Early Impressions: Wolfenstein Youngblood

I’ve been looking forward to the newest edition of Machine Games’ Wolfenstein series, and it finally arrived this past week. Wolfenstein Youngblood is a game I had considered pre-ordering, but with how easy it is to get burnt these days, I decided to wait. Releasing on my payday was good for me, and thankfully it also didn’t run the full $60, instead being a $30 game on day one. Something came up that day though, so I didn’t end up buying it until the following afternoon. In the interim I read the “mixed” Steam reviews and it seems that most people were panning the game as not being a traditional Wolfenstein experience. Many compared it to other looter-shooter style games such as Destiny or The Division. It doesn’t have much of a story, the AI is poor and co-op is forced, etc, etc. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

There is no doubt that this is a game created using the same engine and made by the same team and past Wolfenstein titles. The gameplay is smooth, graphics crisp and the mechanics are sublime. I enjoy running around and shooting nazis now as much as I did back in the original. As far as story goes, it is true that it is not as straight forward as the previous iterations — you’ll get some tidbits via cutscenes, but the majority of the dialogue comes from characters you’ll interact with and from the sisters talking among themselves during levels. I’m about 7 hours into the game, and I feel like the story has pieced together well enough, but it’s not to the same level as when B.J. was at the helm. Whatever the case, I don’t find this to be a major downfall, particularly when we’ve all been playing this style of game for decades and the point is to shoot stuff and blow shit up… story used to not even exist. I’ll admit I really enjoyed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus‘ story, but it wasn’t integral to my enjoyment either.

Gameplay is core to me in this style of game, and there is a weird amalgam of concepts that have been thrown together here, and yet they seem to work. This isn’t a looter-shooter, because you don’t constantly swap out gear or get different colored upgrades. It isn’t open world, because there is a “safe zone” called the catacombs and this is where your base of operations is. You will get new people residing here along the way, and most will give you quests. This is also the hub from which you sort of teleport (it’s explained as using the metro system) to different parts of Paris, or at least this world’s version of it. Story missions lead you to a point where you must beat several bosses at different locations, but it will end up where you won’t be able to progress immediately, instead needing to do some side missions (from the aforementioned quest givers) to gain experience. This is where I would correlate this game to other titles like Destiny, but it’s mostly just a co-op FPS with some light RPG elements and not quite the psuedo-MMOs that Destiny and The Division are. Enemies can become bullet-sponges after a time, but I can’t think of too many games where this isn’t the case, so I don’t understand the complaint. I have found that so far the AI isn’t terrible (as I haven’t wanted to play with randoms and I don’t know anyone personally that has this game on PC just yet), but I can see where it might become a liability in later stages of the game. Regardless, I don’t really see why the criticism is being laid on so thick. This is a fun game for $30, and thought it’s not exactly what we’re used to from this company, it isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a buggy mess like some of the other games in this vein have been either.

Instead of having new guns pop up all the time, instead you’ll collect coins throughout the world and can use them as currency to upgrade your predetermined set of weapons. Each item has a list of parts that can be upgraded, and from there you get some branching paths so you can optimize each as you see fit. As you gain experience you’ll gain player levels and with that comes perks that you can use to get different powers, have more health/armor, dual wield and other cool things. You really get to play the way you want to and I think that’s pretty cool for an FPS. There are a ton of collectibles in the world for those achievement hunters, and you can read/listen to those as you like. Easter eggs are around too… including an arcade cabinet housing the OG game.

Overall I think this game has a lot of potential. Future DLC could see this expanding into a psuedo-MMO, but it’s not quite there yet. Whatever the case, if you’re a fan of this series I think you’ll still like this title. Worst case scenario, it should be on sale by Christmas time.

