Who knew shooting Nazis could be boring.
Wolfenstein has always prided itself on delivering a top tier single player experience featuring an engaging story and the gunplay to match, however with the release of Youngblood, we see a tonal shift from that philosophy. Instead the focus is put on a co-op adventure that relies heavily on RPG elements and character customization while leaving the story driven aspects on the backburner. Unfortunately this leads to grinding out missions on familiar maps in order to overcome bullet sponge Nazis, leaving me yearning for the days of The New Colossus.
Right off the bat, you’ll have the decision of which Blazkowicz twin you’ll want to play as, either Soph or Jess. Outside of appearance not much is different between the two. When playing online you’ll default to your selected sister, but in the case of playing with someone using the same character, you’ll then switch out to the other. When playing solo, the AI will take control of your partner, giving you small bits of help along the way. Both sisters share a single pool of life, so when one is knocked down, you'll have the chance to revive them, but if they bleed out a life will be lost. Additional lives can be found within the mission, requiring both to open up a chest, but if all lives are exhausted, the mission is failed and it must be started over again. Not all is lost however, as experience gained will still be accumulated.
Early into the adventure to save your father, a hub area filled with quest givers is opened granting the freedom to take on a plethora of different missions. Missions are located in different areas which can be accessed by taking the Metro. Revisiting locations is common as different missions will see you traversing similar areas, but with varying enemy difficulty. The spike in difficulty can at times be downright jarring. On numerous occasions I’d be progressing through a mission with what felt like a good amount of resistance to moments later getting absolutely demolished. Feeling helpless, I’d retreat to base to select a different task to work on as I continued to level up. While each mission has a story element to it, they’re mostly forgettable and result in a means to an end for experience.
Killing enemies and completing missions yields experience and leveling up will not only give you ability points to spend, but also permanently increases the damage you deal. Because of how this progression system works, it means enemies you encounter will not be pushovers. Sadly it results in most enemies being bullet sponges, taking a ton of well placed bullets to kill. Certain foes will have indicators that a specific bullet type will be more effective, which promotes switching up your weapon of choice. Upgrading guns is enjoyable giving the option for extra firepower or bullet capacity to name a few. However a lot of the time I found myself working my way up close despite taking heavy damage to melee them multiple times to take them down. Ability points earned from leveling also helps to flesh out your skillset. Increased life and shield upgrades feel like necessities, but being able to increase your charge damage or stealth options helps to tailor the experience.
When it comes to graphically intense games heading to the Switch, a downgrade is to be expected, but Youngblood still fails to impress. Character models don’t look great which is most noticeable during cutscenes and there are occasions where poor lighting sticks out like a sore thumb. Environments overall have a sense of blurriness and that’s most apparent in handheld. It runs at 30fps, however at times does dip a bit, but fortunately the online play worked well. I was able to use quick match to find a partner to play which relatively quickly, but often found myself paired with someone far ahead of my current level. It’d be frustrating to once again be run over because the enemies were simply too tough. Interestingly enough there’s no way to communicate with your partner. While I wasn’t expecting full voice chat, some simple commands would have been a great addition. Messages do show on screen when the other player is down or is doing a task that requires both of you, but still feels lacking.
Baked within Wolfenstein Youngblood is a microtransaction system for cosmetics and boosters. Most cosmetics can be purchased with the currency found in game, but there are certain ones that are relegated to real money currency. Same goes for the boosters which increase different elements, but the double experience booster for example can only be purchased with real money. Changing up skins on your arsenal of weapons is cool, but the options for your suit didn’t feel as enticing since you rarely see your character.
Wolfenstein Youngblood takes everything you know about the series and turns it on its head. Unfortunately the result is something that many fans of the series weren’t asking for. Instead of an over-the-top story filled with addictingly fun gameplay, we got a diluted adventure filled with punishing enemies that require grinding to overcome. Add in microtransactions, no way to communicate, and muddy graphics and you’re better off passing this one by.