Also On: Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Machine Games/Arkane Studios
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
The Wolfenstein franchise has been on an absolute roll since early 2014 when Wolfenstein The New Order was released. They managed to successfully reboot the OG granddaddy of First Person Shooters, and follow it up with a standalone story expansion, and a really solid sequel. When Wolfenstein Youngblood was announced, it looked like it was going to fill the same slot that The Old Blood filled after The New Order was released. At $30, I expected a short but dense Wolfenstein experience with two new protagonists and a tangible narrative thread connecting them to the original games, their father B.J. Blazkowicz.
What we got was a horrible imitation of the rest of the series, complete with an absolutely senseless plot, unacceptably bad and annoying characters, and joyless combat. I find that a weak plot can be forgiven if gameplay is flawless and satisfying, and sometimes weaker gameplay can be ignored in favor of an incredible story, but you cannot botch BOTH aspects and expect people to like your game.
The biggest up front change that Youngblood brings to the series is the new cooperative aspect. Having a co-op option in a first person shooter is not a bad feature on its own, but it has to be done correctly. And for the love of god, if you choose not to play co-op, don?t stick the player with an AI companion that runs out and gets massacred every few minutes, thereby running you out of lives and completely failing the entire level. You and your partner share a bank of lives to get through the level, so if the AI is constantly running out into murder town and losing your lives, you have to choose to either try and run out into the same hellfire that took your partner down for the slim chance for a revive, or try to rush the rest of the level before the AI decides to whither your life bank down to 0.
Youngblood also introduces a stealth element, with cloaking devices and a quiet approach available to you, but you better be playing with a real partner. The AI is utterly useless when it comes to stealth, so if you want to play solo and stealthy, you are going to be in for a really bad time.
I, for one, was very excited to dive into the more stealthy approach available in Youngblood. Unlike the 3 previous games, Machine Games had some development help on Youngblood from Arkane Studios, the creators of the stellar Dishonored series, in which stealth can play a huge part of the experience. Looking at the quality of combat in the previous Wolfenstein games from Machine Games, and the quality of combat and stealth in the Dishonored series, it is astounding that they screwed up this badly. Combat is visually disappointing, with a screen covered in health bars, armor logos and ammo logos. Certain armor types require certain ammo types to take down, while other ammo is virtually useless. On top of that,
if you burn through all of your armor piercing rounds and get killed by a boss, you respawn at the last checkpoint, with all of your ammo still gone! Now you are left to go try and farm more armor piercing ammo to take on the boss again, and hopefully succeed. And again, you better hope you have a real life partner who is good at the game, or else you are going to be left to repeat this process several times, all while yelling in frustration at your AI counterpart as she runs heedlessly into the line of fire, or while she stands around refusing to revive you when you go down. Combat has been taken from the tough but fluid form seen in the previous games and been turned into a slow, obnoxious and frankly annoying chore. If there is one thing you really want to get right in a First Person Shooter game, it is probably the shooting.
As I pointed out above though, sometimes weaker gameplay can be forgiven in the face of a truly engaging and meaningful story. Wolfenstein Youngblood has none of that unfortunately. Not only does the plot makes no sense, the characters they introduce serve only to annoy and grate on you throughout the entire game. The dialogue between Jess and Soph (The Blazkowicz sisters) is so bad sometimes I swear that the writers wrote them as a big joke that I just do not get. They are the most nonsensically obnoxious characters I have ever seen, while missing any bit of the charm or grounded character traits their parents displayed in the rest of the series. I do not care about these characters, and they never give me any reason to invest in their story.
I know that some people will argue ?Well the game is only $30, what do you expect??. I have an answer, I expect something that is worth 30 of my dollars. Simply looking at a bad game and using a low price tag as a reason not to dislike it is silly. Partially because $30 is still $30, and partially because there is another cost to ANY game you choose to play: Time. You have to invest time in a video game, and the time I spent playing Wolfenstein Youngblood is time that I will never get back.
Note: Bethesda provided us with a Wolfenstein: Youngblood code for review purposes.