One advantage of being a simpler, more iterative sequel is that developers often get a chance to dial in their engines - and on PC Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a gorgeous looking game with great performance.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus was somehow over a year and a half ago at this point, and while the upcoming Doom Eternal and Id Software are now shifting to id Tech 7, the id Tech 6 engine that both Wolfenstein 2 and Youngblood use must have seen a few upgrades and tweaks in that time. On top of that this isn't a game that has a particularly different visual look to its predecessor despite the time that's passed, so it's perhaps no surprise to see it performing so well.
Wolf 2 was a game that'd comfortably benchmark above 60 frames per second at 4K with maxed out settings on the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, so it's no surprise that more modern top-of-the-line cards including the new AMD's Radeon VII and Nvidia's new RTX-series graphics cards can absolutely crush it. If a picture speaks a thousand words a video speaks many more, anyway, so here's some online co-op gameplay (complete with the odd bit of lag and such, so very realistic conditions) running with completely maxed out settings.
Of course, the id Tech 6 engine is designed to provide silky smooth experiences, something expressed brilliantly in its flagship release Doom. That benefits Bethesda's other projects powered by the engine, and as such Wolfenstein 2 was something of a PC performance home run, and Youngblood lives up to that legacy. What's interesting, however, is where Youngblood is different.
This is an online co-op focused game, of course, but the thing that's most different about this spin-off is its structure - something described in much more detail in Kirk's review of the game. Whereas 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order (which ran on id Tech 5) and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus both featured more traditionally linear first-person-shooter level design that largely takes place indoors, Youngblood takes a more open-ended approach, dropping players into a few different districts of Paris with indoor and outdoor areas that can be tackled from a number of different angles. Occasionally the game also places players into a more traditional, linear focus FPS level.
This approach to design is in all likelihood inspired by co-developer Arkane, best known for Dishonored. When Youngblood is at its best it actually feels a bit like an Arkane game, with the co-op players taking different routes through an area to surprise and ambush nazis. Despite the more open approach to level design the engine maintains its performance well, even when everything is popping off in a wide open area with a shed load of enemies and effects or when sprinting through areas at haste when backtracking, which happens more than we'd like.
With 4K and 60fps easily secured for the 1080 Ti and graphics cards of a similar power like the RTX 2070 Super, Radeon VII and all three RTX 2080 cards, that bodes well for players willing to drop resolution some for performance's sake. Dip the game to a completely respectable 1440p while keeping every other setting cranked up to Ultra will see the likes of the GeForce GTX 1070 and up or the Radeon RX Vega 56 and above also join the 60fps club.
There's an elephant in the room, at least on PC: ray tracing. This buzz word is everywhere right now - it's one of the differentiating factors in the PC gaming graphics war, but also it's a major bullet point feature for both the next PlayStation and Xbox. Youngblood is going to support the feature - but it's not present at launch.
We already know from our past tests that ray tracing can have a serious impact on frame rates and performance that dampens the often impressive gains the real-time lighting feature can offer, and so that remains my biggest question about Wolfeinstein: Youngblood. We always knew its performance would be comparable to that of Wolfenstein 2, but can the game remain above 60fps with real-time ray tracing enabled? We'll have to wait for the as-yet undated ray tracing patch to find that out. When we do, we'll report back in.
Video captured on the following machine: Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K @ 4.2 GHz / Memory: 32 GB RAM (HyperX Fury DDR4, 2133MHz) / GPU: GeForce RTX 2080 Ti – Founder’s Edition. More information can be found on the VG247 Gear List.