills and abilities also takes in form with the series spin-off. From abilities that lets you cloak yourself for a stealth kill or crush abilities to go toe to toe and nail to nail with the robotic giants of the game. There’s enough of it to make you feel your character’s progression has even the slightest bit of importance. Just like my dual wielded machine gun pistol that depletes faster than I can sing the Das Lied der Deutschen or the slightly annoying but obviously useful pep signals that boost one’s abilities or provide buffs to keep the twins in mass-murderer mode.
But as far as the overall gameplay goes and how it mixes in, it really just doesn’t. The pseudo-open world undermines the feel and atmosphere as a whole. Before you can even go through the different parts of the world, it requires a lot of cooperation with you and your companion as often times, it requires two people to open up a gate, an elevator door or just simply opening up crates and interacting with objects within its ecosystem. And fighting off the different types of enemies is probably the only thing more fun than that. That is if enemies weren’t as bullet-spongy as they are. The enemy levels really hurt the gameplay a lot as more often than not, a headshot can never instant kill an unarmored enemy while a shot from an upgraded shotgun still require two to three taps of the trigger in point blank. Let’s not even go to the part where you fight off the heavily-armored monstrosities as you’d be scavenging for bullets and health before you can even get one down despite hitting its weakspots as often as you can.
The atmosphere and level design does help ease up the pain of going through your entire inventory just to dispatch a couple of Nazis. There’s a lot of verticality involved within the game that often times going loud and proud often seems like the best of choices when you can shoot people midair from a high vantage point like a balcony and follow it up with a crushing ground stomp to the aesthetically-pleasing Neu Paris in the 1980s. The world itself feels more vibrant and rich but seeing an enemy’s hideous face or dismembered body part after hitting it a few times feels awfully satisfying even after the hundredth time. But what bothers me is the unnecessary inclusion of micro-transactions to fast track certain players with weapon upgrades, body suit cosmetics or even some consumables that increase one’s EXP gain or coin rewards. While it doesn’t directly affect anyone else, it does open up new ways to monetize a game should the need requires for it which is a growing problem in the game industry as a whole.
Overall, the Wolfenstein spin-off definitely hit a few marks but missed on a lot of its defining points. The Nazi killing is still there but also the unnecessary things that came along with it. Be it the bullet-spongy enemies and bosses or the annoyingly-busted AI companion that could not walk mere 10 steps to revive you even after the constant shouting at your TV or monitor in certain instances like the boss rooms in the towers. Its only redeeming factor comes in the form of weapons despite not being allowed to dual wield shotguns or assault rifles but the sensation of opening up enemies and filling them with bullets as their armor peels off is also quite the fun factor. However at the end of the day, nothing felt interesting enough to get me to play for more hours than I need to.
If you’re looking for a game to get into, I can’t stress this enough: just look the other way. I can commend their effort of a buddy pass to let friends play with one another but it definitely isn’t as fun with or without said friend because of its flaws and lackluster narrative.