TL;DR – Wolfenstein Youngblood is a co-op shooter with MMO elements. It’s heavy on the action, but smaller in scope compared to a full-fledged Wolfenstein game. It’s fun solo, but best played with a friend.
When Wolfenstein: The New Order dropped, I was instantly a fan. And when the sequel, The New Colossus, released I was there day one continuing the story of BJ Blazkowicz. But when Youngblood came out, I passed. It didn’t seem like the type of game I wanted to play. It was a side story, and as someone who watches anime, fillers aren’t something I look forward to watching. Fast forward to 2020, and here I am, wondering why I didn’t play this game sooner.
Game Structure – Wolfenstein Meets Destiny
The first thing you must know – Youngbloods is a hybrid of traditional first-person and online shooters like Destiny. Your home base, the Catacombs, is similar to the tower in Destiny. You’ll receive quests, daily and weekly challenges from residents in the Catacombs.
When you’re not in the catacombs, you’re in four open-world zones completing missions. As you explore these zones, you might receive a call from your friend Abby, informing you of tasks to finish in the area. If this sounds more like an MMO, it’s by design. A game session in Youngbloods might look like this:
Get missions from the base
Return to base to complete the task by updating guest giver
You level up
Return to the streets.
Complete enough missions, and you’ll be strong enough to run raid missions. Raids serve as your main story missions and the most challenging content in the game. There are four raids in the game, and each plays differently than the next. Completing the story will open up end game content where missions sit between a standard mission and a raid in terms of difficulty and length.
If you’re a fan of the Wolfenstein series, the story takes place years after the events of the second game. BJ killed Hitler, and America is free, but there is more to the story as he disappears from home, with his daughters looking for him. In terms of story, Youngblood feels more like DLC. It does, however, set us up for the next major installment in the series.
Solo vs. Co-op
There are two ways to play Youngbloods – co-op with friends or solo with the computer as your ally. After playing solo, with friends, and random people, I can say the definitive way to play the game is online with a friend. This game requires communication, and randomly running around will get you killed, or separated from your sister. Playing with random players is hit or miss as most people I played with aren’t using a mic. And unlike Destiny, where people know where to go and what do thanks to repetition, you’ll spend more time wondering what the hell the other person is thinking. There were moments when I would enter a room cloaked, killing enemies silently only to have the plan blow up in my face because my teammate ran into the room guns blazing.
Playing the game solo has its benefits. You can take your time and explore, attack situations with stealth, only having to worry about your mistakes. The AI does an excellent job of keeping up with you. However, their capability is limited, as you can point out enemies for her to focus on, but you can’t send her places to attack. This inability to command your sister becomes a problem as you progress in the game. Enemies become more hardened and require you to flank them shoot at weak spots. However, because your sister follows you and enemy AI has a habit of focusing solely on you, it’s hard to get the angles you need.
Playing with friends alleviates all the problems of playing solo and with randoms. You can coordinate a plan of attack, and if things go wrong (they probably will), you can make adjustments on the fly. For example, during the raid of Brother 2, I navigated my friend past a group of guards as I took them out from a catwalk in the back of the room. And when one of us was injured, it was easier to figure out where to meet to revive them.
The Pitfalls of Quickplay
I want to take a moment to talk about the quickplay option in the game. This option will drop you in a game, regardless of where you are in the story. In one quick play session, I learned of a central plot twist before I was supposed to. If you want to use quick play, I suggest finishing the story first.
Upgrade Systems – Character and Weapons
As you progress through the game, you earn perk points as you level up and silver coins from completing missions and exploration. The perk points let you upgrade your character abilities. There are three groups of abilities:
Mind (Health-related perks)
Muscle (Armor, dual wielding, heavy weapons)
Power (Your suit’s special abilities)
You can build your character for stealth, combat, or combination of both. If you favor stealth, you can put points into your cloaking ability and silent takedown skills. Or you could upgrade the heavy weapons perk and the crash ability, which lets you damage enemies by running into them and knocking them down.
You spend your silver coins to buy various modifications to upgrade your weaponry. Modifications have brands, and each brand has it’s own ‘brand bonus’ when stacked together. You can mix and match brand modifications, and when you reach a certain level, you can improve your modifications, making them even more lethal. There is also a mastery system that increases your damage output the more your use it.
Upgrade your suit and weapons, and the real fun begins. By the end of the game, you become a walking death machine. Your guns will be powerful enough to defeat any foe, and your suit will fully tap into your play style.
Wolfenstein Youngblood, like the games before it, is fast-paced, gory, and in your face. The shooting mechanics feel good. There is a heft to the recoil and weapon handling. A shootout feels like Rambo- spray and pray. Over time, you can upgrade your weapons for precision, but when the shit hits the fan, you’ll grab for whatever gets the job done. Character movement also feels good. I never felt like I would die because my character couldn’t aim.
The game also introduces some stealth mechanics; however, I found them to be lacking compared to the rest of the combat systems. Stealth kills can only happen from behind, limiting your tactics when cloaked. I also found problems when initiating a stealth kill. Some times the prompt would show, other times it wouldn’t. There are throwable weapons that you can use for stealth kills; however, I continuously ran into a glitch which denied me from picking them up after a kill.
Even on normal difficulty, the game is challenging. Enemies will flank you and work together. If there is a commander in the area, he will call for heavily armed backup, forcing you to choose how you approach things. If you play too recklessly, you will die. The sisters share three lives, and life is only lost when a character bleeds out. However, you can revive them before bleeding out.
Cover mechanics have always been iffy in first-person shooters. Unless you move to a third-person view while in cover, you’re just hiding behind walls and block your view. You do have the ability to lean out from behind walls, but it never worked how I wanted it to. I never knew what was considered cover and what wasn’t so I would just run and gun, which was more fun to do anyway. The one thing I didn’t like was the mechanics to switch weapons. I found myself more, staring at the ground, trying to work the weapon wheel while avoiding fire. Which is not the place you want to be in a firefight.
Here’s a note I wrote while playing the game.
I wish there were more games like this.
Wolfenstein Youngbloods is the summer action blockbuster. It’s what you want to play when you don’t feel like sinking hours into the next big thing. I had fun playing this game, and when I finished the story, I kept playing. And that’s something I’ll hardly do. If you have Xbox Game Pass, download this game.