Published on August 1st, 2019 | by Scott De Lacy
Wolfenstein: Youngblood – Xbox One Review
Summary: Supercharged, righteous co-op shooter, full of girl-power
Youngblood is the latest installment of the Wolfenstein FPS franchise, set in a dystopian 1980’s past, where the Nazi regime has taken hold and occupy and terrorise a vast region of Europe including France. Seemingly they have accelerated their occupation by developing and possessing advanced technology, including humanoid robotic drones, power armoured suits, laser weapons and large mechanical automatons.
The storyline focuses on the two twin daughters Sophia and Jessica, the children of B.J Blazkowicz from the previous titles. The opening cinematic prelude to the game is exceptionally breathtaking cinematically and kind of interesting as it is oddly heart-warming, where the girls pair off with each parent and is shown an aspect of expert tactical training and skills under their parents’ tutelage.
Unfortunately there is little build up or backstory explanation to explain how these characters got to their current situation, why they are being trained, and ultimately why it is necessary. Simply, the game seems to pick up from the previous title’s storyline, so if you haven’t played it, you will likely start the game a little bit confused.
The twin girls are of course, the embodiment of girl-power, girls can do anything, and ‘heck yeah. They also have a healthy sense of confidence to arrogance ratio that perpetuates and moves forward the elements of the story line, such as a willful disobedience for their parents’ authority as they take it upon themselves to steal an FBI helicopter, advanced power armoured suits and weapons, in search for their missing father, regardless of the on-going war effort.
And if that sounds like it doesn’t quite add up, you would be right. After all these girls were raised with years of exceptional training and discipline from both parents in weapons, hand to hand combat and general soldering, yet conveniently are all too ready to just take off with their friend on just the suggestion. No struggle, conflict, challenge, consideration or seemingly inner-self-doubt to give weight to the impact of the decision or the danger they may face. It comes across very entitled, and rather unbelievable, sadly.
The technology presented in the game is also shown as gratis, another element that perhaps is only told through the Wolfenstein canon of earlier titles and as such, without a prelude introduction cinematic, the player has no way of understanding that the game is in an “alternate reality” of what we know, therefore wont be able to grasp how typical 1980’s technology such as cassette tapes and weird looking low-grade computers are mixed with advanced flying automated drones, advanced weaponry and power suits, which would have ultimately needed advanced computers to create. So it would be necessary for a player to ignore this or reconcile a satisfactory explanation within themselves.
The game takes place in Neu-Paris, the main objective is to find your father and to do this you must play a lot of fetch with objectives provided by the French resistance, which level you up slowly, until you can tackle the three ‘Brothers’, these are heavily fortified areas with a supercomputer that needs to be hacked in order to break into Lab X. There you find your father and the plot twists ensue.
The power suits have three skill trees:
- Mind – Health upgrades, and mental abilities
- Muscle – Armour upgrades, and heavier weapons
- Power – Suit abilities including cloaking
The standard weapons include:
- Machine Pistol
- Light machine gun
- Assault rifle
- Automatic shotgun
You can only carry one small-arm, pistol or machine pistol at a time. However the rest can be carried and alternated during gameplay. Each one of these weapons has identical individual component upgrades for Scope, receiver, trigger, stock, barrel and magazine, with three variants available favouring accuracy, rate of fire, or damage. This means that there are multiple combinations of weapon upgrades you can apply to individual weapons. There is also a bonus applied when you upgrade a weapon with three of the same variant upgrade, as well as some combinations yielding weapon modifications.
The missions are not linear and can all be attempted in any order and as desired; the game will however indicate the level required to not die within three seconds or a single shot, so you pretty much have to follow this or suffer the consequences.
Mission objectives can often be hard to find and navigate to. There are many situations where you need to pay close attention to find unobvious entry points, open windows on 2nd levels, and objects to jump from. When you do transition from one area to the other, expect a number of enemies, with more leveled up enemies to linger around mission objectives. This is bankable, predictable and therefor formulaic when presented.
