by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
The modern Wolfenstein games have been a treat. The series has been on a comeback tour since 2014, after having fallen off-radar for many after 2009. The New Order, The Old Blood, The New Colossus; each of them has brought their brand of freedom-by-firepower against a massive Nazi regime in a way that only Wolfenstein can. You simply won't find another character like our beloved B.J. Blazkowicz anywhere else.
When Wolfenstein: Youngblood was announced, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. A co-op Wolfenstein starring the daughters of B.J. several years after Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is quite a leap in time, and sure to be a shift in tone. But when they made it clear this is a side story experience, I became a bit more open minded. Recently, I had the chance to sit down and take Youngblood for a spin with a special guest friend of mine in tow, Austin Garrett, someone who has never had any experience with the Wolfenstein franchise, so that we could combine the veteran perspective and a fresh and bright eyed view of Youngblood's take on the modern end of the franchise.
Settling in to begin the game, the change in tone is immediate. From the starting cutscene, we are introduced to Soph and Jess, training with their parents. Jess is being taught how to shoot with B.J., while Soph is being trained in unarmed combat with Anya. Both parents are training their young daughters to keep fighting the good fight; just because America's liberation was a success, doesn't mean the war is over. Not while a single Nazi stronghold remains.
Fastforward, and the girls are rushing headlong into the breach in search of their missing father. The twin terrors taking the fight to Nazis in a 1980's Paris. What should be an incredible backdrop, an intense side story building upon three great games prior, simply isn't.
Jess and Soph, are the two most unlikeable characters I've experienced in a long time; and we're stuck playing as them. A majority of our time playing was either cringing or laughing at just how poorly the Blazkowicz twins are portrayed. Think of the corniest teen movie you can think of, and combine it with the cheesiest action movie you can think of; and there you have it. In an effort to make strong female characters, the developers have overplayed their hand and just made an arrogant, obnoxious, and laughable duo. Seriously, if I hear "duuuuuuude" one more time in the next couple days...
Downhill From There
But at least the gameplay experience is solid. I wish I could say that and mean it, but I absolutely can't. From the first enemy encountered, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is not a game built for the better. A sneak attack on an enemy is rendered pointless with the introduction of health bars (think Far Cry: New Dawn, another mistake for another time). Tense and exciting firefights from previous games have now devolved into shooting galleries, where the enemies often just run right at you as you pepper them with ammo. Where's the fun? Why would they change things up so much in the first cooperative outing? They could have thrown more enemies at us, they could've improved the AI to make them more tactical, they could have made more boss type enemies; but they didn't. What they did was dumb the game down.
That's not to mention the technical issues. Despite our computers well exceeding the recommended specifications and our internet connections fast and otherwise unburdened, our games crashed about every half hour or so. That's not to mention random graphical fragmentation, audio errors. In its current state, Wolfenstein: Youngblood on PC is a mess at the technical level, and I can only hope console players have a better performing game.
I expected better from Wolfenstein: Youngblood. After loving the last three outings, I had every right to assume that, despite being something different, Youngblood was going to be a well made experiment to switch things up. I was expecting a gripping narrative, a likeable cast, and thrilling gameplay. What I got was pure disappointment on every level. The one positive I can give Wolfenstein: Youngblood is that the more open map designs (it is co-developed by Arkane Studios, of Dishonored fame) are a welcome addition to the series. Beyond that, I can only say I'm thankful that this retails at $29.99 instead of full price but even that lessens the disappointment only little.
Open-map design a welcome addition to the series
Co-Op is ultimately squandered on a broken, soulless experience. The Blazkowicz daughters are annoying, not inspiring. "Duuuuuude"