In a week with not one, but two new Wolfenstein games, we check out the co-op centered Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Available for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC, we stayed true to Wolfenstein’s roots and played the mouse and keyboard version.
Set in Nazi-occupied Paris, Youngblood sees series protagonist BJ Blazkowicz having vanished after a mission in the city. Taking place about two decades after Wolfenstein II, Blazkowicz has grown twin daughters now – and they’re the stars of Youngblood. As a result, the game is more of a cooperative experience than a straight up single player shooter – but there are other design choices that make this feel like quite a different kind of Wolfenstein game.
Cooperative doesn’t necessarily mean multiplayer though, as you can also play Youngblood as a single player game. The twins, Soph and Jess, will always be together – your partner will just be controlled by an AI in that case. Alternatively, you can play with a friend or even a complete stranger. Playing with a human player is the better choice when it comes to devising a tactic and/or picking a route of approach together though, and this has a lot to do with how Youngblood was designed.
Co-produced by Machine Games and Arkane Studios, the game is a clear hybrid of Machine’s previous experience with the Wolfenstein franchise and Arkane’s expertise when it comes to open-ended experiences – so masterfully on display in the Dishonored games. In Youngblood, there is an overarching goal to destroy three giant guard towers – but you have a lot of freedom in how you go about this, with the majority of the game map available to you right from the start.
There’s always the option to go in guns blazing (BJ Blazkowicz style), but when you join forces with the local resistance you quickly learn that there are plenty of other (and less dangerous) ways to explore as well. You can rescue fellow resistance fighters or take our high ranking German officers, for example – both leading to new choices or avenues you can take towards your bigger goals.
As with Dishonored, you can also go either high or low – exploring rooftops or the underground catacombs beneath the city to get closer to these guard towers. Youngblood is – as it should, being a Wolfenstein title – much more of a shooter than Dishonored though, so the stealthy approach isn’t as obvious or even feasible as you’d think. But even if you stick with gunfire as your primary tactics, the level design in Youngblood still means you have multiple approaches to take – and thus this Wolfenstein title has far more replay value than any of the recent titles in the franchise. We’ve seen “go left or right here” approaches in Wolfenstein before, but things are more open this time around.
The approach can be rough around the edges though – areas that are unlocked can feel empty until you unlock the (side) mission that goes with it, for example. There’s less storytelling and handholding too, so Youngblood takes a while to get going – something that happens when you unlock more missions, locations, weapons and upgrades.
Because of this, at the end of the day, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a success, though mostly as a spin-off title in the same universe. It doesn’t rise to the heights of the recent games if you’re a traditional story-driven single player shooter campaign fan, but it’s a lovely diversion. Jess and Soph’s tale is a worthy Wolfenstein game with excellent visuals, but one that’s best enjoyed in a multiplayer setting.