Hands on: Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review

MachineGames returns with Wolfenstein: Youngblood, a new co-operative chapter in its stylish, ultra-violent shooter series. We've played it, and we just might love it.

First Impressions

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is excellent fun, building upon everything that came before it in satisfying ways while introducing an entirely new way to play in its distinctive co-operative approach. While it has me worried for the main trilogy's conclusion and the sense of agency I have in its characters, I'm confident MachineGames will turn this worry on its head and leave me more smitten than ever

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £34.99
  • Developer: MachineGames/Arkane Studios
  • Genre: FPS
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (version tested)
  • Release Date: July 26, 2019

Who doesn’t love killing Nazis? They’re the quintessential gaming baddie, with players having no reason to show remorse while ripping The Third Reich to shreds. MachineGames has lent on this mantra throughout its revival of Wolfenstein, shunning real-life Nazis alongside virtual ones as an ideology that needs to be stamped out.

Youngblood continues this journey, bringing with it a cavalcade of aesthetic and mechanical changes series we’ve really come to love in recent years. The story-driven solo experience has been transformed into a co-operative experience with the help of Arkane Studios, and it’s a brutish delight to play.

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Wolfenstein Youngblood

Get ready for plenty of stealth stabbing and not-so-stealthy firefights

Youngblood abandons the storyline of the unfolding Wolfenstein trilogy in favour of a self-contained story. Like Old Blood before it, this is an adventure that won’t majorly impact the journey of B.J Blazkowicz, Anna and the growing resistance effort. Instead, it focuses on the twin daughters of our legendary hero – Jess and Soph.

Growing up in a liberated United States, our heroes have lived a life of relative solitude, sheltered from the Nazi Empire whose tyranny once ruled the world. The Resistance is still in the process of liberating Europe, which is where my time with the game begins and ends; amidst the ruined catacombs of a splendidly futuristic Paris.

Raised under the strict eyes of B.J and Anna, our heroes are no stranger to adversary, but they’ve never had to kill. So, when their father is seemingly kidnapped by Nazis right from under their nose, it’s up to them to take up arms and get him back.

It’s a compelling premise, but I can’t help but it feel it takes away from trilogy’s momentum. Given the time period, we can now assume that many of Wolfenstein’s signature characters will make it through events unscathed, living prosperous lives away from the Nazi threat. Unless MachineGames decides to take things further into the future, I can’t help but feel deflated.

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Wolfenstein Youngblood

You’ll need to work together to best some of Youngblood’s larger enemies

Luckily, Youngblood’s narrative chops are more than enough to make up for its lacking consequence. Jess and Soph are brilliant characters. They’re wise beyond their years while still succumbing to the moral carelessness of teenagers as they fall further and further into situations they simply aren’t prepared for. Fortunately, the sibling duo make a fantastic team.

You can choose to play as either Jess or Soph, with the remaining character being controlled by another player or artificial intelligence. I was teamed up with another journalist as we seeked to invade a Nazi airship and discover the whereabouts of our father. Much like Order and Colossus before it, Youngblood can be approached with a mixture of assault and stealth.

Each playstyle rewards you with distinct bonuses, whether this be through the medium of additional experience or extra resources for MachineGames’ enhanced crafting system. We started off taking out enemies silently, but this quickly descended into madness once a crafty fascist spotted me from across the hallway.

I’ve always loved how Wolfenstein never really punishes you for flunking on stealth, and Youngblood continues this trend. In fact, thanks to the twin’s enhanced mobility, hopping between bloody bouts of gunfire and ominous sneak attacks is seamless, and bears an almost rhythmic satisfaction when working alongside another player.

Each foe now has a health bar, often accompanied by an armour gauge that requires a specific type of weapon to dwindle down. It’s an unexpected system for Wolfenstein, yet works suprisingly well when meshed with everything else Youngblood throws into the mix. Arkane Studios’ work on Prey and Dishonored is incredibly evident, with the latter’s DNA bleeding into Youngblood like a morbid tranfusion.

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Wolfenstein Youngblood

Literal Hot Tip: Be very careful around flamethrowers

Arkane Studios’ involvement in Youngblood is evident from the opening moments. Levels are more expansive, boasting multiple routes leading to a single objective as you decide on the best approach. Collectibles are also plentiful once you venture from the beaten path, awarding you with Silver Coins, a new currency used to purchase skins, upgrades and weapon enhancements.

Each stages boasts a sense of new-found vertacility. The twins are capable of double-jumping, bouncing between walls to reach places previously inaccessible. You could decide to occupy a vantage point, providing sniper fire while your partner rushes through enemy lines, eventually finding their way to the objective unscathed.

Having played through the same level a couple of times, I can see Youngblood boasting ample replay value for fans hoping to tackle every approach possible, and with enemy placements seemingly changing with each playthrough, it’s like your foes are actively trying to thwart each new strategy.

You’ll also be forced to work alongside other players to solve puzzles, most of which are rather simplistic. For example, you’ll need to help each other lift a heavy door or read out a code to unlock a gate leading to new locations. I asked MachineGames if these would grow in complexity in later levels, but it seems they’ll be easy enough to never hinder the game’s breakneck pace.

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Wolfenstein Youngblood

A couple of young people taking it to a bunch of fascists feels very relevant in Youngblood

The majority of Youngblood’s most compelling moments come from working with a friend, so I’m curious to see how the solo experience works. I imagine it’s perfectly fine, since the gunplay and movement remain absolutely top-notch. In fact, they feel better than ever. MachineGames’ has introduced a robust customization system that allows you to upgrade things as you see fit.

Essentially, you’re now free to upgrade weapons in a manner that fits how you play. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of silenced pistols or slug-launching shotguns, Wolfenstein has you covered. I adore this versatility, and it seems exploration is encouraged to uncover all the resources needed to completely trick out your arsenal. Donning enhanced mechanical suits, you can also apply skins to the twin’s outfits, although this doesn’t have an impact on gameplay.

Jess and Soph aren’t carbon copies of each other. One can crouch and turn invisible, lurching towards foes wielding a hatchet like a spectrous murderer. The other is a heavy-handed brute, capable of sprinting into enemies and hurling them into the ground. If already weakened, there might be nothing but a bloody puddle left in your wake.

Another radical feature is the emote system, which has a genuine advantage when used. Jess and Soph can perform hand signals which provide notable buffs to health and armour, making them essential practise before diving into a firefight. It’s also very charming, blatant in its reverence to Wolfenstein’s overall sense of carnage.

First Impressions

Wolfenstein Youngblood is excellent fun, building upon everything that came before it in satisfying ways while introducing an entirely new way to play in it’s distinctive co-operative approach.

While it has me worried for the main trilogy’s conclusion and the sense of agency I have on its characters, I’m confident MachineGames will turn this worry on its head and leave me more smitten than ever.

 

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