To say I am a fan of iD software could be a slight understatement, the studio has always been very near and dear to my heart, especially with games like Wolfenstein and DOOM. When it was originally announced that Machine Games would be taking over the Wolfenstein series I did have my hesitations, but to see the series from what it was to what it is now, I have to say Machine Games was the right choice to take over this amazing series.
With that said, there have already been two games in the series that were full of Nazi killing fun, but now with the help of Arkane Studios, we are seeing a Wolfenstein like never before. Wolfenstein Youngblood is the first Co-op game in franchise history but does it live up to past or does Youngblood go in a direction we don't want to follow? Let's Dive in…
A STORY SERVED BEST WITH FRIENDS
Set 19 years after New Colossus, Wolfenstein Youngblood lets you take the role of either Jessie "Jes" and Zofia "Soph" Blazkowicz, Anya and BJ's Twin daughters. Raised in a Liberated America, all Jes and Soph want to do is kill Nazi scum. After being trained since day one by their parents to take on the Nazi Army, their chance finally comes to them when their dad, BJ, goes missing. After Grace Walker, the new Director of the FBI, tells them they can't go find their father, Abby (Grace's daughter) and the Terror Twins go on their own to a Nazi-controlled Paris to kick some ass and find BJ.
The vibe of the story was pretty cool from the start. Two Twins trained by BJ Blazowicz and his wife Anya just to kill Nazis? Who wouldn't want to play this game, especially with friends? The story does have its plot twists and crazy, yet corny moments but what I loved the most was the connection the sisters Jes and Soph had.
At first, I can't lie and say I was the most excited for this game but as time went on, I noticed the connection the sisters had throughout the game, I couldn’t help but really love the direction this game was going. Not only do we see two women in the lead of a crazy over-the-top FPS title, we see these characters grow before our eyes and turn into as good if not better soldiers than their father ever was.
Then right when I felt comfortable with the goofy jokes, interactions, and overall playful nature of the Terror Twins, the game took a turn. Wolfenstein Youngblood seamlessly transitions from lighthearted fun to feeling sorry for these two young women. As I got further into the story I started to realize that yes the Twins we’re very empowered, but they were also cursed before they were even born to have no normal childhood. I'm sure there were some good times, but the fact that they were trained for pretty much their whole lives just to take on the Nazis made me only want them to find happiness. It really made me think a lot about the current world events and how they will affect my own children’s lives.
The main plot of the game was pretty cut and dry, kill Nazis and find BJ. Sometimes I would want a bit more depth for this type of game but with the title only priced at $29.99, as a fan, I really can't complain. What I can complain about is the use of an AI companion compared to a co-op companion, this changed the game for me dramatically. The game is of course marketed as a co-op game, but the reason for me playing with mainly an AI companion was merely me having no luck finding people online.
Every time I would start the game, I would have the setting to “Open” so anyone could join...but of course, the time someone did join they would leave either during the battle or not move to help me. With the AI companion, though they would help sometimes there were more than enough times that she would stop moving, shoot at a random wall, or even get stuck which would make me restart the level. This made me almost beg for a human companion to join my game, but I knew I wasn't going to find someone to stay in the game.
Another thing that just really hurt my experience was the overall difficulty of the enemies. Yes, I understand with different enemies comes different more difficult challenges, but I never expected to be pushed so hard to the brink of rage quitting even in easy mode. With all the crazy character's like the Panzerhund, Super Soldier, and Laserhund coming for the Terror Twins, you want to level your character up as much as possible. Most heavy enemies like the ones I just mentioned are really big bullet sponges, I actually found myself using almost all my ammo just to take down one or two of these enemy types. Another problem here is the RPG element added to the game that allows enemies to level along side of the host player. It makes me almost wonder why they even added a leveling system if the difficulty level was set so high in the first place. We can say that since launch patches have been released to help balance the games difficulty more.
Though the leveling system was a weird thing for me, I can say the option to customize your characters, weapons, and skill tree on the fly was a really nice addition. No matter where I was in the game, all I had to do was go to the menu and change what I wanted or upgrade what I wanted, save the changes and jump back into the action. This was a really nice feature that I wish more games would add. There is nothing worse than having to go all the way back to your HQ or shop just to customize what you want. On the fly customization is what we need in games and Wolfenstein Youngblood hit it out of the park with this option.
BEAUTY ALWAYS COMES WITH A CATCH
One thing that really stood out in Youngblood was the level design. Arkane Studios was over this side of the game and you can definitely see a difference compared to previous installments in the franchise. When you get out of the early tutorial missions, you head to larger levels like Paris and man did I get a huge Dishonored vibe.
The Twins can of course jump and traverse large-scale buildings, climb to ledges and even access rooms unavailable from the ground floor, but I can't say there was the same excitement and thrill as there was in something like Dishonored 1 and 2. Playing Dishonored, you could easily travel to an upstairs rooms or even the top of buildings using your Void power Blink. The problem in Youngblood is you have no Void powers, you only have the jumping provided by your power suit. There were many times I found areas that looked like they were meant for exploring, but because my limited jumping and travel skills, I couldn't get to said areas or it took multiple tries to just find out there was barely any loot in the room.
I just feel this was a really underutilized version of the game. The looks of the levels were breathtaking, but when you have a studio like Arkane helping create the world, you’d think they’d have made better use of the exploration in the game. With it having a larger RPG Element, I would have liked to have even a relic side-quest where you find relics from past Wolfenstein games or relics from the history of cities like Paris. We were able to find items like this in previous Wolfenstein titles. I just wish they would have kept that element around.
Lastly, another thing I feel was something we really could have used more of was crazy retro music. Something I love about DOOM is when you go head first into battle with demons we get a blast of fast-paced heavy metal, this gets my blood pumping every time and gets me more into the action. Something I loved about the Announcement trailer from E3 was the blasting of the retro 80s club music while the Twins ripped through all the Nazi scum.
This isn't something that happened a lot in game. When I came up on enemy forces, I was usually just met with a siren and then some yelling from the soldiers. I really wish I would have instead got a blast of 80s music. Hell, it would have been even cooler to let us choose said music through some sort of Nazi-created Walkman. In the game you can pick up cassettes to unlock more music anyways, so why not let the girls wear walkmans and let the player choose the music they want to play. There could have even been a little animation of the girls switching the cassette out or something.
As most of you can tell, though I liked the core of the game I just can't help but feel there were a ton of missed opportunities with Youngblood. We could have used more exploration, less difficult bullet sponge enemies, more badass music, and well more of a Wolfenstein feel. As I played this game I realized that yes, this looks a lot like Wolfenstein, but it just isn't the same Wolfenstein we have come to love. Making games is a really hard task, especially conceptualizing this game. When iD, Machine Games, and Arkane started this project I am sure they were setting out to make something familiar, but new at the same time. Only problem with that is...don't fix what's not broken. Though this was a cool concept, the series really didn't need this type of change. The good thing is that the game is only set at $29.99, so for that price I can't say not to buy it, but just know that this is a game you will want to play with a friend instead of alone.