Wolfenstein: Youngblood Xbox One review — Is it worth buying at $30?

Wolfenstein: Youngblood launched recently, and reviews are mixed. Is it actually worth $30? Here's what you need to know.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood hasn't proven itself popular with reviews, both from users and critics. The "experimental" co-operative gameplay typifies contemporary Bethesda, which seems ever-increasingly interested in service type games, crammed with in-game currency and shoe-horned multiplayer. I'm sad to say that Youngblood genuinely feels like a betrayal of the modern Wolfenstein franchise, with exceptionally weak co-op execution, in a similar fashion to Fallout 76.

Youngblood's saving grace is its price point, which at $30, complete with a "friend-plays-free" trial model, can provide some fleeting fun while you wait for this fall's heavy hitters. Let's have a look at the good and the bad of Youngblood.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood: The Good

The best thing about Wolfenstein: Youngblood is, that at least occasionally, it still feels like Wolfenstein. Machine Games and Arkane Studios used the exact same engine, same gameplay, same guns, same mechanics, and same enemies as Wolfenstein II.

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Wolfenstein: YoungbloodSpecs
GenreFirst-person shooter
PublisherBethesda Softworks
DeveloperArkane Studios, Machine Games
PlatformsXbox One, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
PlayersSingle-player, two-player online co-op
Xbox Game Pass (Console)No
Xbox Game Pass (PC)No
Xbox Play AnywhereNo

Ultimately, if you enjoyed blasting Nazis in Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein II, you're probably going to enjoy blasting Nazis in Wolfenstein: Youngblood. The gunplay remains tight and satisfying, with sci-fi shotguns that can rip enemies into chunks of fascist viscera, and plenty of options for stealth play. On top, Wolfenstein: Youngblood has some new active abilities, thanks to the twin protagonists' power armor, which grants things like temporary invisibility, or boosts to health and armor. When Wolfenstein: Youngblood's combat is firing on all cylinders, it's as thrilling as ever.

Youngblood also, for the first time, allows you to experience the carnage with a friend. You can host games to play with randoms online, or join on a friend. An added bonus of owning Youngblood is, that your friend doesn't need to purchase the game either, which adds plenty of value.

The art direction remains solid, and dystopically creepy as ever.

The art direction remains solid, and dystopically creepy as ever.

Visually, Youngblood is as impressive and fluid as previous titles, with dynamic 4K resolution on Xbox One X and a buttery smooth 60 FPS. The musical score is also excellent, if limited, with all the crazy sci-fi sound treatment of the previous titles.

Youngblood bakes in some deeper progressionary elements, including levels, talent unlocks, and weapon upgrades. You can kit out your weapons with different attachments to suit the situation, which, if you enjoy that sort of thing, makes its structure a bit more rewarding. The level design is also very good, with many winding paths and different options for infiltration, or frontal assault, promoting different styles of play. The problem is, some of these elements unravel very quickly due to (many, many) failings in other areas.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood: The bad

Wolfenstein: Youngblood just feels like an unfinished, under-iterated game, where intersecting systems either feel clunky, or simply don't work. Structurally, Youngblood feels like it wants to be some kind of loot shooter, complete with a central hub with aggressively basic mission objectives, sending you on repetitive assassination or fetch missions to the same areas over, and over, and over.

Youngblood plays down the darkness of its global fascist sci-fi dystopia with childish silliness.

The first and second times I traversed an area to complete a side objective, I was still having fun, but by the eighth time, I just wanted the experience to end.

Youngblood tries to keep things fresh with "raid" missions that offer a bit more depth and vague story beats, mostly delivered via radio. Despite starting strong, with a classic Wolfenstein wide-linear mission and those stylish cinematic cutscenes, the quality dips very sharply afterwards, with repetition not far behind it.

It's set almost 20 years after the events of Wolfenstein II, and puts you in the powered mech-boots of BJ Blazkowicz twin daughters. The sibling rivalry between the pair could have been a good opportunity for some deeper story crafting, but instead, Wolfenstein: Youngblood plays down the darkness of its global fascist sci-fi dystopia with childish silliness. It would be less offensive if it wasn't directly core to the franchise's timeline, affecting future games. Without spoiling, Youngblood takes an axe to Machine Games' usual penchant for quality world building, which is a shame.

Wolfenstein always had plenty of dark humor, but it always felt like a side dish rather than the main event, keeping you grounded in the grim reality of its world. Youngblood lacks self-awareness in this case, with the girls' half a dozen lines of cringy pseudo-sibling banter squawking repeatedly hour after hour, while you drudge through the same areas hour after hour, fighting the same enemies over and over.

Silly dialogue, meet silly A.I.

Speaking of enemies, Wolfenstein: Youngblood's attempt to be a loot shooter soft RPG also feels poorly implemented. As you grow in levels and abilities, so too do your enemies. Instead of becoming deadlier, they just seem to get spongier to fight as time goes by, which unravels the very essence of Wolfenstein's frenetic gunplay. The game asks you to use specific weapons to counter specific types of armor. However, if you don't have any ammo for that particular weapon at any given time, because the enemies are so bullet-absorbant, it cuts off the flow at the knees.

I've also died a-plenty due to shoddy team mate AI, throwing grenades at me. The UI has also locked up a few times, also causing me to die. The game also lacks a checkpointing system for missions, so if you lose your three revivals per mission due to a bug, it can be extremely frustrating. Make sure you're playing with a human comrade if you do fancy giving Youngblood a try.

Should you buy Wolfenstein: Youngblood?

Ultimately, Wolfenstein: Youngblood feels more like the product of a shareholder meeting, where non-gamers pushed this idea of turning Wolfenstein into a quasi service-type loot shooter, only without loot. The intersecting gameplay systems fight each other for dominance over the flow of the game, creating a confused experience whose saving grace can only be found in that $30 price point, complete with free access for a friend. The price feels more like an apology than anything else, though.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood feels under-developed in a few ways, but it can provide some fleeting fun when played with a friend, at least while you wait for this fall's bigger — most likely better — titles.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!