Wolfenstein: Youngblood (2019)
When MachineGames took over the Wolfenstien franchise, and made a new modern shooter out of it, I was hesitant, but gave it a shot anyways. I always enjoyed the Wolfenstein games going all the way back to Wolf 3D. After two amazing games (and one side story game) instead of putting out a third, they decided to go with another budget title and time jump to the 80’s and follow the daughters of BJ Blazkowitz.
To say this game is a let down in every single category would be an understatement. It’s a budget game in every conceivable way. To start off, instead of playing as BJ, a character who has had an incredibly interesting run so far, who in interesting and one who I want to spend much more time with, I get stuck playing as one of the two daughters, around 17 years old. These are dorky, uncoordinated redneck hick girls with super thick redneck accents. Everything that comes out of their mouths make me feel like I am watching a family guy skit involving the south.
They are neither funny or interesting. BJ is shown teaching one of his daughters how to shoot and hunt and the other is learning to fight with her mom. This is the most character development until the last 30 mins of gameplay and its such a shame. The girls are just boring and unfunny. I hated playing as them and didn’t want to have anything to do with them. It doesn’t help that I have to look at one of them the entire game, as this is a co-op only game and since I am playing by myself, it’s just an AI controlled character running around with me.
The story is BJ is missing in Paris, and the sisters go to find him. The cutscene setting everything up, wasn’t anything interesting, and the returning characters from 1 and 2 barely show up. Instead we are forced to care about some resistance in Paris as the Nazis have occupied the country. In order to find info about where BJ is, the girls have to help a ragtag band of misfits push back the Nazi forces. Sound familiar? It’s because it is. So many games have this sort of story, and it’s bland and boring. I had to force myself to just play through these missions just to get to the good stuff.
I didn’t care about this story at all after the first cutscene and around 8 hours in, there was another cutscene, I walked to the bathroom and just didn’t even care what was happening. I came out of the bathroom and watched the rest of the cutscene, and it happened to be actually interesting. That was the pivot point for me, I actually cared about the characters. Because it wasn’t just a bunch of fetch quests and idle information, like the game was until then. It actually made me invested and got me to care about what happens to these characters.
For the next two hours I did enjoy the game more, and that is because there was something at stake. It gave me a sense of real purpose. Unfortunately, the game is set up a bit different than the other games in the new series. You have a hub world, where you can talk to people and find little items, but it’s more of a maze, and hard to really get a sense of direction. It’s too big for its own good, as it doesn’t really serve any actual purpose. Just get a mission from one of three characters, and then go to the map and deploy.
Once on the map, you can choose three main locations and you just spend the entire game in these three locations, going back and forth doing fetch quests and coming back to turn them in. Then do it all over again. Enemies spawn and only change up what enemies are in the same spawn points as you level up. You just fight a never ending supply of Nazis, and that cane be only fun for so long. The levels themselves are well made, and interesting, but feel lifeless. Maybe that is the point a bit, because of the setting, but even then. It really does feel like this didn’t have a lot of time to be worked on.
The core gameplay of shooting Nazis is still fun and enjoyable. The weapons are powerful enough for you to feel like you are doing a significant amount of damage, however the enemies are very bullet spongy. Luckily if you invest into upgrading your weapons well, and are able to aim decently, you can make headshots that explode the heads of the Nazis and drop them in one shot. This does require either precision or, if you are like me, enough armor to run up and just start shooting people point blank in the face.
Later near the end of the game, enemies become a bit too much of the bullet sponge variety. They are in massive armor suites and have full helmets that make headshots impossible. The only way to eat through their armor quickly and without wasting all of your ammo for all of the guns is to switch to the late game laser weapon. That thing rips through armor extremely well, almost too well, as if it feels a bit too overpowered.
The real big issue with the game is the pacing. Everything up until the last hour or so seems so boring, once you find BJ, the game gives you a bit of time with the last powerup that allows you to catch bullets like Neo, and toss them back. The main big bad guy of the game, the final boss is one of the most annoyingly bullet sponge heavy bosses I’ve ever encountered. The game really doesn’t explain the powers well, and there is so much chaos happening around you, trying to read the text on how to defeat the boss is basically impossible. Remember, this is an online only co-op game too, so pausing is out of the question. The only way I was able to defeat the boss was looking up a strategy online and read how the boss fight functioned. From there, I was able to create a basic plan and cheese my way to victory. The boss has a one shot kill, which will make you restart over and over if you don’t cover the entire time and firing the most powerful weapons at him do absolutely nothing. There is a massive circular cement podium in the middle of the arena, and you have to just circle around it and cheap shot him for what seems like around 10 minutes before his health is dwindled down enough and the fight is over. It’s a hollow win, and makes the game feel extremely cheap, as it's downright cheap and unfair fight. Nothing you do, no strategy or combination of skills work other than you yourself being cheap and lame.
YoungBlood is a budget game and it shows. It felt fine at times, even fun with the gunplay. It’s enjoyable to murder hundreds of Nazis and the weapons are rad and feel powerful in ways most games don’t. But everything else, from the storyline to the characters are all so bland and boring until the end, when it gets good, and you get invested… then it ends. What baffles me is the time jump. Why? Literally one of the first things that happens when you start is you hear how BJ is famous because he is the one that killed Hitler. How is that just a throwaway line at the beginning and skipped over?
Most assumed that with the ending of Wolf 2 back in 2017, it was going to lead into a third game where you kill Hitler or even bring forth Mecha-Hitler. But with Youngbloods skipping so much it makes it seem like that might not happen now in the supposed third numbered game in the series. I did hear about a theory that since Youngblood does end on a bit of a cliffhanger of sorts, that it can set the stage for Hitler coming back in a mech suit. It does make sense if you think about it, since if you read the nazi letters and internal memos that you find throughout the game, they all end with the “Heil Hitler” sign off. So I can totally see a third real game coming out, sticking with the timeline of it being the 80’s and having BJ kill Hitler once again, in his mechanized form.
For all of Youngblood’s weaknesses, which there are a lot of. I’d still say it was fun. A small little budget game to play while listening to a podcast or music. Not taking it too seriously and just enjoy the quick 10 hours ride it has. Not everything has to be a full 30+ hour game. This one keeps it nice and simple, like an expansion pack. And that is how I view Youngblood, an expansion pass to add onto the ending of Wolf 2 and give a bit of a bridge to span the gap of time and allow characters to change and grow and new ones to be introduced and not make the third game feel so crowded.