The last Wolfenstein game, New Colossus, was the first game I used to test out my new Xbox One X for good reason. It was one of my favorite games of that year. Even though it did have some issues, such as the high level of difficulty (even on lower levels,) the all over the place storyline (even for New series standards) and the sudden, abrupt ending, I still played the game on many playthroughs over both Xbox and PC.
But still, one image still strikes me every time I see it. Right before the end of the game, when Anya comes to BJ’s aid, throwing a grenade at a Panzerhound and then firing twin assault rifles like a madwoman, all while completely topless, and pregnant no less! It was then that I wondered just how brutal her soon to be born daughters will end up.
And that’s where Youngblood leads us. It’s been 19 years since that insane moment and BJ Blazkowicz driving a hatchet right into the forehead of Frau Engel. Since then, America was liberated from Nazi control. Hitler was killed by Blazkowicz, resistance leader Grace Walker has since moved on and is now the head of the newly reinstated FBI, and BJ and his wife Anya are raising their twin daughters, Jess and Soph to make them the vicious Nazi hunters just like their parents.
However, in early 1980, BJ suddenly disappears, and both Jess and Soph start to wonder where he went to. But upon finding his hidden stash in the attic, along with the help of Grace’s daughter Abby, steal Grace’s helicopter, making a claim they are going to get burgers. In actuality they are on route to the source of BJ’s investigation: Nazi-occupied Paris.
After taking down a Nazi zeppelin and killing its commanding officer, Jess and Soph locate the head of the resistance, a French woman named Juju and her mute partner Jacques. From there, they hunt down Nazis leading up to their head commander, General Lothar and locate their father BJ in the process.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is now a co-op based shooter where you play one of the Blazkowicz sisters while either a human or AI player takes over the other. Those who purchase the Buddy Pass allow anyone who downloads the game trial to join into the whole campaign for free. The only catch is the Buddy Pass player cannot earn any achievements or trophies until they buy the game, but it gives a great opportunity to play the game for longer than what a normal trial would last.
Camaraderie is the main goal in Youngblood as the sisters do anything to help each other out. In addition to having to join together to open certain doors or activate control panels, they share a bond that allows them to apply perks to one another. By using the “Pep” system, the twins can send a gesture to each other that will grant them perks such as restored health or armor, temporary invulnerability, or enhanced weapon abilities. In addition, when one sister goes down, the other one can help restore them. However, they also share lives. Each sister has three shared lives, and when both sisters are down, it costs a shared life. Only when all the shared lives are gone or your sister dies, then the mission is considered a failure.
Youngblood also features a ton of customization options. All of the weapons acquired have parts developed by three different manufacturer tiers, and when all three slots in a manufacturer is filled, it gives special bonuses such as extra damage, magazine size, and firing speed. That, combined with increased damage for each level, and in a matter of hours, the Blazkowicz sisters turn into brutal killing machines.
The sisters can also be customized visually in addition to perks. Several different models of the Da’at Yichud armor are available for purchase with accompanying helmets. These suits, as well as weapon perks are purchased with in game silver. Three additional skill tiers, ranked on Mind, Muscle and Power, are earned by skill points at each level.
However, I need to once again bring up the whole Didn’t Spend A Dime alert in my review, and you can see my column on the subject in the link. Game elements can also be purchased via microtransactions, and you know what that means: more claims of Youngblood having a huge grinding problem leading to a pay to win scenario. Again these claims are completely false. In the 15 hours I spent playing the game, I ended up with a Level 45 character and all of my upgrades and perks were earned in game. Not a single dime was spent on microtransactions.
Fifteen hours is a decent amount of game time for a $30 game, and thankfully there is still a lot more to do after the main story is completed. There is the usual concept art, notes lay about, videocassettes (or as they call them here, UVKs,) and of course, music and audio feeds to listen to. While they do have a unique new wave/synth style to the soundtrack, I have to admit it seems a bit lacking in terms of 80s cheese, especially when you compare it to similar settings like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
Thankfully though the game is quite a looker. On the Xbox One X version I played it using what is called “Aggressive Dynamic Resolution.” While it doesn’t run at a constant 4K in that mode, it does keep the frame rate at a near constant 60 frames per second. There were some moments that did cause huge frame rate drops, specifically in the raid missions every time a huge explosion occurred, but in the end it still ran great most of the time.
Yes, this is not a full Wolfenstein game in the same vein as the New Colossus, and it will feature a VR based sister title in the form of Cyberpilot, but Wolfenstein: Youngblood is one thing in a game that mattered the most to me: fun. It starts off very challenging as you learn the co-op elements, but when you finally figure it out, the game is non-stop action for the next 15 hours. And at $30, it’s quite the steal to hold us over until part 3!
Pros: A unique co-op twist to the Wolfenstein series. Surprisingly fun after the dark New Colossus. Good value at only $30. Buddy Pass in the Deluxe Edition is a nice way to get others to join in for free, yet for single players, partner AI is quite good. Again, microtransaction and grinding drama is taken way out of context, as all of the customization and leveling up mechanics can be done quickly without spending any additional money.
Cons: Some frame rate issues, especially during the raid missions. Game starts off very difficult when playing at a low level, but thankfully it events itself out. Sadly the 80s element does not go to the extreme level seen in past homages like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
Ethics Disclaimer: This review of Wolfenstein: Youngblood was completed using a copy of the Xbox One Deluxe Edition provided by Bethesda. Game played to completion of the main story after over 15 hours of gameplay with about 80% of the side missions done. No outside influence was used in the writing of this review.