PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch; MachineGames/Bethesda
The Nazi-splattering franchise returns, with thoughtful level design compensating for a lack of true play flexibility
Wolfenstein Youngblood has been a rogue like his two teenage protagonists. This two-player entry in this long-lasting game dissects many of the parent game’s conventions, choosing a more open framework with a much shorter tale and much more action. It’s a chaotic, hyperactive experience which has issues with teething, but which finishes with the most enjoyable Wolfenstein matches of all.
Youngblood considers players assuming the roles of BJ, Wolfenstein’s square-jawed hero Soph and Jess Blazkowicz. Raised in Texas, which has alternatively retrofutured from the Nazis, Soph and Jess have lived a (relatively) ordinary life before their dad vanishes in secret Paris missions. Soph and Jess take the task of finding their father and bringing him back in the Parisian Catacombs, with their helpless Mother and the FBI clueless. with the French Resistance.
Led by the Swedish MachineGames developer, Youngblood has been co-designed to create a wonderful Dishonored series with Arkane studios. The latter’s impact is very obvious. Youngblood takes place in four separate districts in Paris, three of which can be studied from the start. Instead of a linear level series. Your primary objective is to infiltrate three “Brother” safety towers that are filled with concrete abominations that are more right-wing than a mobile for an EDL member.
These towers are strongly fortified, and your heroines will probably transform into meatloaf when you attack the front door. However, there are a number of other issues relating to the Reich that need to be solved, from the rescue of the hostages and the assassination of Gestapo officers. Many of these sidemissions open secret roads into the towers, making your strategy much simpler.
At the beginning, Youngblood’s Paris can be both fascinating and frustrating. There are always more than one path towards your goal, whether directly through a street run by super-soldiers and robotic Panzerhunds or through the balconies and deserted homes. The surroundings are full of secret paths and hidden places, including a vast underground with the secret Nazi bunkers overhead.
This ecological wealth means you can sneak through the game. But stealth in practice is very difficult to remove. The collaborative game of Youngblood implies double the chance to be seen, while your adversaries are sensitive and rapid to make you alarm. This doesn’t imply that your game choices are as wide as they originally appear, but Wolfenstein is first and foremost a shooter.
More importantly, Youngblood does a poor job of explaining itself. In the early hours, there’s a lot of bouncing aimlessly, looking for fun. It means that, before taking on the towers, you go on side missions but, rather than show this, it means that you can go directly ahead if you wish. It doesn’t inform you also if your home base has fresh side missions. I studied several places that seemed not to be useful, just to find that the suitable missions were not unlocked.
However, once you crack this first Brother Tower, it flowers into a very interesting thing. Each of the towers is a huge, multi-staged mission with breathtaking visual design. For instance, to conquer Brother Two, you enter the still-under construction summit via a large underground docking region, slip over the top of the construction materials cranes, as Nazi zeppelin cross the line on the level of their eyes. Youngblood has no task as demonstrative as the brilliantly funky moon level of the New Order, but with its more wider and complex environments it is responsible for this.
However, once you crack the first Brother Tower, it flowers into something incredibly interesting. Each of the towers is a massive, multi-stage visual task. For instance, in the event of conquest of Brother Two, you will enter the Still Undernatural Summit via a large underground dockage region, jogging between crane loads of construction products, and the Nazi zeppelins will fly past at eye level. Youngblood does not have a unique task like the brilliantly funky Moon stage of the New Order, but it does so with its wider and more complicated settings.
This structural shift increases the free flow of fighting. There is a better chance to experiment with guns and skills to find ways to clear a road as effectively and/or spectacularly as possible. Yungblood operates well when you play alone, but surely when you play with a buddy, it works best. Not only can you more efficiently co-ordinate your assaults, but you also play with two amps tougher adversaries.
The Nazis are also developing as you build up your abilities and expand your arsenal. Towards the end of the match you will trade laser fires in a single hatchet with squashy Nazi mechs and squat-axed troops. Maybe the greatest skill, “Crush,” will not only allow you to jump on enemy heads like an antifascist Super Mario, but can also endure enemies so severe they break out.
Youngblood, anarchical and ferocious on the surface in the right way, has a careful design. Jess and Soph characters are noisy, goophy and irritating, but they should be precisely that. Some of the papers are a bit uncomfortable, and you won’t find much in the form of nuanced storytelling. This is a game about two young females who blast racist into goo–it’s a bloody moment for me.
Angelique Chrisafis is the Guardian’s Paris correspondent. She is responsible for churning out quality articles based on her research while keeping an eye on the tech world. She likes technology, gadgets, and food. Works as an individual contributor to the team.