Wolfenstein is one of the best FPS franchises out there and has truly become a standout series this generation. With most shooters being modern or futuristic military FPS games, Wolfenstein remains true to its roots. Bethesda knows how to make shooters, just look at Doom for another example, but Wolfenstein: Youngblood fails to make a good impression.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes place in the 1980s and follows BJ Blazkowicz’s twin daughters when their father goes missing. The two tomboys leave rural America to go to Nazi-occupied Paris where they believe BJ has either fled to or been captured.
The last two games in the Wolfenstein series have been very story heavy. It’s extremely character-focused and goes much deeper than just “must kill Nazis because Nazis are bad”. Wolfenstein: Youngblood, however, is very simple to a fault.
The Blazkowicz sisters have absolutely no arc and see zero change, the story is minimal and basic, it’s terribly uninteresting. While this is definitely a smaller game and not a mainline Wolfenstein title, there’s no reason that should rob it of having at least an above-average story.
BJ’s character has so much happen to him in the first two games. He falls in love, leads the resistance, has his entire head chopped off and reattached, must reconcile with his past, and much more. The sisters? We learn they don’t know a lot about their parents and were trained to be lethal and dangerous… but that’s about it.
They have charm, they’re by no means dull. They have great chemistry with each other and are incredibly funny when utilized correctly but there’s only a handful of cutscenes in the game. They feel incredibly underused as their dialogue outside of the story beats feels kept mostly to a minimum or isn’t very deep.
On the gameplay side of things, Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes a number of steps back. The biggest addition is, of course, co-op which doesn’t feel like it changes the gameplay in any significant way. You have double the firepower but… that’s as far as it really goes. Youngblood delivers a below average co-op experience because it simply feels tacked on and almost disconnected.
It’s always important to have the ability to play solo but when you feel very little difference between the solo and co-op gameplay, it truly undermines the value of a co-op mode. The game becomes easier with a second player but it never felt like I was gaining a huge advantage with them outside of having a more competent partner.
The AI in Youngblood is pretty disastrous at times with your partner being unable to sense certain dangers and act accordingly. One level places you in a room with a boss where the floor activates lasers that can kill you if you don’t move. There are platforms on an elevated level in the room and a second-floor (which also has lasers when the first floor’s aren’t active) so they can be avoided pretty easily but they add an extra layer to that boss fight.
The problem is, your AI partner can’t sense the lasers and doesn’t know how to avoid them so they’ll take all that damage and go down. You then have to risk using one of your disposable lives that allow them to be automatically revived or revive them on your own accord.
This boss fight isn’t super breezy so it becomes a major burden and the poor AI isn’t reserved exclusively during this fight. It happens at various points throughout the game, even without the Mission: Impossible-esque laser floors.
Another issue I found in the final boss battle is that my AI partner would go down and then depending on what floor they were on, they might teleport away from me for no reason as I get closer to picking them back up. It caused even greater headaches to an already incredibly frustrating boss battle and wasn’t a mechanic within the game but rather a very infuriating bug.
The AI issues extend to enemies as well. They’re either hypersensitive and can hear you coming from another room or appear to be hard of hearing as you run up and turn into a human hole puncher. Unpredictability in AI is important so you can feel challenged but it needs to have enough balance to feel fair. Youngblood puts its unpredictability on both ends of the spectrum by letting you abuse them or making them feel like they have super hearing.
When it goes loud, the gunplay is pretty typical to the Wolfenstein experience you know so far except turned down just a smidge. You’re not the ultra manly man that is BJ so you’re not dual-wielding shotguns and whatnot but you still feel relatively powerful. Your armored suit allows you to charge into enemies and shoulder slam them, do powerful ground pounds, and pick up extra-large weapons to carry around.
One new feature is that you have to be conscious of the weapons you use. Enemies have different armor types and different guns chip off that armor more adequately than others. A shotgun might rip it apart while your SMG just makes some dents in it, it can still be used to take it apart but it’ll take way more ammo.
It encourages you to use your whole arsenal and encourages an interesting metagame similar to what Doom Eternal is doing with killing in specific ways for armor and health.
The last major change to the Wolfenstein formula is how Youngblood presents its missions. They can be done in an almost non-linear fashion and there’s a ton of side content in these semi-open world hub areas. This is definitely where Arkane (developer of Dishonored) had the most impact but it’s not always felt for the better.
These hub worlds aren’t particularly interesting to explore and ultimately, they get to be annoying. There’s a lot of backtracking and the content gets super repetitive very quickly. There were several side missions that made me go and get something in the hub world, bring it to the hideout, and then they’d tell me to go back to the same place and bring another thing back. It feels needlessly tedious and pointless.
If you’re looking for something to tide you over until the inevitable Wolfenstein 3, Youngblood probably won’t scratch your itch. It takes many steps back to the point where it feels like a lesser experience even when compared to shooters beyond this series. There’s little of value added and it fails to even be declared average at best thanks to bugs and poor AI.