8 Best And Worst Things About Wolfenstein Youngblood

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Let me explain as I guide you through 8 of the best and worst things about Wolfenstein: Youngblood. But first, thanks to Logitech G and the G-four-thirty-two 7.1 Surround Sound gaming headset for sponsoring this video. To check out the tech behind the G-four-thirty-two, click the link in the description. On a surface level Youngblood gets a lot right. I have a bit of a soft spot for the neo-80s fad we’re currently going through as a collective culture of people.

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It just so happens that, in Wolfenstein’s timeline of events, Youngblood finding itself in an 80s Paris reimagined through a Fascist lens makes a lot of sense. It absolutely leans into the time period, too. The opening to the game, which takes place on a zeppelin, features a neon-trimmed, synth-scored casino, complete with a checkerboard dance floor and an assortment of Nazified arcade classics. There’s Nazi Worm, Nazi Frogger and even Nazi Tetris. Perhaps the blocks only spin to the right. This aesthetic carries on throughout the whole game.

The story–BJ going missing and the sisters finding a secret attic office in their house with clues to where he’s gone–feels almost like a Spielberg movie, Reich footsoldiers will have boomboxes blasting out the latest hits from Die Käfer, and a primary means of finding mission-critical information in the world involves you collecting floppy disks to decode on chunky computers with glowing red CRT monitors. I love all of this so, so much, and I’d love a Fashintosh personal computer of my own–if I didn’t think Nazis were s**t, obviously. For the first time in MachineGames’s run with Wolfenstein, we don’t actually find ourselves playing as BJ Blazkowicz.

Jess and Soph, BJ’s twin daughters, take the centre stage for Youngblood, now all grown-up. The best way I can describe the so-called Terror Twins is that they’re like if Beavis and Butthead were Nazi-killing machines in power suits. Another comparison I could make would be to the Kanker Sisters in Ed Edd n Eddy.

Suffice to say, I think they’re absolutely brilliant and I love them both with all my heart. The dynamic that exists between them feels really organic. They talk to each other exactly how sisters would talk to each other, they constantly goof around to the bemusement of the people around them, and their laugh is one of the best things ever rendered into digital audio. There’s plenty of incidental dialogue between them as you explore the streets of Paris as well, which maintains that sibling chemistry throughout. Even if you opt to play solo, with an AI-controlled sister, there’s a great illusion of a living Nazi-basher by your side.

All in all, I care about Jess and Soph Blazkowicz, and I’m invested in their journey. MachineGames have gotten a lot of praise for the cinematography in their take on Wolfenstein. This very channel, in fact, did just that for Wolfenstein: The New Order many moons ago, long before the time of the current team.

That trend will continue with us, though: one of the first things I first noticed when starting up Wolfenstein: Youngblood for the first time was that it’s opening cutscene was packed full of symbolism and dramatic foreshadowing. There’s clever use of lighting and colour, the framing of certain shots convey a lot about the relationships between characters, and… mate, there’s so much more I could go on about with these first few minutes alone that I’d have to make a whole video dedicated to it specifically. Maybe I will! Leave a comment if you’d fancy that.

MachineGames as a studio are only one of a few that actually mess around with stuff like this in a very deliberate way, and I’m 100% here for it. One of the most exciting things about Youngblood for many is that Arkane Studios, the much-loved developers Dishonored and the 2017 reboot of Prey, are coming on board to help MachineGames with the level design. It’s one of the things that my boss and video dad Matthew hoped to see more of when discussing his thoughts on the preview he got his hands on – Machine Games handled the first two areas of the game, which are more linear tutorial levels.

So I’m pleased to confirm that Arkane’s signature is all over much of the game beyond that point. The different districts of Paris each operate as their own miniature open worlds, and they’re two very Arkane-y things: dense, and vertical. Every single district tells its own story through the set design–like the shanty town built around a security barrier in Detention Centre 4, the gut-twistingly high scaffolding on Brother 2, and this Nazi frat den I stumbled across–and there’s about as much exploring upwards than there is left and right. Like all of these balconies, which, if you find a discreet way of jumping up to, allow you to snipe, pinpoint targets, and even leap from rooftop to rooftop.

