Wolfenstein Youngblood review: In my day, we called this an expansion pack

Game Details

Developer: MachineGames, Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda
Platform: Windows PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 25 (Windows), July 26 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch)
Rating: M for Mature
Price: $29.99
Links: Steam | AmazonOfficial website 

Five years ago, the Wolfenstein game series enjoyed a triumphant return as a back-to-basics excuse to virtually slaughter hundreds of mechanized Nazis.

Its 2017 sequel was fine enough but failed to turn any gears in terms of gameplay evolution. And now we have  game in the series, which lands in curious fashion—with little promotion or buzz, without a “sequel” designation, and sold at the atypically low new-game price of $29.99.

Though it’s being sold as a standalone game, this week’s makes more sense when described as an expansion pack—albeit one that doesn’t require owning the last game, which might be a point in its favor. The 2017 sequel’s assets have been recycled and reshuffled to bring us a new adventure full of enemies, weapons, abilities, and geometry chunks we’ve seen before. This time, those assets are born anew as a co-op campaign (which can be played alone, in a pinch).

Honestly, it’s a solid idea on developer MachineGames’ part. If you gobbled up , then you can enjoy another heaping helping of the series’ no-nonsense combat, weighing in at roughly 20 hours. If you skipped that sequel, you can expect the co-op twist to provide  enough new stuff to make it a worthwhile romp, alone or with a friend. In either case, this new entry builds upon the best level-design qualities of the 2017 game to make it an intriguing alternative to modern co-op shooters.

Just be warned: there isn’t much “young” about , and it certainly doesn’t have enough new or interesting ideas to unseat the co-op shooter likes of . But there sure is a lot of “blood”—and for a certain breed of shooting fan, that might be enough.

Soph’s choice

It’s the early 1980s, and series hero BJ Blazkowicz has returned to his Texas farm to raise twin butt-kicking daughters. Shortly after we see Jess and Soph’s militaristic training—courtesy of mom and dad—we learn that BJ has vanished without telling either his family or the American feds where he’s gone. The twins secretly discover his mission: to wipe out Nazi forces in Paris. (For the uninitiated, Hitler’s Nazis are still an entrenched force in MachineGames’ version of the ’80s, even though BJ killed Hitler in a previous game.)

One covert flight to France later, the 18-year-old twins suit up in search of their missing dad—and are eager to kill any Nazis in their way.

While ‘s first mission repeats the cramped-corridor annoyances that plagued too much of , the new game quickly broadens its level design to beautiful, wide-open cities. And that’s good—not only because ‘s most fun levels emphasized open-air bombast but also because is at its best when two players have multiple angles and vantage points to split up. You and a friend can expect to divide a given battle arena up by flanking points, by a variety of tunnels, or by varying heights, then rotate and react accordingly from there once the fireworks begin.

All by yourself?

If you want to play the game solo, ‘s AI partner system works well enough. Enemy difficulty scales down a tad, and your ally will pitch in by attacking enemies as it sees fit. Plus, should you run out of health, your AI partner will be smart enough to pick you back up roughly 95% of the time. (That lacking 5% sure is a pain in the butt, when your AI partner hovers over your body but fails to revive you during a heated battle.)

But the game lacks any form of single-player tactical system, such as ordering your partner to remain stealthy or run to a particular location. As a result, some of the game’s best co-op level design is harder to exploit in solo play.

If you and your co-op gaming pal have missed the past five years of the rebooted Wolfenstein series, you’re in for an action-packed treat. Like its predecessor, the game is built on the idTech 6 Engine, which means it’s still good-looking  runs efficiently on a range of consoles and PC hardware. You’ll enjoy no less than a 60fps refresh (unless you’re on Nintendo Switch) while juggling super-charged versions of every standard military-shooter weapon under the sun. Use your lightning-spewing “lasergewehr” gun to make robot foes explode, shatter, and sparkle; then use your machine-reloading shotgun to make human foes crumble, gib, and splatter. Dramatic lighting and particle effects are drizzled over every blast- and laser-filled battle, and the results will likely keep you tapping your dedicated “screen shot” button.

