Review: Wolfenstein: Youngblood Deluxe Edition (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K TV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required
  • Move None
Title: Wolfenstein: Youngblood Deluxe Edition
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (35.7 GB)
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios, MachineGames
Original MSRP: $39.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: M
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Wolfenstein: Youngblood stars B.J. Blazkowicz’s twin daughters, Jess and Soph. Raised by their parents to be ruthless Nazi killers, the sisters have trained and trained but not much else. Until one day B.J. disappears and Jess and Soph, along with a friend, head to a resistance headquarters in the Paris catacombs to find him.

When the twins are forced to actually kill a Nazi for the first time, they have to psyche each other up, both about to chicken out. The kill is immediately followed by a mixture of celebrating and vomiting.

That is the all of the story and character growth until the end of the game. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a budget title and the development focus was on the new gameplay mechanics. I understand the story not being a priority here, but there aren’t even any big, crazy memorable moments that are the hallmark of the rebooted Wolfenstein series.

The biggest change to the series is the introduction of co-op. The drop-in/drop-out online co-op works seamlessly. The biggest downside is that the game doesn’t automatically pause both players when one of them comes across a tutorial. Some of the tutorials are very important and can be easily missed because they are hard to read and digest while under fire.

The enemy AI is laughably bad at times. It is not uncommon to find an enemy out of a large group who will look right at the player for a full three seconds before firing. The AI for your twin sister, when playing offline or by yourself, is surprising helpful. Not only is she a skilled Nazi killing machine in her own right, she always seemed to use her temporary health boost right when I needed it.

As great as the twin’s AI is, and the game is completely playable as a single player game, the AI can’t beat a human’s situational awareness. In Wolfenstein: Youngblood, players are downed when running out of health, giving your partner a choice to revive you before you bleed out. If Jess or Soph bleeds out, they use a shared life and are automatically revived. Run out of lives and it’s game over, back to the last checkpoint.

When I was downed and called for help, the AI would ignore almost everything and beeline straight to me. However, many times there might be an enemy that I couldn’t see or an enemy wandered towards me after I was downed. A human player would realize, in certain situations, it would be better to stop and clear the area before proceeding to revive their fallen teammate. At times, I would simply let myself bleed out and lose the life because I knew my sister would have not been able to revive me or been downed immediately afterwards. The loss of a life sucks but was better than being revived and then trying to revive her in my weakened state. When a big mechanized enemy drops you near them, not much can be done until that threat is removed.

While killing Nazis with your twin can be better than by yourself, Youngblood never justifies the introduction of co-op. There are some boxes that require both to open them. Some overhead doors, one sister will lift it up while the other slides underneath. A few times, one player is required to press a button on a device so a door code will appear on the lock for the other player to enter. None of this is necessary though, the game could have easily been about B.J.’s daughter.

When I first heard Arkane was co-developing Youngblood, my interest immediately peaked. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I have never even made it halfway through a Dishonored game but I love their level design with the large open areas that allow multiple ways to approach any objective. As you gain more abilities the same area opens up in new and exciting ways. This allows for players to focus on their play style, whether it’s a stealth approach, running through the front door firing, or a mixture of the two.

Wolfenstein has none of this. The large open areas are divided into multiple small, separate areas. There are a couple of doors and pathways in each area that can be opened so players don’t have to go the long way around the next time they come back for a side quest. It’s not the same and each tiny area feels like it is using buildings to funnel you down one of two paths. The power suits even have a double jump ability unlocked from the start but is woefully underused.

I did discover a secret way into one of the three main objective missions. The front way in was currently guarded by enemies too powerful for me. However, this was the result of following a side quest and not exploration.

The Wolfenstein series may not be famous for its stealth gameplay, but each game in the rebooted series had levels and areas that were designed with stealth in mind. Stealth is not impossible, but much harder than previous games. There are too many mechanized enemies or leveled enemies with armor that either can’t be killed or require multiple upgrades to be able to kill with one knife throw. Not to mention that there is always someone on the outskirts of an area who has eagle eyes and sounds the alarm summoning another dozen soldiers before you even know what’s going on.

A new mechanic I really enjoyed in Youngblood is the ability to upgrade every aspect of my guns using silver coins found in the world. The silver coins don’t really mean anything and are an arbitrary limiter put in place to keep players from upgrading their weapons too fast. The writers completely missed the fact that the twin’s tech genius friend is the one who flew them to Paris and also built the power suits Jess and Soph are wearing. She is wasted as she spends the game sitting in the catacombs occasionally talking to you during missions. How hard would it have been for a few of the side quests to be missions about stealing a prototype for her to build you a new weapon or capturing a new power source so she can increase the damage from your Laserkraftwerk?