This game is designed as a multiplayer-co-op, so much so that the single player campaign is actually ‘hosting’ an individual multiplayer game with the AI. The characters have some delightful conversations when idle and upon triggering events, sometimes with the girl-power tone being less than subtle and kind of immaturely slap-stick, but it is good value and fills the space quite well. Sadly, the AI seems to deal less damage than expected, sometimes gets stuck and doesn’t move, often spawns and respawns in weird locations right before your eyes and consistently stands directly in your line of fire from positions of cover, forcing you to leave your cover position in order to target enemies.
Each twin can heal each other when critically injured; a time-out counter is displayed, where you can hobble a short distance towards each other to your uninjured twin in order for them to heal you, else you will bleed out and consume a life. Since the AI likes to cluster near you, it’s usually more likely that a powerful enemy will cripple you both before you get the chance to heal up, but in other situations it works well, allowing you that one last shot or chance to flee, and hopefully the twin will magically teleport near you.
This game should be absolutely fantastic with a friend for purposeful, tactful co-op. All of the map layouts have great attention to detail with many positions of cover, ammunition and armour drops and positions of height as well as areas of retreat and if you had voice chat with a friend, real time strategy and cooperation towards the goal and targets would make a significant difference when compared to the AI that kind of wants to do its own thing.
Graphics and sound
The cinematic cut scenes are absolutely beautiful, and if you walked into the room without knowing it’s a game you would assume it is an animated movie, without exception. All of the maps, layout of Paris, internal buildings, vehicles, weapons each have fantastic textures, perhaps with the exception of the resistance headquarters in the catacombs. Unfortunately the entire scenery feels too busy, and the skeletal remains appears to have poorer, incorrect lighting and mismatched lesser quality textures than all other surrounding textures, which is a contradiction given that it is the catacombs.
The sound is best played with 5.1 surround sound or better, and you really can hear solders and machines coming from behind you, which really do give you the much needed audible queue to turn around and shoot the enemy that flank you – and they will flank you.
This game could have some expandability that leverages the great maps, perhaps player versus player multiplayer mode that allows you to play against multiple online players as the girls or as one of the Nazi bosses. Of course, it’s understandable why this was not done, after all it’s not Battlefield/Battlefront and it would perhaps distract from the original concepts of the game.
There are a number of annoyances with this game, in particular the AI is a help and a hindrance and will often cause you to shoot at her since she appears in front of you and an enemy or goes around a corner and back in front of you, totally freaking you out.
There is also an inescapable disconnect between the story and the gameplay once you reach the resistance base. The momentum seems to cool down and you aimlessly muddle through the first few missions feeling like you don’t have much purpose other than levelling up.
It is also equally frustrating that you can spend 30 minutes clearing the map of enemies, go inside a building in the same ‘scene’ and come out and they have all re-spawned. Literally step in and step out. This is inconsistent and not always reproducible. Yes, it is challenging and offers great gameplay but even with 4 weapons, you will run out of ammunition eventually. The problem is however, that if the mission is to infiltrate, breach and clear or essentially go and kill all the Nazis in an area, you don’t feel any sense of achievement having just cleared an entire street only to find it full again a minute later.
The combat dynamics of the game is really challenging at normal difficulty, as a single player you will find that some enemies will outsmart you, out-gun you and require tactical approaches to take down. Even the first tutorial mission has a boss at the end which, until you do defeat him, you will question whether the game is too hard. It’s not; stick with it, even if it takes you around 10 times to defeat him.
You will need to watch for your Pistol and Machine Pistol being arbitrarily swapped despite the setting you applied, but this won’t be a show stopper and is likely a bug that can be corrected.
Players will need to sign up for a Bethesda account in order to play this game, so it’s likely an offline play won’t be an option.
This game does not really break new ground, but it is a good meat and potatoes shooter and has been well designed and promises to be an enjoyable game to play with friends.