The Blazkowicz family returns to battle Nazi’s in the 80s. Wolfenstein: Youngblood sets gamers to work as BJ’s kids in occupied Europe.
Shaking up the formula
Up till now, the rebooted Wolfenstein series has focused on classic hero BJ Blazkowicz. Players got to see the new origin for BJ, follow him through WWII Europe and into an alternate 1960s.
In Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, it was more of the same, but with an interesting twist. This game took place mainly in a version of the United States that had folded in the face of WWII’s Axis.
Without getting into too many spoilers, that changed somewhat by the close of that game. And yet the world was was still shackled, and under the thumb of the Reich.
Now the third game in the series moves things into the 1980’s, and really shakes things up with a focus on co-op play. But while there are some major and minor alterations to the formula, Youngblood is still very much the series you know.
Hit that fast forward button a little more. Wolfenstein Youngblood takes the war into the 1980s. Of course, it’s an 80s that is hardly recognizable. Set in still occupied Europe, Youngblood sees BJ’s twin daughters heading into the heart of evil to find their missing dad.
Yes, that means BJ isn’t the central figure. I mean, he kind of still is since his girls are looking for him, but he’s not the star. Instead we get two new playable characters in Soph and Jess.
After it’s revealed that BJ is missing, the story moves things from a small farmhouse in the US to occupied France. It’s there that the twins find a contact in the still-existing French underground, as well as a base of operations from which to launch their rescue mission.
The two are no hardened warriors, since they’ve pretty much just been raised as civilians. They are outfitted with battle suits like the one that BJ wore however, an advantage to be sure. Even with the training their mom and dad gave them, Soph at least is initially uneasy about killing. Till they actually kill a Nazi, then they’re… carefree about it. I honestly feel like a massive story element is missing from Youngblood in that these two (essentially) kids take to killing quite gleefully. Because of that, the tone seems off right from the top.
Yes, I get that that they’re taking out the bad guys, but there’s significant room here for a more emotional story to be told. Not to mention an all around heavier one with a little more emotional maturity. I would have liked to have seen that.
On the whole, the script was a little too comedic at times for me. It almost came across as though developer Machine Games was going for a more “Marvel” vibe. You know, lots of action, but lighthearted moments and quips in between. The overall story was just too dark for that tone, and it didn’t come off 100% “right”.
If you’ve played either previous Wolfenstein title, then you already know what this one’s all about. That is to say, excellent gunplay and great controls.
Weapons are cool looking, easy to select off of a wheel-interface, and customizable. As you play, you’ll be able to buy new parts to give the guns buffs in battle.
Melee combat isn’t as much fun as something like Doom, but it’s not supposed to be. Instead, you have the option of throwing your blades (which is super-effective) or getting up close and personal. To that latter end too, you can cloak for a short period of time, thanks to your super-suit.
What’s also excellent are the customization options for the characters themselves. You can upgrade all manner of stuff as you play, and accrue in-game currency. From health to regained vitality after being revived, you can improve on your starting hero quite a bit.
Oh yes, “revived”. Remember, this is a co-op game. While you can play couch or online, there is a focus on tandem action. This goes from opening certain crates, to working number locks on select doors, to reviving your sister.
While all of the above is pretty simple, it’s that last part that gets a tad annoying when you’re playing solo. Single player mode is still co-op, but your sis is controlled by the CPU.
While this hardly amounts to a problem most times, and sometimes she’s actually really helpful, it can get annoying. Playing as Jess, Soph was constantly getting blasted into near-oblivion by baddies. And that sometimes left me wide open as I had to revive her.
Again though, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as at times she cleared the road for me. So make of it what you will.
The aesthetics of the Wolfenstein series’ haven’t changed much in Youngblood. There are some touches here and there of more modern stuff, and by that I mean 80s era, but it’s here and there only.
That does not however, mean that the game is bad looking or stale in any way. ‘Cause man, it isn’t.
Wolfenstein Youngblood is fantastic looking in just about every way. There are some stunning set pieces and level backdrops, and even the most mundane French street is beautifully detailed and fun to play in.
The suits that the girls wear are really cool too. Lifted from the ancient duds that their dad wore, the power suits here bear passing resemblances to a certain Asgardian war machine.
The bad guys are just as cool looking. As with past titles, they have a tech-heavy look to them that comes across well. There are a few new ones too, all of which are very fitting, representing a tyrannical military machine that’s moved forward a bit with the decades.
The musical accompaniment and ambient sounds are great too, and the voice work is mostly solid.
If you’re a fan of Wolfenstein’s current incarnation, I feel pretty safe saying you’re going to enjoy Youngblood. Even with the issues I had, MachineGames’ romp is an action-packed good time.
Add in a friend, and it’s even better.
Release date: July 26th, 2019
Platform(s): Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Switch, PC
Published by: Bethesda
Developed by: MachineGames