The first nazi kill of the game is approaching and both Blazkowicz sisters are undoubtedly nervous about the inevitable. The deed doesn’t quite go to plan, my character steps on a discarded tape, alerting the Nazi guard to our presence. My characters stabs him, only stumbling the racist fellow when it looks like bad times are coming and… *bam* the Nazis head pops into a gush of sinew and blood. With that, Sophie who pulled the trigger, vomits onto the floor, both sisters look at each other laughing as they celebrate losing their Nazi-killing virginity. Following in the footsteps of their father BJ Blazkowicz, who just so happens to be missing.
The year is 1980, America is liberated but the Nazis won the war in Europe, it’s a bit of a shitshow. The story follows BJ’s twin daughters Jessie and Sophie, as they go in search of their missing father in Nazi occupied Paris. You get the chance to pick between either one of the daughters, although it does state that there is no gameplay differences so it doesn’t really matter which daughter you choose. All weapons, skills and perks are the same, so you won’t lose any part of the experience.
Youngblood isn’t a sequel, but rather a spin off from the main series with a focus on teamwork with its co-op focus. Youngblood’s co-op represents a first for the franchise, as are some of the other features in Youngblood.
Don’t get me wrong killing Nazis is fun, but with a buddy the fun is amplified tenfold. It’s stronger as a co-op experience, but it works extremely well for solo players too. Your sister is with you throughout the game although, when not in combat, she will activate stealth camouflage so she won’t trigger Nazis if you decide to take a stealthy approach. Your sister will pick you up if you go down and efficiently trigger duo button presses without having to tap your feet impatiently waiting for her.
Pressing a button will activate a ‘pep’ perk, initially I went with a 50% health boost which gave me a nice edge in battle which would save my hiney in tight situations. Others may give ammo or armour. What’s nice about the pep system is the encouraging banter the sisters engage in, which gives the sisters a bigger connection to the player, more so than Blazkowicz. Ultimately, I wanted more scenes with the sisters interacting, the lack of substantial cutscenes is slightly disappointing, especially when compared to previous games.
Much like the previous Wolfenstein titles the gameplay is solid and flows nicely through each district. Gun play feels impacting, while a quieter option is available if you use the right equipment. Weapons are upgradable, the ability to tailor your weapons to your play style is always a bonus. I added a silencer to my scoped assault rifle allowing me do greater damage from a distance. To be able to purchase these items you need silver coins, which are scattered throughout the levels, redeemable for perks, weapon upgrades and cosmetic choices. Look in non-obvious places for stacks of them.
Another first for the franchise is the inclusion of light RPG elements, as you play through the game you’ll level up as will the Nazis themselves. It took a while to get used to seeing a Nazis level above their head but after it while it becomes a second thought, but if the on screen UI becomes an issue you can disable the HUD which does add immersion. Gain XP by killing and collecting numerous items across the levels, as the levels are more open this time round there’s a lot to collect. 3D glasses granting you different characters and items to view in a menu or cassette tapes filled with lore or music from this alternate reality, I found a lot just by chance and apart from an XP bonus offer no other reward. Once you level up you’ll earn points, these points can be used to purchase new skills and perks, all adaptable to your chosen play style.
Arkane Studios have helped out on crafting Youngblood, which is evident when the game opens up a bit more in later levels. The added verticality and the extra nooks and crannies you find along away give you more ways to accomplish your objectives, which is always a plus.
Mission structure is also a departure from the series allowing you to choose a mission in the order you wish instead of following a linear story. I wanted to try and stealth a lot of the game, which sadly wasn’t as easy as I’d hope. Often sneaking about would end up in an almighty firefight. Which luckily isn’t that bad, each gun is satisfying to use often leaving Nazis is a bloody mess on the floor. But I’d like the option to go full ghost, as melee kills can be extremely satisfying.
Picking your next mission is via a hub, after the initial level you’ll make your way to the Paris catacombs, meeting up with the French resistance. From here taking to members of the resistance will open up new side missions, ranging from rescuing people to gathering documents. Travelling to missions is via the metro map which displays the areas which house the missions and side missions respectively. Although optional I’d advise to spend time doing the side missions, you gain useful XP and ability points to help you for the tougher encounters.
Each district you will visit is visually distinct, with numerous routes to take, some of which open up with certain side missions. You are obviously not alone, each area is filled to the brim with Nazis who are looking to kill both sisters. Given the games more open nature, Nazis do respawn in previously cleared areas, while that may annoy some people it makes sense why would it stay empty when there’s a twin Blazkowicz threat about.
The dreaded mircotransactions rear their ugly heads in Youngblood in the form of gold bars, they’re not intrusive to the game as such as you can only use them for cosmetics, and some boosters for things like XP and health. It’s just an option for those who wish to use them, a lesser evil.
Whilst not as long as the previous campaigns, in terms of gameplay and the side missions you can partake in you’ll still get a lot out of this game. Plus with it having a smaller price tag you’re still getting a lot of content with your hard earned monies. Youngblood does shake up the normal Wolfenstein structure, yet doesn’t quite stick the landing in terms of execution. It does have me more excited for Wolfenstein 3 though, which I assume is still coming.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*