Having not really delved into the world of Wolfenstein until Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus on Nintendo switch, I came out of that experience completely blown away. So, when Bethesda announced it was bringing its sequel Wolfenstein: Youngblood to Switch, I was eager to get my hands on it.
Youngblood attempts to implement mechanics within the series for the first time. Sadly, most of those new additions are unnecessary changes for the franchise.
Wolfenstein II was ported extremely well to Nintendo Switch by the experts over at Panic Button. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the graphics the studio managed to pump out of Nintendo’s hybrid console. I’ll be honest, I’m not a stickler for graphics, frame-rate, or resolution. And with that said, it’s obvious to me that Youngblood is a downgrade from Wolfenstein II in the visuals department. There are frame-rate issues, and there are visible resolution downgrades during gameplay. This wouldn’t be as bad had I not experienced more than a handful of crashes during my playthrough.
To add to that, you’ll notice a lot of pop-in and muddy textures during cutscenes. Luckily, the bulk of the gameplay offers a much more finessed experience. And from what I’ve seen, other platforms are much the same.
On Switch, the game uses an odd effect to hide the blurry renders when they are at a distance, almost burring everything out completely. You often won’t be able to tell what exactly is in front of you until you get around 10-to-15 feet away from it. This is most visible during extremely open sections of the game. Luckily, close-quarter areas look pretty slick. Even in intense combat situations with explosions galore, I never saw any jarring graphical issues. This was almost a bonus for me as the close-quarter firefights in Youngblood happen to be my favorite part of the game. But more on that later. Open areas with a lot going on are the exact opposite. Frame-rate tanks and things look even blurrier than usual.
Firefights are still a blast
Wolfenstein: Youngblood puts more emphasis on traversal elements this time around. From the beginning, you have a double jump ability at your disposal. The Blazkowicz sisters can utilize this aerial move for combat, but it’s also useful for exploration to find secret items and areas.
One thing I immediately noticed in Youngblood was the attention to detail in the environments. While the Switch version’s graphics aren’t exactly earth-shattering, there is still plenty of detail in this rendition of 1980s Paris to pause and appreciate. The world looks very much lived in. I often found myself exploring and imagining what events transpired prior to the duo leading their charge.
With Wolfenstein: Youngblood being an open-world style game, you’ll find it necessary to explore a bit more than prior Wolfenstein games, and is a nice change of pace for the series. You’ll find ammo and upgrade tokens throughout France. This is essential as you’ll scavenge enough in-game currency to upgrade your character’s attacks, guns, and special abilities. It might sound a bit odd to put down on paper, but choosing how you’ll build your character into the ultimate Nazi killer is a lot of fun.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood lets you approach missions with either guns-a-blazing or stealth tactics. And sometimes, changing your strategy is the key to success. For one mission, I decided I would go in hot, guns locked and loaded. However, that didn’t work out so well due to the heavy-armor enemies in the area. So, then, I took the stealth approach and realized I was making it way harder than I needed to. It was quite satisfying to use invisibility to sneak throughout an area. Driving your knives into Nazi skulls is done stylishly and never really gets old.
Later on, in that same mission, my cover was blown and all hell broke loose. It was an adrenaline-pumping segment that reminded me just how badass Wolfenstein can be. To me, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is at its best when you feel like you’re in danger and are hanging on for control of the situation.
As I was saying before, close-quarter fights are intense. Not just because of the faces is being blown off at high speed, but the sound design and musical score are fantastic. The music is reminiscent 80s tracks with a bit of modern touch to it. It really sets the mood for Nazi slaying while still adding context.
Let me pause my video game
One of my biggest Gaming pet peeves found it’s way into Youngblood. You can’t pause the game when playing in the solo offline mode. I know what you’re thinking, “What if you are playing offline?” It doesn’t matter! You still can’t pause it. Even if you go offline, in airplane mode, or press the Switch home button, it still won’t pause the action on screen. In short–it annoys the heck out of me. Sometimes people need to use the restroom, check on the kids, see who’s at the door, or God forbid you have to sneeze. I honestly don’t understand why the studio wouldn’t include this necessary feature, especially considering the ability to play solo and offline. Wolfenstein has always been a single-player series with that feature so you’d think the studio would want to cater to its single-player audience.
Another gripe I have with Wolfenstein: Youngblood is its checkpoint system. If you fight your way through an hour’s worth of enemies only to die during the last battle of the mission, you’ll be forced to start back at the beginning. Yes, you read that correctly. You can lose an hour or more of progress if you die. I don’t understand why Machine Games and Arkane Studios wouldn’t offer a checkpoint system mid-mission, especially if that means you and a partner have to start all the way over again. Much like the lack of a pause option, this seems like a huge oversight. I assume it’s to add more suspense to the gameplay and entice co-op players to work together. Instead, it just deeply aggravates me more than the whole pausing situation.
Story (or lack thereof)
As for the story, I was invested early on. It follows BJ’s twin daughters who embark on a search for him and the mystery behind why he disappeared. Familiar faces pop-up and the acting is still top-notch. However, after the first few hours of the game, it changes from traditional, linear, story-driven Wolfenstein to an open-segmented game with very little cut-scenes and story. I don’t mind the series exploring new perspectives with open-ish areas, but I don’t understand why the story was tossed to the side after you’re set free in it.
Like many open-world titles, Wolfenstein: Youngblood adds too much padding to extend the game. There are a lot of missions that have you exploring the same places repeatedly and doing the same thing over and over. Youngblood could have been an excellent four to five-hour experience. Instead, it’s a good 10 to 20-hour one with padding. By the time I reached the end, Youngblood had overstayed its welcome.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood offers exceptional gunplay the series is known for and brings a lot of interesting elements to the franchise for the first time. While the character-upgrades, sound design, and world are fantastic, the mission structure, lack of story, and awful checkpoint system bog down the experience.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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