For the most part, MachineGames and Arkane Studios (who teamed up on this semi-sequel’s development) have leaned into the best ideas from to make sure every multiplayer fight includes a delectable variety of combat zones, often chained together in a “semi-open world” format. Extravagant multi-story buildings fill out much of this game, all full of natural cover points and reasons to run down stairs or jump to higher positions. Plus, it’s easy to see the Arkane influence in a few of the more ornate levels, which have all the same verticality-filled trappings of Arkane’s games.

The worst I can say about a few of these levels is that they might be massive; I had a few moments during pre-release testing where my teammate and I lost track of each other in the course of a battle. I’d hardly call that a “complaint.”

Pep in your step

If your squad  torn through its fair share of Wolfenstein games before, the sales pitch is a bit tougher. has done little to ramp up the game’s enemy variety—let alone its AI—while boss battles revolve around simple, repetitive patterns and sky-high hit-point counts. (Honestly, this new game’s boss qualities feel ripped from the worst parts of .) There’s also the matter of many zones recycling a lot of the same visual touches, and often I felt like I was battling through generic, Nazi-occupied Euro-wherever.

Beyond the first-blush fun of trying a new gameplay experience, what exactly does a friend add to the Wolfenstein experience? In terms of mechanics, I’m sad to say that it’s all rote stuff. Should either twin sister run out of health and keel over, the surviving sibling can rush to their teammate and then hold a button for two seconds to bring them back to their feet with a sliver of health. Fail to manually revive a teammate this way and you’ll have to burn through your squad’s shared pool of “lives” to keep the fight going.

Cost and split-screen

In good news, if you buy the game’s $40 “deluxe” edition, anyone on your online friends list can join your co-op session for completely free, no purchase required. They won’t rack up trophies and achievements, and they’ll be beholden to your online status, but if you have a single ideal co-op playmate, that may work out just fine.

In awful news, no version of the game includes a split-screen option to enable the “free second player” scenario the way we all used to do it: on the same screen. On my lower-powered Windows laptop, I got the game to run at well over 150fps at 1080p resolution. Tell me why I can’t double that rendering load and play the game with a second controller attached, Bethesda.

Each sister can equip a single rechargeable “pep talk” ability. When used, this gives both players some kind of temporary boost (health, armor, weapon damage). You can eventually unlock a variety of pep talk options (with only one equipped at a time), and working out an ideal combo with a squadmate is imperative to survive tougher difficulties.

In ‘s new level-up system, you can dump experience points and coins into various stat categories, but these don’t afford divergent gameplay styles. Honestly, the only notable strategy choice I found boils down to stealth or sheer power. The problem is that if either player sets off an alarm or catches a guard’s attention,  players’ covers are blown. Thus, you’ll want to carefully coordinate with a friend if you have stealth on your mind.

That’s it for major co-op options and abilities. Did you expect some sort of mega-‘splosion blood frenzy where one player controlled a super-robot’s legs and the other player swung its massive, murdering arms all over the place? That sure  like the robo-Nazi chaos we’ve come to love from MachineGames’ shooter series.

But feels most like a glorified expansion pack when boiled down to its underwhelming co-op tricks. That feeling only grows more intense when I think of the much more specialized skill trees found in the likes of and . , in comparison, only has one “class” to speak of, and it’s the equivalent of an MMO’s “ranged DPS” category. Dish out tons of damage, all while constantly moving, because your pep talk abilities simply aren’t strong enough to qualify as either “tank” or “healer” material.

[ufc-fb-comments url="http://www.newyorkmetropolitan.com/tech/wolfenstein-youngblood-review-in-my-day-we-called-this-an-expansion-pack"]

Latest Articles

Related Articles