It’s time to mow down the Reich once again, but this time, in the 80s. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is here, offering a short and sweet all new co-op experience for newcomers and longtime fans of the series alike. Those who are used to the slightly more stealth oriented gunplay of the mainline Wolfenstein titles might find themselves in slightly different territory here. In Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Machinegames has created a satisfying yet punishing first person run-and-gun experience that makes it especially easy to get into. It’ll hold your attention, but it leaves a few things to be desired for series vets.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood introduces Soph and Jess, the twin daughters of classic Wolfenstein protagonist William ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz. You take on the role of either sister while a co-op player or the AI takes on the role of the other. Your mission is to deploy into a Nazi occupied France in an effort to find your father, having gone missing in an attempt to meet with the French resistance. Equipping themselves with impressive power suits, they go into their mission as prepared as anyone can be.
The sisters’ Blazkowicz are a hoot to play as, throwing one-liners and phrases like ‘you good sis?’ in between gun fights. This throws a sense of urgency into the gameplay and consistently reminds you that someone has your back in the hectic gunplay. The AI sister is serviceable, but you’ll definitely prefer taking this on with another player. They can actively and more reliably watch your back as enemies come at you from any direction.
The sisterly bond of the two characters exaggerates itself even more with the Pep system, a standout feature. During gunfights, you and your sister each receive a pep, which can either grant a boost in health or armor in those critical moments where death is imminent. Using them wisely is the key to success. You’ll also need to stay close to your sister in order to open doors, pull levers, or push buttons in order to progress through the story. Needless to say, this is easily the most co-op focused game I’ve ever played. My only complaint is that the game doesn’t have local play. Having that would’ve complimented this game perfectly.
Youngblood is not an easy game. The Nazi’s are fierce, wanting you dead as the danger around you feels as urgent as ever. Within the first boss battle, I found myself dying at least five or six times before learning his patterns and getting it right. Outside of boss battles, I often found myself running head first into a fight out of excitement. This consequently lead to me being mowed down by a Nazi brute that could expel fire from his gun. I found that staying back and assessing the area (while paying very close attention to my mini-map for enemies off screen) is what it takes to succeed here.
The AI enemies in the game aren’t particularly smart or strategive, but they come in big numbers and certainly pack a meaningful punch. Luckily, there are measures that you can take to decrease the amount of run-and-gun you’ll be doing. Regardless, head-on fights are almost always unavoidable. Your character can engage in stealth attacks via throwing knives found around the streets of Paris which can be retrieved and thrown again (think back to the tomahawk or throwing knife in the Call of Duty series). The throwable weapons offer one-hit kills on normal enemies, but it does practically nothing to the more powerful ones. Demolishing them with a few shotgun blasts or assault rifle rounds is ideal.
My biggest complaint is that normal enemies feel significantly weaker than the larger, stronger ones. Their guns feel like paintball pellets to your health meter compared to a single devastating blast from a brute. Many enemies also have a shield meter that’s quite durable. This can be particularly difficult to deplete before getting to their main health bar. Surviving means you’ll have to tread carefully. Even on the easiest difficulty of the game, I found myself dying multiple times.
My favorite part of Youngblood is the RPG elements it implements. These come in the form of weapon, health, and ability upgrades to aid either Soph or Jess. I wouldn’t have expected such a beefy upgrade system from a first-person shooter, especially one centered on co-op. There’s a currency used to level up in the form of silver coins. These can be obtained through killing enemies, breaking boxes and casually finding them laying around. Hoping to have more currency for bigger upgrades later, I tried running through the beginning of the game without them. Unfortunately, the game’s difficulty makes this almost impossible. You’ll find yourself with a lot of silver coins after the first mission, but you’ll have to level up right away if you want to stand a chance through the rest of the game. In short, point hoarding will prove rather difficult.
All in all, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a nice change of pace in the series. It will definitely wade us over until the real future of the franchise makes itself clear to us. Having two fun, engaging protagonists keep the story all in the family. The game has a whole lot of difficulty to behold, upgrades, and Nazi blood and guts galore. It’s definitely worth the $30 price tag. The Deluxe edition of the game may be the better way to go because it comes with the buddy pass. This allows a friend to play for free, but only if they play with you at the same time.