One of my biggest surprises in the last five years was the 2014 release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. It took a franchise that had been humming along quietly with above average releases and kicked off a new story that was still in the old cannon. I personally hadn’t touched the series in well over a decade, so this new story presented a great opportunity to jump into the series and thanks to a well-crafted story with amazing gameplay, it was a wise choice. Five years later, we are presented with the fourth game since this rebirth, and with the franchise still being strong, can its newest release stand up to its series standards?
Wolfenstein: Youngblood kicks off 20 years after Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus where B.J. Blazkowicz alongside his wife Anya have raised their twin daughters Jessica and Sophia away from the chaos of Nazi’s. When B.J. disappears, the sisters find some secretive documents indicating he has gone to Nazi occupied France to meet with the resistance. Concerned for his safety they head off to find him and become Nazi killers.
The story is a touch cheesy, but not bad by any means. My biggest issue is with how the sisters develop throughout the campaign. The game involves them moving from girls with strong arms skills thanks to their combat training to woman who are prime Nazi hunters. As the game progresses, they switch between fumbling goofs and experienced soldiers far too fluently such as taking their first human life where they initially react by throwing up, then seem to move on suddenly to killing machines. It’s like they wanted to make the girls goofy and loveable but couldn't quite merge that with the nature of the gameplay, so the sisters wind up being this weird bipolar mix of the two.
What the game introduces well is the more open nature of the missions. Rather than following a linear story like its predecessors, Wolfenstein: Youngblood instead has you operating from a central hub choosing missions. You can replay missions to level up or find collectables or play the game in the order that suits you, to an extent, and this is kind of cool in its own quirky way. I’m still torn on this, because while I like the idea, I have enjoyed the cohesive linear story the series has provided before.
Another change, as briefly mentioned before, is the leveling system which has added a reason to replay missions. As the sisters’ level up they can use upgrade points to boost their skills to become better Nazi killers. This is another thing that I am torn on, because while light levelling systems aren't always a bad thing that certainly suits some games, this one didn't need it and doesn’t benefit from its inclusion.
The biggest shift of all is the co-operative aspect to the game. The game is much built around co-op given its two main characters are side by side for every mission, and there are countless boxes or levels that need two people to push it down at the same time. This aspect of the game annoyed me more than it should because in the game’s story they conveniently required two people for all this stuff suddenly, BJ must be having a real tough time with any Nazi killing on his own. It’s a minor gripe that annoyed me more than is fair to the game, but for the most part the co-operative experience is built well. I spent most of my time playing on my own, and the AI for my partner isn’t always perfect, but it’s good enough.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is far from the best game in its series, but it’s also far from bad. Some unnecessary systems are a little annoying but as none of them are bad I can’t help but respect all the things they tried in this new experience. It’s still an easily worthwhile experience for fans of the series or people who want to hunt Nazis, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.