If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This fundamental truth was apparently ignored by the developers of the new Wolfenstein: Youngblood. There are numerous examples clearly showing that resurrecting classic FPS games makes sense if you don't diverge too much from the source material – which should be particularly obvious for the devs of this exact franchise. The new Doom and the latest installments of Wolfenstein provided simple, juicy and dynamic mayhem, just like in the old days.
Kids, however, love to disobey, often forsaking the achievements of their parents. Sophie and Jess, the daughters of William J. Blazkowicz, and, at the same time, the protagonists of Wolfenstein: Youngblood, did exactly that with the Wolf legacy – figuratively, but still. This developers from Arkane Studios and MachineGames have overdone it. Gameplay enhancements such as the co-op, RPG elements, daily challenges, ubiquitous grind and bullet-sponge enemies were not what the series needed. The result is an indigestible cocktail that just doesn't work – to add insult to injury, it's hard to even find anything that would make it fun.
THE POWER OF NOSTALGIA
The newest installment does not completely forsake its roots. Inside a secret base of the French resistance, we can find an arcade machine, which runs the cult Wolf in the original version. Which – for me at least – was the highlight moment of Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
Replay, replay! Ah, what’s the point…
- interesting level design with multiple paths;
- co-op can be fun with a friend;
- finding co-op partners is convenient;
- cool enemies and guns.
- bullet-sponge enemies botch the shooting mechanics;
- terrible system of respawns;
- backtracking; the same enemies respawning in the same spots;
- elements of endgame in a small, cramped world are pointless; it’s a looter-shooter without loot – the game is poor at motivating for bigger challenges;
- silly, rudimental plot without interesting characters.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is just a spin-off. This, of course, allows for more deviation from the original; the devs have more room to maneuver and alter switch things around. The idea of playing co-op with the two sisters wasn't bad. Playing with a friend, or at least a random player, is the most fun way of experiencing the game. It's obvious the game was designed with co-op as the default mode. It's even possible to invite a friend, who doesn't own the game (unfortunately, you need a more expensive edition to be able to do that...), and the single-player campaign is virtually hidden in the main menu.
If, however, you're certain you prefer to play alone, or you’re paired with an extremely unskilled player, you have to be prepared to face a great obstacle – the lousy, subpar save system. Instead of checkpoints, we have traditional three lives to use up – for both characters! If you're playing alone, the incompetence of the AI-driven sister makes this system a tool of torture, especially in boss fights. If you lose all three lives, you have to reload to the very beginning of the level. So, if you die late in the mission, the worst-case-scenario is having to replay twenty to forty minutes of the same level. Not only do we waste lots of time, it also further exacerbates the feeling of ubiquitous backtracking.
OFFLINE WITHOUT PAUSE
The co-op mode is rooted in the game's DNA so deeply that you cannot pause even when playing offline solo! Game menu or inventory should only be accessed in the safe zones of the resistance – otherwise, we're under constant threat of being killed while checking gun stats. Bear that in mind when you have to answer a callwhile playing, otherwise you'll be repeating the same twenty minutes of the game all over. We hope the devs mend that with a patch. Soon.
It doesn’t look good from up here!
The developers have prepared a Metroidvania of sorts, and have the players revisit the same locations to unlocking previously inaccessible passages with newly acquired gear. Exploration isn't quite fun, though, as it lacks substantial rewards. The shortcomings of the game only become more apparent here, with the respawn system being the chief concern. As a result, each subsequent mission begins with a sprint and a giant slalom – bypassing the opponents.
Why would you want to avoid combat in a game like this? Mainly because the enemies are always in the same places, and because shooting isn't as fun as in previous installments. For some vague reason, the developers implemented RPG-development of weapons and characters, as well as painstaking grinding for improvements, along with opponents’ health system known from Destiny or The Division, where enemies have health bars and shields that you need to deplete. In fact, most of them are typical bullet sponges, defeating whom (after packing five full clips into their heads) yields no real reward, not even some interesting loot. Already during the second or third attempt, the only rational solution seems running through the level and bypassing enemies, rather than fighting them.
This is surprising because the Blazkowicz sisters, for the most part, use the same, well-designed guns as their dad in the previous games. The opponents also come in all shapes and sizes, and if we only encounter the weakest enemy every now and then, who falls dead with a single shot to the face, the familiar thrill of shooting cyber-Nazis comes back in an instant. Too bad the devs pulled no real effort in creating clever combat mechanics that would actually make use of the cooperation, instead of just giving the enemies oversized health bars.