Wolfenstein Youngblood (Switch) Review
The idea of a co-operative game sounds really great on paper, as you and a friend can play through a game and enjoy an experience together. Wolfenstein Youngblood achieves this; it’s a great game to play with someone else and is entirely designed around it. There’s just a whole load of other little issues stopping it from being as good as it sounds on paper.
Wolfenstein is normally a fairly simple concept. You’ve got a terrific alternative timeline story where Hitler’s Nazis won and rule the world, and it’s your job to tear into them and bring them down. Youngblood does this, and the game’s protagonists relish in it, celebrating their first Nazi kill by vomiting and celebrating, but it also adds a whole bunch of fluff over the top that gets in the way.
Youngblood sees you play as Soph and Jess Blazkowicz, the twin daughters of usual-protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz and Anya Oliwa. There’s a 19-year time jump here from The New Colossus as the girls are now teenagers who have been living safely in liberated America. Like their Dad, they still hate the Nazi’s and relish in an opportunity to take off, get their own power armour, kick some Nazi butt.
Unlike the previous Wolfenstein games, not only is it built for two players, but also its structure has been shaken up with a new way to progress through the story. There’s no linear way through the game, there are instead three parts of Paris to sneak into and around any way you’d like. You’ll get given missions from the Catacombs hub, there are missions which progress the game’s story and a bunch of side missions to level-up and collect loot.
You’ll be returning to the same three ‘spaces’ more than once as you level up through the game, including sections you won’t be able to proceed past simply because your characters won’t be strong enough. You need to do missions, collect cash and loot to power-up your suits and abilities. Weapons can also be upgraded as well with different abilities depending on your play style. You could storm the three towers and finish the story from the outset – but you’re going to have a hell of a time if you don’t try and power up first.
The game does its best to guide you through everything you need to learn to do this, but because of the open-ended nature of the world, there’ll be things you won’t learn when you’re meant to. Things like your suit’s special abilities and even something as simple as what ammo types work more effectively in taking down enemies are such examples. The enemies scale in difficulty with you as well. Even when paired with the right weapon it can take a bit to take down some enemies, they’re real sponges for bullets – and ammo can be scarce especially for more powerful weapons. There’s also the ability to go into stealth mode and avoid all the fighting, but it doesn’t last long; you have to unlock more abilities for it to be useful and by then the game is almost over.
All of this is done with a friend (or random) in your game. This friend can have a copy of the game or, if you bought the Deluxe version of the game, you can share a buddy code with them and they can download the entire thing and play with you (and only you) at no additional cost. Because of the co-op nature of the game, it means it’s always “online” even if you’re playing by yourself. You can’t pause the game really, you’ll have to retreat to the Catacombs to upgrade your kit, weapons and to read the inordinate amount of collectables found in the game world. You’ll want to read them eventually, as some of them are quite fun. You can play Wolfenstein Youngblood by yourself, completely offline, but the game’s AI is never going to be as helpful as a real person, and often is as dumb as a stump.
When you play through the games main story missions, the characters and the game’s story shine through. You can play the game and just play through the story missions but you’ll have a hell of a time trying to finish the game just doing that. That means you’ll need to grind out the side missions. These missions become a chore after a while because they are repetitive, the backtracking sucks, and are super light in the story department.
So what about the Switch version? Can an online co-operative game be played on the Switch where the online isn’t its strongest point? Well of course! How could you think that? The game supports full voice chat without the mobile app, just plug in your headset and it works. Folks can hear you, it took a few games for me to find someone who would acknowledge it did work – guess most Nintendo Online users aren’t used to hearing other people during their games.
The graphics then – well, if you’re buying a game such as Wolfenstein on the Switch you know what you’re going to get. Lower resolutions and it chugs a bit here and there – but it does seem to be better than New Colossus. There’s not as much Vasoline on the lens with low-resolution blurring only occurring when things get really heated (or playing in portable). If you go into this expecting anything more than what you can see in the screenshots you’ll be disappointed – but even then it’s still a technical wonder to get this thing running at all. Behind the lower resolutions and smudge is a beautiful game with a carefully recreated, albeit Nazi-controlled Paris.
A co-operative, almost looter shooter with RPG elements sounds good in theory, but it’s not Wolfenstein. Then again this isn’t meant to be just another game in the series. So the developers should be applauded for trying it, even if it’s not perfect and perhaps it’s just not my cup of tea. If that does sound like yours then you’re in for a good time, even if it’s a short one.
+ An interesting idea
+ Jess and Sophia are super funny
+ Headset support out of the box, no app
- An interesting idea, just not as solid as its predecessors
- Not being able to pause, even when playing by yourself
- A little ugly (but still technically brilliant)