…Here’s the thing, though. A lot of that really quite fantastic level design feels wasted in the way that Youngblood plays. There’s a double-jump, granted to you by your power suit right from the get-go, that makes ascending through areas a bit easier, but climbing feels clunky. Sometimes I’ll run and jump to try and make it up onto a ledge, and despite being in a perfect position to grab on and hoist myself the rest of the way up, I drop down to the mercy of the Nazis below because that ledge wasn’t precisely knee-height or something.

Another time, I came across a very obvious balcony for sniping and tried to make my way up to it, but the only way I could was if I very carefully jumped up onto a really thin wall lamp, and edged myself ever so slightly here or there until I could just barely, and awkwardly, make the jump. It makes exploring everything there is to see, which I really want to do, feel a bit sluggish. Compare it to the acrobatic experimentation of Dishonoured, or the scenery-vaulting fury of Bethesda’s fellow Doom or Rage, and you just don’t feel like a hero naturally equipped for the playground built for them. As well as a movement system better-suited to Arkane’s level design, there are a number of other apparent holes in Wolfenstein Youngblood where it feels like certain things should be. It’s never been a feature in previous games, but given the widened opportunity from that level design, not being able to pick up and hide the corpses of your Nazi foes feels like a huge oversight and makes a hardcore stealth run of the game painfully difficult to the point of dissatisfaction.

There are some other little details that contribute to this difficulty; you only have a mini-map and no larger map with which to plan out routes, stealth damage bonuses don’t feel as big as they should be at times; but this whole corpse problem really does have a huge and detrimental impact on stealth. Like the games before Youngblood, it feels like something you only do at the beginning of an engagement to pick off tougher targets before going in guns blazing, but with how different environments are here, that doesn’t suffice. The game tells you if you’ve successfully made it through an area without setting off an alarm, but because of all this, I didn’t see it often, and when I did, it’s because I popped on my Cloak and just sprinted to the exit. Similarly, while I get the sense that it’s barebones in an attempt to preserve the core Wolfenstein feel, there are a number of ways in which the co-op, one of the biggest features of the game, doesn’t quite work. There’s a bit of a disconnect between the two players: every item in the game is instanced for that specific player and it doesn’t inform you if your co-op partner has picked something up relevant to the mission or not, meaning a lot of me opening a chest with some silver coins in it and standing around while my partner plays catch-up to find it too.

There are Pep gestures that each sister can use to buff the other in a variety of ways too, but this feels less like co-op and more like an invisible button prompt. Rejigging it so that loot pick-ups are just shared, and perhaps even adding a few extra co-op elements here or there, feels like it could be, quite easily, a much better game. Hell, that inability to pick up bodies?

For some of the larger, hulking Nazi supersoldiers, MachineGames could even have implemented a mechanic where you and your friend drag their corpses both at once in order to shift them behind a bin. That’s just an off-the-cuff idea, really; what I’m trying to say is, it feels like lots of little ideas are underexplored in Youngblood and I find myself wishing Arkane Studios had helped out with more than just the level design. One of the best things about MachineGames’s Wolfenstein is how meaty and heavy and impactful using your weapons feel.

From a technical standpoint, the guns in Youngblood are just as good, if with a few more interesting attachment options and, now, weapon skins. But enemies in Youngblood, as a means of compensating for having two players on the battlefield, are a lot spongier. To a certain extent that makes sense. The problem is that it completely changes how the guns you use operate in the world. In The New Order and The New Colossus, weapons felt powerful because a few bullets here or there would knockback, incinerate, and explode the heads of the Nazis you fought in seconds, sometimes instantly with a well-placed shot.

