Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Year: 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: MachineGames, Arkane Studios
Genre: First Person Shooter
Review Date: 4/19/21
Rating: ***

Nineteen years after BJ Blazkowicz liberated America from Nazi occupation, he mysteriously vanished. His twin daughters Jessie and Sophia run away from home to look for him and end up hooking up with the French Revolution in Neu-Paris. Rumor has it that Blazkowicz is searching for a secret Nazi facility called Lab X, and the twins need to raid several high security towers in order to determine its location.

Having never played a "Wolfenstein" game before, there's a lot of background and lore that was lost on me. The main reason I picked it up was because it's a girls-with-guns game set in the 1980's, which definitely speaks to my sweet spots. Jessie and Sophia are a couple of boisterous teenage girls from Texas, and their adolescent swagger is obnoxious and abrasive. However, they're also a couple of dorks, and their sisterly antics slowly become more endearing as the game wears on. Valerie Rose Lohman and Shelby Young give excellent performances as Jessie and Sophia, and Ms. Lohman's delivery evokes memories of Ashley Burch in "Horizon: Zero Dawn" and "The Outer Worlds." Unfortunately, the first thing the game asks you to do is choose which sister you want to play as, without knowing anything about either one of them. It's a crippling decision to make, and the only real difference you're given is their initial weapons loadout. I ended up choosing Jessie because her default gun favors long range, and that ended up being the right choice for me because I could identify with her personality better. The sisters work as a team, with the other sister being controlled by AI or a co-op partner. The AI is pretty good for the most part, although I've heard people complain about it doing stupid things. However, I'm so bad at FPS games that I didn't have that experience, and similar to "The Outer Worlds," my AI companion usually ended up with twice as many kills as me.

The game is gorgeous and the art direction is superb. Neu-Paris looks fantastic and offers a variety of different areas including shopping districts, ghettos, military installations, and bombed out war zones. The details are amazing and each environment is full of character. The posters, ads, and Nazi propaganda are fascinating, and the 1980's technology adds a great touch of atmospheric nostalgia. You can collect 3D glasses, cassette tapes of German pop music, VHS video tapes, and encrypted floppy discs. You can even play a vintage arcade machine in the resistance hideout that mimics the original "Wolfenstein" game with appropriately retro graphics, sound effects, and gameplay.

The gameplay is smooth and responsive, although switching weapons is cumbersome and often doesn't work. There were several occasions where I died simply because I couldn't switch from my knife to a gun. Difficulty is a sore spot with me, and even on the easiest setting the game can be quite challenging. High level enemies and boss characters are a pain, and one adversary literally soaked up more than 500 rounds of gunfire before going down. Even with my sister's help, I emptied every weapon I was carrying. Another problem is that you have to revisit the same districts multiple times, which is a drag because the same enemies respawn every time and the action becomes overly repetitive. What's worse is that the enemies scale to your level, so even as your weapons and skills improve, it's just as hard or harder to take down the same enemies each time you encounter them. After visiting the same places three times and dealing with increasingly dangerous and annoying foes, the thrill of exploring Neu-Paris had worn off and I was ready to quit. There's also no satisfaction or sense of accomplishment because you have to repeat the same battles over and over. Which is sad because I probably only made it through about a third of the game.

Another issue that many people complained about is that the game is too short and feels like a DLC expansion mission. I can't speak for previous "Wolfenstein" games, but I didn't have that reaction. I played for about ten hours before having to give up, but I enjoyed the experience and felt like I got my money's worth. I don't like overly long games to begin with, and 10-20 hours is ideal for me. So while I wasn't able to help the "Terror Twins" find their daddy, I had fun giving a hand to the resistance and killing Nazi assholes, because morally that's just the right thing to do.