As a whole, Wolfenstein:Youngblood‘s gameplay feels unbalanced. Enemies are especially bullet-spongy. A big part of this is the new armor shields mechanic. Enemies can have hard or soft armor that requires the right type of ammo to more efficiently destroy their shield. Not a complex system but in the heat of battle the two symbols can be hard to tell apart at a glance. Also new is that enemies have levels. A couple of level two or three enemies with shields simply take too long and too much ammo to put down. After fully stocking up on ammo, what used to be a simple encounter with a few enemies consumes half your ammo for a gun.

Early on I would go through a square, killing all the enemies, mechanized units, and reinforcements, spend five minutes completing a mission, and then return through the same area on my way back to the base. The enemy force had fully respawned and would do the same firefight all over again. These encounters quickly became annoying and repetitive. After a while, I was simply running and jumping past everyone to get to my mission area.

Most of the game’s missions are side quests. Pick and choose the ones you want, maybe complete a few of the random tasks they mention while you on your way to a mission, and level up. Jess and Soph are looking for B.J. but the only way to find him is get gain access to information stored in the three Brother Towers. Players unlock these missions after the first level in the game but they have skull icons instead of a mission level. At level twenty, all three skulls went away. I beat the Brother Tower 1 mission and the other two missions still showed level twenty. So I beat the second mission. The arc of the game is to grind side quest until level twenty and then beat all three main missions in a row? I guess they decided to remove all the grinding between the main missions and front load it all.

I am sure there are people out there defending this practice but you will never convince me this is not a horrible game design. When you get a game over and have to restart back at the check mark you don’t get any of the ammo or grenades back. Not a big problem, except for boss fights. Die a few times during a boss fight and suddenly the grenades, the heavy weapons ammo you had saved for the boss fight, and the ammo for your favorite gun has been used and lost. On one boss, I died three times before defeating them. During the victorious fight, I was constantly running around, cycling through the tiny bit of ammo I had for each gun, frantically looking for more ammo.

Just going to mention this because it did happen. When playing with Glenn, I jumped over some handrail leading up some steps. A few seconds later, I was downed by an enemy and slid back down the slope just slightly. Glenn cleared off the remaining enemies before trying to revive me. When I was revived I was stuck between the handrail and a stone wall. I tried running, jumping, and crouching in every direction to no avail. Luckily the next time I loaded that save, the check point was not that far back. If I wasn’t reviewing the game, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders and forgotten it even happened.

Visuals:
In the world of fast paced first person shooters, frame rate is key. Now I don’t have the eye to tell you my PS4 Pro ran Wolfenstein near 60 FPS the entire game but the game seemed constantly smooth on my HD TV. If there were any gameplay dips below 30 FPS, they were few and far between. Actually, the issue I ran into was a few frame rate hiccups during the handful of cutscenes.

Audio:
The VO starts off well. Although, soon the lack of cutscenes and story catches up as all you hear is gunfire, Nazis yelling, and the sisters repeat the same lines over and over again.

Online/Multiplayer:
The digital deluxe and physical version of Wolfenstein: Youngblood comes with the buddy pass. The buddy pass allows the game purchaser to invite their friends to play the whole game with them for free and there is no limit to the number of friends you play with.

Part of me wonders if the introduction of co-op was a ploy to sell more copies. Youngblood is not a long game but can’t be beat in one or two sittings. A bean counter probably figured out that a certain percentage would play once with a friend and not want to wait for their schedules to align again and would just buy the game to play on their own or with a different friend.

This is probably more due to the limitations of the PSN store than a development issue but the first time I invited Glenn on PSN to play with me it took him to the game store page, where you would go to buy the game. It was not clear that you had to scroll down to find the free trial to download. After a quick google search, I found an article that explained what to do. Apparently someone else thought it was worth writing an article about. I have no idea why the invite didn’t direct the person directly to the trial download.

In the end, I opened my game up to let random people join and I joined random people’s games. I also invited Glenn and other friends to play. I started new games with people and had them jump in the middle of the game. It all worked seamlessly and never had any lag issues.

Conclusion:
The rebooted series has reviewed well and MachineGames and Arkane Studios could have simply designed another one of those games. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is full of ambitious ideas for the series such as co-op, armor shields, and semi-open areas.

As a budget, spin off title, you know it’s not going to have all the flash and polish of the full priced game in the series. Even with that in mind, Wolfenstein: Youngblood has almost no story and lacks any memorable moments the series is known for. There are some great new ideas that aren’t fully polished. The game progression/mission unlocks are completely off. Open areas could have been a big game changer but they ended up with multiple tiny areas instead a few big areas.

In the end, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a flawed game that needed a few more months of polish and balance.

Score:
6.5

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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