The Wolfenstein franchise is a series seeped in history and adored by many. It’s often held up as one of the major influential games that, alongside Doom and Quake, helped to establish the FPS genre as what we see today. However, after the success of Wolfenstein: The New Order and the mostly positive reception seen by The New Colossus, can Machine Games and new partner Arkane Studios, keep up the positive trend and continue to send the series to new and exciting heights?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably a no.
Why is it that established titles always try to shift their focus to new gameplay mechanics and loops rather than refining existing features that they’re doing right?
When I first heard about the Coop functionality of Youngblood my first thought was ironically of F.3.A.R, or F.E.A.R. 3, the somewhat clunky shooter that also dipped its toes into that particular stream of gameplay and promptly killed off the series.
This would be different though surely, as with F.E.A.R. 3, the title suffered primarily due to its horror genre being unable to provide effective scares when two players were experimenting with physics and meleeing each other during important scenes, right?
I awaited Youngblood with nervous trepidation, having enjoyed the previous titles and adored Arkane’s latest offerings of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Prey and its highly underrated expansion, Mooncrash (which I cannot recommend enough!)
Youngblood has already suffered several mixed reviews due to the implementation of, arguably cosmetic microtransactions, but even without these, the gameplay just feels clunky and unsure of itself.
When playing Youngblood at Quakecon one of the Bethesda reps told me to treat it like an arcade gem; to use cover but also revel in the power placed at my fingertips… But that was the problem, even with two people playing together you always feel drastically underpowered.
Now this would be understandable from a plot perspective, as both playable characters, daughters of series headliner B.J Blazkowicz, are members of the French Resistance. This means it would be totally justified for the player to feel outgunned and on the run, fighting against the oppressive Nazi occupation from the inside out. But instead the lack of power comes from a mixture of underwhelming guns and poor mechanics.
The majority of enemies are clad in thick sets of armour, meaning that the soak immense swathes of bullets before actually going down unless you’re using the correct ammo type for their specific armour types, but with this ammo in short supply, you often end up just hamming them over and over again with little to no results.
This combined with the enemy respawn rates leads to an aggressively infuriating grind with little to no satisfaction offered.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood does offer enjoyment when playing with a friend (seeing a friend increase your health or armour via a devil-horn-style gesture does always solicit a grin) and when you’re back to back, fending off the regular Nazis in dramatic, explosive shootouts, it’s hard not to feel like an action hero. But with so many issues in regard to connecting with other players, you instead often end up stuck with an awful AI companion who’s self-preservation skills leave a lot to be desired.
This wouldn’t be a problem, but you also share lives, meaning that if they decide to go and eat a rocket, unfortunately, it’s a dinner for two.
The story also feels half-baked, with points that could be strong emotional payoffs instead feeling rushed and ineffective, glossed over and then discarded.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood, despite all of this, isn’t what I’d call a terrible game and it may seem I’m being far too harsh. Honestly, compared to a wide range of titles it would stand out as an average and inoffensive offering to the genre with a fun coop focus (when it works), but success is a double-edged sword and both developers have proven that they’re able to produce games that are so much better than this.
I would pause before purchasing the game and wait for a sale. Save your money for the far-more-deserving Doom Eternal in November and, if you haven’t already, I can’t recommend Prey and its Mooncrash DLC enough.