Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is my favourite first person shooter of this generation. Indeed, it ended up #2 on my list for best 2017 games. Of course, I was psyched for the next Wolfenstein game, Youngblood. Even more exciting was that Arkane Studios was collaborating with MachineGames. Arkane is definitely in my top 5 studios - and probably #1 for non-open-world / non-RPG studios. Unfortunately, it was met with pretty mediocre reviews, and released at a time I was busy, so I put it off for a bit. When it landed in Game Pass, I finally gave it a go.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is at the same time too similar but too different from Wolfenstein II. The magnificent idTech engine makes a return. The shooting mechanics are pitch perfect, and it feels as great as ever to play. There's the perfect balance of "heft" from games like Battlefield and "agility" from games like Call of Duty. The game looks spectacular, just like its predecessor. There's whacky weapons - even wilder than II: TNC, given its set a couple of decades into the future. Art direction is excellent, and creates a fascinating glimpse of alternate history Paris under Nazi control. However, that's where the similarities end.
Arkane's influences are felt deeply, with the game no longer a linear thrill ride like TNC was. Instead, you have fairly open hub worlds. To aid this, there are new gameplay mechanics introduced by a Crysis-style power suit. There's a cloaking ability, and even a limited jetpack of sorts. This adds new gameplay possibilities with stealth and traversal. The hub worlds means there are now side missions and random activities. There's RPG-like leveling up mechanics - even for each individual weapon. There's a ton of customisation available as well. Essentially, Wolfenstein has been turned into a proto-RPG!
The level design is very much reminiscent of Dishonored or Prey. You have a fair amount of freedom, but narrow and surprising corridors connect different parts of the world, so there's also a puzzle factor to traversal - you can't just go from point A to point B. There's a ton more collectibles, locks, terminals, and even metroidvania-esque "keys" in the form of various special weapons. For much of Youngblood, it feels like a totally different game to the first two games in the series. It's only the moment-to-moment combat that feels very much Wolfenstein.
Of course, there are main missions which are intermingled with cutscenes, which follow a familiar, scripted path, but much of the game is actually spent levelling up in the hub worlds doing side missions and activities. The lore justification is that the Blazkowicz twins are noobs and need experience... Obviously, tongue-in-cheek.
There's a Wolfenstein III in the works, for sure. Youngblood is pretty curious in how it prides itself in spoiling what is presumably the ending of Wolfenstein III, a game that probably won't be released for a couple of years. The series has become known for its off-beat pulpy humour, and Youngblood brings more of it to the table. The game also works has a coming-of-age tale for the twins. Unfortunately, there's too little of it here, and while most of it is really well done, it simply doesn't match up to the dizzy heights of Wolfenstein II. I still regard TNC's cutscenes as the very best in gaming - Tarantino would be proud.
And that's the problem with the game. It just doesn't live up to the sum of its very promising parts. Combined with questionably marketing and a general expectation from a Wolfenstein game, Youngblood ends up being something completely different. I love games like Dishonored or Prey, and I did enjoy much of the freedom Youngblood offered. But it simply is at odds with the more scripted missions and cutscenes that we have come to love from the new Wolfenstein series.
I still think Wolfenstein: Youngblood has some great moments, and worth a play if you're prepared for something a bit different. I didn't get a chance to play it co-op, but I can see how it can be fun played with a friend. However, for fans of the series expecting something like the previous two Wolfenstein games, you should consider skipping it. If you're a Game Pass subscriber, do give it a shot, though.
(Reposted from Hive Gaming)