Wolfenstein: Youngblood continues everything that's made the Wolfenstein franchise great while also improving the foundation in order to allow for a brand-new co-op experience. This year's installment comes two years after the release of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and while it's not a direct sequel to the previous game, it's a spinoff that maintains the continuity established by MachineGames in their rebooted titles - particularly with the liberation of the United States in 1961, the event at the end of the last game.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to go hands-on with Wolfenstein: Youngblood at E3 2019, playing on a PC. Our hour-long hands-on demo took place at the start of the game, with the twins - Jessica and Sophia Blazkowicz, who Anya was pregnant in The New Colossus - taking on their first mission as Nazi killers to find their father, B.J., who had apparently headed to Paris without anyone knowing. Since there are two characters, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is meant to be played co-op (though the computer will take over when a second player isn't available), and the franchise surprisingly lends itself quite well to the new gameplay mechanic.
Playing co-op in Wolfenstein: Youngblood isn't just helping out your teammate by killing Nazis. While that's obviously a major component of the game, various alterations have been made to make the title feel like a co-op experience from the ground-up. This is evident by how parts of levels and extra lives need to be accessed or acquired together, amongst other things. Of course, Arkane Studios has helped MachineGames turn their story-driven franchise into a cooperative one, and judging by what we tried out at E3 this year, it seems they are on the right track for yet another great addition to the long-running series.
In many ways, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the third installment in MachineGames' series rather than a spinoff, but what makes it a spinoff is the fact that its story revolves around B.J.'s twin daughters instead of him. But seeing as the story is a direct continuation of The New Colossus, though beginning 19 years later in the liberated United States, it feels that the core story has come to an end, and now, the developers can proceed with a new direction for the franchise. That may not be the case as Wolfenstein 3 could certainly be in the works. However, Youngblood makes more than enough additions that it can act as a proof of concept of a new era of Wolfenstein.
Co-op is the big factor here, but in addition to that, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is also a much more lighthearted entry, deliberately leaning into the reckless nonchalance that the youth are known for having. With Jess and Soph being 18 to 19-year-olds, there are unquestionably learning what it means to be a Nazi killer on the go. This is a moment when they not only can prove themselves to their mother (and friends) but also save their father from a potentially horrible fate.
Despite this, Youngblood is very much a MachineGames-developed Wolfenstein title, with all the pillars still at the core, such as the frenzied combat and the relentless action. Furthermore, Arkane Studios has absorbed some of the best aspects from their previous titles, such as Dishonored, into Youngblood. Most of this is noticeable in progressing Jess and Soph's armored suits and taking on higher-tier Nazis. With those people, who now have armor bars, teamwork is of the utmost importance to defeating them. For instance, if there's a mounted machine gun on top of a barricade, it's best if one player lures the higher level combatant past the barricade so that the other person can use the gun to kill the Nazi. Then, in some situations, someone may need to be perched on a high ledge and continuously spot enemies for the other player to take them out.
As for the level design, Youngblood is a step up from The New Colossus, primarily because of the openness and ability to move between rooms and objectives in more ways than one. Player freedom as at the crux of Wolfenstein: Youngblood. This tenet is applied to practically all elements of the game, from the armor suit abilities to the layout of the map, to how players approach the story as a whole. It's not as direct as previous Wolfenstein games, at least not based on what we've been told and what we played at E3, but that doesn't mean this is suddenly an open-world Nazi game with B.J. Blazkowicz in it. Rather it's Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus with new characters and numerous quality of life improvements.
We can't guarantee that Wolfenstein: Youngblood will come out the gate as good as what was demoed at E3, but it seems that the new title is on the right track. With unique main characters, cooperative play, incredible verticality, and a new era to boot, there's much more under the hood of Bethesda, MachineGames, and Arkane Studios' 2019 game than meets the eye. Sure, the central narrative may feel like it was cut short and delivered at the opening of Youngblood, but if any studio can turn this around and present an unexpected ending that leads to even more Wolfenstein titles, it's MachineGames. After all, it certainly seems like B.J. Blazkowicz isn't done battling the Nazis just yet. He's got some fight left in him - and it appears so does the Wolfenstein franchise.