Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a stand-alone spin-off to the MachineGames Wolfenstein trilogy that serves as a stop-gap between Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and the untitled Wolfenstein III. Youngblood is a departure from the traditional Wolfenstein experience in a number of ways that may cause it to appeal to a different audience than those who enjoyed the linearity of past titles. While the game does offer a handful of thrills for two-player mayhem, a litany of bugs ranging from annoying to game-breaking nearly prevented this reviewer from even seeing it through until the end.
Youngblood is a two-player semi-open world FPS with progression tied to a simple skill tree and weapon upgrade system. After a couple of linear missions, players will be introduced to the Catacombs, a hub area filled with quest-giving NPCs and ammo refills. Players can complete missions in any order they wish, provided they are within level range of the mission. Each mission begins by selecting a way point in one of the five zones of Neu-Paris. Players are free to roam the city completing missions while finding collectibles and hidden passageways that make traversing the city easier and less repetitive. After missions, players return to the Catacombs for turn-ins, then rinse and repeat for around ten hours.
Because missions can be completed in any order, the game is fairly light on story. Youngblood takes place in the 1980s and stars B.J. Blazkowicz's two teenage daughters. B.J. has apparently gone missing, assumed to be abducted by Nazis, and his daughters travel to Neu-Paris to find him. They make contact with the Resistance and are tasked with a dozen-ish missions to go out and kill a bunch of Nazi robots, take control of some towers, and rescue some freedom fighters. There are a few story beats during the final missions, but, without spoiling anything, it's likely the events of this game do not matter to the larger Wolfenstein narrative in any significant way.
Killing Nazis Is More Fun With A Friend
Look, playing games with buddies is just more fun than playing them alone. I've played games I hate for years because I was playing them with my friends. Sometimes games are just an opportunity to hang out with people you like, and it doesn't matter that much if the game is good or bad, as long as it's mindless and extra bloody.
Youngblood is a co-op grindhouse that can be smashed through with your best friend in a couple of sittings. There isn't really anything that nuanced or interesting about the co-op experience; no combo abilities to pull off together or puzzles to solve. You'll occasionally run into a door that requires both of you to open, but this is really just to stop one person from getting too far ahead.
The deluxe version of the game includes a "buddy pass" that you can give to a friend so they can play the game with you without having to purchase their own copy. That buddy pass can be re-gifted later on, so the game can be played as many times and you want if you happen to have more than one friend. It's $40 for the deluxe, so if wading through an ocean of disemboweled Aryans sounds like a good time to you and your friend, you can stop reading now and feel pretty good about investing some time in the game. If you plan on playing the game solo however, you should probably keep reading.
Half-Ideas And Bare Boned Mechanics
Youngblood is a co-production between Machinegames, the studio that has become synonymous with the Wolfenstein franchise, and Arkane Studios, developers behind the Dishonored franchise and the depressingly underrated Prey. Youngblood is, unsurprisingly, full of RPG/immersive sim trappings. Unfortunately, the two styles tend to conflict and fight for dominance rather than blend into something new and interesting. The game feels more like half of each experience rather than a synthesis between the two.
The skill tree, which is identical for each sister, is pretty uninspired. There aren't a ton of options and most upgrades represent incremental percent increases to stats like damage or health. Leveling doesn't really make you feel that much more powerful. Gun upgrades are also incredibly simple. Each gun has the same five slots with the same three upgrade options for each one. Getting three of the same type upgrade on the gun provides a bonus to either headshots, ammo capacity, or damage. It's not a system that inspires a lot of creativity or personality. Give your submachine gun extra ammo, give your shotgun extra damage, done.
The switch to an open mission style helps players find content they can play together without one necessarily having to repeat missions. Unfortunately, there just isn't very much content available, so it feels like a design meant for a bigger game. From the start you are given three missions to infiltrate towers. The recommended level is 25, which you'll reach after three to four missions. After you complete the three towers, there's just one more story mission/boss to complete to finish the game. The matchmaking never put a player in the game that was my same level or on my same mission, and they almost always left right away.
More Bugs Than That "Temple Of Doom" Scene Everyone Hates
Bugs came early and often in my playthrough that started out cute, got pretty annoying, and eventually got so bad I almost couldn't finish the game. Other reviewers I talked to were able to finish the game without running into these issues, but a lot of people online are reporting lots of bugs. This is my experience.
Audio bugs were frequent. Sounds would loop infinitely until I restarted the game. At one point, I heard the same grenade go off a hundred times. There are no checkpoints, which means dying or restarting anywhere during these 30-60 minute missions will restart you at the way-point where you entered the city. This became a major issue once I started to encounter game-breaking bugs.
The last boss, for a number of bug-related and design reasons, could not be completed solo. You have to shoot the boss in the back, but he would not focus on the AI teammate and would only face me no matter what, thus preventing me from damaging him. Over a very, very long time the AI would eventually take him down and phase 2 would start. During phase 2 there's a wide AOE that my partner would stand in and die. I would make every attempt to resurrect her, but as I approached she would teleport around the battlefield, preventing me from resuscitating her. Eventually, she would time out and I'd have to start over. This went on for over two hours until I decided I needed to lower the difficulty to finish the game.
There are 5 difficulty settings, I was playing on the third. I changed it to the easiest difficulty, and nothing changed. Even after restarting the game, the difficulty would not adjust and I continued to lose over and over until I was a shell of a man. Eventually, a kind stranger joined my game. It was clear he had already done this fight, because what he did next was unbelievable. He ran right up to the boss, not attacking, and just ran in a tight little circle around him. The boss spun in place, never firing, while I picked away at his health for several minutes. This is how the game ended for me.
Just Know What You're Getting Into With This One
I'm not going to be the guy that tells you not to kill a bunch of Nazis with your buddies. If, on the other hand, you're interested in the story and you intend to play this game solo, skip it. Playing this game was an incredibly broken, frustrating experience for me, and I can't recommend it as a single-player experience. If this ends up being a testing ground for planned features in Wolfenstein III, I'm on board with that, because there are some neat ideas here. I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I finally finished this game, so if I were you, I'd go play Prey instead.
1.5 Out Of 5 Stars
A review copy of Wolfenstein: Youngblood was used by TheGamer for this review. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and eventually, Google Stadia.