The Old Blood

You’ll have to pardon my absence over the last few days, I went on a mini-vacation for Independence Day to visit family and was pretty disconnected during that time. Just before we left, I finished off Wolfenstein II and was thrilled with the game. When I was nearing the end I got to talking with my lady and she was asking if there were any other Wolfenstein games out there, and aside from the original and older reboots, there was a lone game I had yet to play. Back in 2014, Wolfenstein: The New Order released and I played through that one, but when its prequel released in 2015, it was overlooked. The Old Blood is a prequel to The New Order, and thereby another game in the series that I hadn’t played and wanted to. It was still discounted via the Steam Summer Sale while we were having the conversation, so for $10 I would be able to complete my collection and potentially fill in some plot holes. I didn’t start it until we got back into town last night, but I can already tell it’s going to be enjoyable.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I have gathered so far, is that this game takes place in the 40’s, and at least starts in Germany. You’re still B.J., but you’re a younger version of him compared to the other games. In this timeline, you are facing the Nazi war machine head on, but the Allies are clearly losing the war. Continuing on, during the events of The New Order, the war is over and the Nazis control America. During The New Colossus, B.J. and co manage to start a revolution during the 1960’s and potentially start the downfall of the Nazi regime… we were teased with Youngblood during E3 this year, and that is supposed to take place during the 1980s and focuses on the twin daughters B.J.’s lady is carrying during The New Colossus. Perhaps then they will finally force the Germans out of America? Time will tell.

Back to The Old Blood. Thankfully because it is a prequel, playing it after the other two games hasn’t really affected the telling of the story. You’re undercover as a Nazi officer and entering into Castle Wolfenstein it seems. Much of the set design is reminiscent of the old Wolfenstein games we played decades ago, being a big sprawling castle and having a ton of Nazis inside to kill. There seems to be more puzzling portions, and you’ll gain some different abilities as compared to the other titles. One piece of equipment becomes a mainstay in your inventory – a big metal pipe. You can use it to climb walls, pry open doors, and most importantly stab people in their necks. Otherwise it’s a very similar game made by the same developers so you should feel right at home. I know I do. I’ve enjoyed the couple of chapters I’ve played through, but this does feel like a game I’ll complete faster than the others. At this time The New Order took about 10 hours, while The New Colossus took just under 9. I’m a couple hours into The Old Blood and on chapter 3 of 8 so I assume this one will clock in around 8 hours at this rate. Either way, still fun to be blasting Nazis and filling in story gaps.

I will report back once I’ve completed it, most likely by the end of the week if not sooner.

Wolfenstein: The New Order — Complete

I’ve completed another game from the backlog, and this time it was Wolfenstein: The New Order. I picked it up after playing DOOM and deciding that another old school shooter reboot would probably be pretty fun. It turns out I rather enjoy blowing through these story-based FPS titles. Not that there was any question before, but I’m just reaffirming. There’s nothing like being able to complete a game in a few short sessions as well. But that comes down the the value proposition. In the case of Wolfenstein, it was well worth the sale price. I didn’t pay much, I enjoyed my time with the game, and now it’s been uninstalled from my system. Seems like an optimum gaming experience to me.

So what did I think of this title? It seems that I was mistaken when I thought that Id Software had developed this game, which was the primary reason I had bought it. DOOM was fantastic, and was developed by Id, and because they did create the original, it wasn’t a stretch to think that The New Order was their baby as well. Turns out that wasn’t the case, they were only published by the same publisher — Bethesda. To say that the games are dissimilar wouldn’t be the truth, but I think that Machine Games took things in directions that Id might not have. This isn’t to say that Wolfenstein is bad by any means, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be more of the return-to-roots run and gun action game that DOOM turned out to be, and though it has that element, there are more cinematics, more story bits and other elements that have been present in more modern day shooters. I suppose we can chalk that up to they having released two years apart, and game design choices changing dramatically in that time. Our clamoring for things from the past has dredged up some garbage (in the form of reboots, and that can be said for more than just video games), but has also brought about a reflection on what design choices were good way back when, and it turns out that some are still quite viable today. That old school feel that DOOM brought to the table was fantastic; in Wolfenstein there was a feeling of being caught between two worlds. Modern convenience, mechanics, and nuances seem more prevalent in Wolfenstein, whereas they felt completely stripped out of DOOM, and that is exactly why I enjoyed DOOM more than Wolfenstein.

Are you following? I may have lost some of you in this ramble. Basically, Wolfenstein on its own is a great game. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story driven campaign focused first person shooter. I just wouldn’t recommend playing DOOM first. If you played The New Order back in 2014 when it released, you probably loved it more than I did, and I would probably feel the same but DOOM simply colored my lenses, and I cannot rate this game higher as a result. Overall it wasn’t too difficult, it had smooth mechanics, it had great set pieces, and it’s story was pretty well done despite getting pretty damn far fetched near the end. 7/10.

As tradition dictates, I will now spam a shitload of screenshots to commemorate the removal of another game from the backlog: