Thanks to PR for the code!

Right, before we do the review, there's something I need to say:

I love the Wolfenstein games, I really do, but what I don't love these days and I'm sure there's some of you who won't agree with me - bloody micro-transactions and pre-order exclusive bullshit. Most of the time this pre-order DLC isn't worth the price of admission, and season passes unless they offer a whackton of content is another predatory practice which is just designed to be overly expensive and funnel more cash for lacklustre additions into the pocket of developers.

I never used to have to worry about this kind of stuff; time was we could write a review without needing to focus on these systems. Now I feel we need a new flag to set when we put up a review with a warning: Game contains micro-transactions and bullshit loot boxes.

At least Youngblood doesn't have loot boxes, yet.

What it does have though are cosmetic only micro-transactions to short cut the grind. See you can use in-game money to get those skins for your characters/weapons... but you can also pay real world cash to get gold which lets you acquire these skins much earlier.

Otherwise you'll be spending upwards of 10,000 in-game coins (for certain skins) and grinding for those is totally designed to tempt you to buy the gold pack.

Now this automatically drops the game a few points in my book, if we used scores and points that is.

Then you have the issue, why are you using micro-transactions in a single player/co-op game in the first place. This is a game that can be played solo with one A.I. taking control of the other sister - or co-op with another player taking that role. Are we playing the 'they have this skin, I want it, but don't want to grind for it' Activision level of bullshit route here?

Looks like it to me, and certainly looks like it to an outsider viewing the game for the first time.

You can also use in game coins to buy certain boosts which last for 10 minutes at a time, framed as juice drinks - because you know, 80's...

These boosts cannot be bought with gold, so there's at least some good there.

Still, come on, this game doesn't need that level of micro-transaction at all - it mars the experience and vulnerable folks could end up spending on those skins rather than grinding for the coins.

OK! That said, there's other reasons why I can't recommend this game to anyone but the most die-hard fans of the series.

The Bad First

Microtransactions: Already mentioned above, but yeah, not a fan.

There are some things in Youngblood which mar the overall experience and take away from the shooting of Nazis. 

Shield/Barrier system tied to ammo: On paper, sounds good. However, in practice this particular element of the game just doesn't work correctly. It is needlessly fiddly and troublesome to read. Nazis have barriers denoted by an icon after their health bar, you need to use the soft or hard ammo type (another icon) on your weapon to break that barrier before you can kill them.

This creates bullet-sponge enemies and slows down the pace of the game, especially when you might have trouble matching the white squares with the white square type of your selected gun.

Nope, not a fan.

Or a fan of bullet sponges.

Checkpoint system: Oh dear. I spent 30m or so working on clearing an area, sneaking, stabbing, being all Samantha Fisher and I have to take a break (or I wipe and have to return to a previous checkpoint) ... the checkpoint in question is right back at the start and I need to go all the way through the same area again and repeat what I just did...

So ... no ... not a fan of the checkpoint system in this game at all.

But wait, there's more. All those shared lives, grenades, ammo clips and throwing knives - they're all back right since I'm back at the start?

No, they're not. I'm down to one grenade, one knife; all my primary ammo is gone because the boss fight at the end of the level ensures that I wasted it on the bullet sponge enemies.

That's right, I come back in at the checkpoint exactly where I left off and all my equipment/ammo is exactly how it was right at the time I died.

Not a fan of that either.

Now you might say that it encourages a Dark Souls style kind of play, learn from your mistakes, and get good. I might say some choice words right back at you, but they wouldn't be printable and I'd lose my rep as a nice person.

A game which is basically an exercise in frustration, is not a fun game and you can take your elitist get-good mentality and fire it into the Praise the Sun.

Shared lives: This isn't too bad, unless you're playing with a random (never do that) who eats shared lives like they were spaghetti and ends up downed more times than Airforce One in a Tom Clancy book.

You can revive your fallen sibling, but if you fail to do so, or you fail to be revived, then one of your three shared lives is lost. Lose them all, you wipe, and you go back to the 'so called' checkpoint.

BJ's Daughters and the plot.

I'm not touching on the plot, since by now, you know that I don't tend to talk about game plots and prefer you to find out yourself. So nothing is going to change there. 

The sisters, BJ's daughters, and the twins who are the protagonists of this game... well ... they're not great - but they do grate. They fire off annoying quips every five seconds, their dialogue is worthy of the worst American designed sitcom and they have nothing of the writing which makes the other Wolfenstein games great.

You could replace these girls with bros and they'd be just as bad, because there's no heart or soul in this whatsoever - it's empty.

The dialogue in the game isn't all that good in general.

I'm normally a fan of MachineGames & Arkane, but certainly not for this game. Not sure what happened, but they really slipped up on the certain elements of gameplay for this one.

Gameplay

Right from the get-go this is standard first person shooter affair with the following things that are added for good measure.

A hub: Not half as engaging as the Wolfenstein II hub and full of lifeless NPCs. Annoying to navigate and restocking weapons/ammo is a pain in the arse since you need to wander all over to pick up missing knives, grenades, armour.

Health packs and armour: I love this, not going to lie; it gives me warm DOOM/QUAKE/Wolfenstein fuzzies - no complaints here.

Skill system: numerous skills can be gained when you level up, grindy and late-game you will be left with a hell of a grind to get skill points forcing you to go back into the mission areas and replay grindy shooting.

Area shards: Attached to the Metro fast-travel system, area shards are chunks of gameplay locations where you can find secrets, more coins, ammo, weapons, gear, and collectibles. These shards are linked by an Underground dark area which is often crawling with powerful Nazis. You'll spend a lot of time in these shards and the Underground. Features: Rinse & Repeat Gameplay.

Double-jump and mantling: the girls are equipped with power armour, just like dad was, so they get to double-jump, mantle and explore areas which are normally out of reach in most FPS.

Excellent level design: These area shards have a lot of secrets, lots of out of the way places, gear gating and more to keep you exploring when the stealth and shooting gets on your nerves. One of the stand-out aspects of the game is the level design and it's where it really shines since they also feature double routes for you and your sibling. Arkane shines through here and I am reminded of Dishonored in a good way!

Weapons and Weapon upgrades: Upgrades are split into 3 types, getting 3 of the same type gives you a bonus to accuracy, headshot damage, and so on. You can mix and match or you can stick with a set of upgrades. It's a solid system and pretty good, works well and again is one of the better aspects of the game. The weapon changes visually and handling alters.

Level ups: If you get enough XP you get a level up, which gives you a 2% boost to damage. Enemies have levels, and they're always higher level than you are for the most part - some enemies have skulls and are best avoided until they show a level or you're badass enough as a character to take them down.

Pep system: Siblings can boost each other, you can choose a Pep to equip and trigger it with the d-pad. Once activated you can do things like give you and your sis full armour, health, and so on - works kind of OK for co-op and solo.

Basically, there are some good things here, just mired by some really grindy choices and decisions to roll you back to the furthest checkpoint.

Gear-gating: You need Crush to get into certain locked rooms, or weapons gained from special missions.

Mission Design: Hub based repetitive side missions, and a main story arc that plays more like a Boss Raid in an MMO. Go here, kill things, enter highly protected place, and get new special weapon to let you progress in area. Go further, find big boss, murder boss, profit. Do this several times to push the story on.

Aesthetics

I've talked about level design, the star of the show, and the rest of the aesthetics of the game are pretty good too. Youngblood has some good quality animation, apart from the lift scenes which are meant to be funny and kind of endearing but just really come across as childish and typical of the portrayal of the sisters.

What you have tho is 80's Nazi occupied Paris and that comes across well - the tech is gonzo and it appears as though Wolfenstein crossed streams with Far Cry: Blood Dragon at some point.

Audio Design

Apart from a few audio glitches and stutters in some cases the audio for the game is top notch. Great atmospheric sound design and some solid effects/ambience combine to bring Nazi occupied areas to life. 

The Voice

There are some good performances here, doing the best with the atrocious dialogue and the gold-star has to go to the actresses as the sisters - they do a good job with a pair of girls who could have been given a much better role rather than set as comic relief.

Music

A good soundtrack provides the backdrop for the sneaking and action in the game, I can't fault it, though it has cut out once or twice due to some audio glitch.

Multiplayer

You can host a game for a friend, or a random, or join a friend or random. You can have a lot of fun together working to take down Nazis and I have experienced only a couple of drops when playing with others. It is good if you want to play co-op, because, thankfully there's no PvP element in the game at all.

Fun but Flawed

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is let down fun wise by some of the above mentioned decisions, and it suffers for it. Your mileage might vary and I know some of you will adore the game. That's OK, because this is just my opinion. I've finished it, and I'm still playing end game content and exploring for secrets 30 or so hours later.

That isn't bad. I just wish some of these things I highlighted were different, then I'd have even more fun with the game. They could remove the real money gold bullshit and that would go a long way to endearing me to the game.

As it is, with that feature and some of the others designed to increase the grind - I cannot in all good conscience recommend this game to anyone.

A real shame,

But that's how the Zepplin Burns...