But in Youngblood, one footsoldier that I came across literally took ten heavy rounds to the face, from an assault rifle configured as a sniper, with the bonus damage granted from stealth, and still didn’t die. It’s an issue I ran into with a lot of encounters. The weapons in MachineGames’s Wolfenstein feel good in large part because of how lethal they are.

And in Youngblood, they feel like dieselpunk paintball guns. Very flashy, very chunky, not very lethal at all. Another feature introduced to make co-op work is the health bars that appear above Nazis’ heads, telling you how much health they have, how much armour they’re wearing, and what the most effective ammunition type against the armour is. I understand why this has been added–it helps in deciding which one of you engages which target–but it ended up making it feel less like I was spraying bullets into Fascist foot soldiers and more like I was draining a meter.

You can’t even turn them off, because that armour indicator can become essential in knowing how you need to be approaching a fight. My eyes became transfixed on these bars and these icons, until it almost felt like I had Nazi face blindness. Which sucks, because I want to be able to look into this f**ker’s eyes when his head explodes. What drew me so strongly to this new iteration of Wolfenstein overall was the story that it had to tell. Exploring an alternate timeline where the Nazis won in such an over-the-top but charming and sometimes even earnest way meant there was a lot of potential for some excellent commentary.

MachineGames even added some emotional drama to BJ Blazkowicz’s story that transformed him from a mass-murdering meathead into quite a human person. The New Colossus’s story, the places it took us to, and the ridiculous yet compelling and loveable characters it introduced to us, were deeply compelling and kept pulling me further and further through the game to its very end. Remember earlier, how I waxed lyrical about Youngblood’s cinematography, how I gushed about Jess and Soph?

Here’s the thing. Once I reached the catacombs, where the Paris Resistance resides and where you operate from as a hub, I very quickly forgot there was a story at all. No cutscenes, no quests that feel like they’re pushing the narrative… just an underground hub world with flat NPCs that send you on fetch quests to the different Paris districts.

There are big missions, like the raids on three big Nazi bases of operations: Brothers 1, 2, and 3, but even within these, there isn’t anything keeping you invested in the story–no cutscenes about each, nor in-between, and they all have boss fights at the end that, while aesthetically different, are laid out the same, with a big central room where a giant robot emerges from the floor, and two wings to the left and right, each containing a Nazi Ubercommander, each with a key that you both put into a machine. There are more cinematic sequences later in the game, but it’s no substitute for those lengthy in-game moments in the earlier games where you’d witness amazing villain monologues or head-spinning twists from BJ’s perspective – a cost of the game becoming co-op, probably, but it leaves the game feeling more narratively barren. Oh, and there are daily and weekly quests. There’s a premium currency too, not yet available or labelled but it looks like it’ll probably be Nazi gold, which you can use to buy weapon and armour skins, for whatever reason. Combined with the big red health bars, a lack of any proper storytelling compared to other games in the series, and quests that amount to “Go to the place, kill lots of dudes, kill the bigger scarier dude, and come back”, it all feels a bit like Destiny, or an MMO generally. Which is a crying shame, because that little hint of what we got at the beginning of the game seemed to have set up something a lot more story-driven and a lot less live-service than what we have.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood makes me a little bit sad, really. On the surface, it has everything I want in a game: a radical 80s aesthetic, an open-ended but not too overwhelmingly expansive world, this bloke with a communist mask, and pile upon pile of Nazi scum to slaughter. But it just hasn’t grabbed me in the way that I hoped or expected it to. Arkane were on-board, there was a lot of potential with the setting, story, and co-op mechanics, but… It’s missing something–a lot of little things–and that’s holding it back from being the incredibly special thing that it could have been. Thanks again to Logitech G for sponsoring this video. Featuring 50mm audio drivers, a 6mm mic and DTS HeadphoneX two point oh surround sound technology under the hood, the G432 headset immerses you in the action and ensures you’ll always be heard for a complete gaming experience.

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