Wolfenstein: Youngblood shakes up the formula of the series, but it doesn't quite live up to the potential of its new approach to fighting Nazis.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes the first-person shooter series to Paris, as the twin daughters of franchise protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz must search for their missing father in the heart of Nazi-occupied France. The game tries to shake up the traditional Wolfenstein formula by adding co-op and changing the progression of both the quest structure and the powers of the playable characters, but it fails to fully capitalize on the new direction it has taken, leaving a game that is entertaining but shallow.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is set in the alternate history timeline of the new Wolfenstein games, where World War II ended with a Nazi victory. B.J. Blazkowicz was responsible for killing Adolf Hitler, but that didn't stop the Nazi regime, nor end the war. Wolfenstein: Youngblood follows B.J.'s daughters Jessica and Sophia Blazkowicz as they meet up with the local resistance cell, who need all of the help they can get in repelling the invaders from their homeland. The story of Jessica and Sophia is mostly played for comedy, as the extent of their character depth is quoting the fictional Arthur & Kenneth novel series (a play on The Hardy Boys books) and goofing off as they massacre their way through Nazi soldiers.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a first-person shooter with an emphasis on co-op gameplay. The player takes on the role of either Jessica or Sophia (who are both functionally identical), as they complete missions for the French Resistance. Once the player reaches Paris, they are given the task of infiltrating three heavily-guarded towers in order to steal the data they need to find B.J., but they likely won't have the skills necessary in order to succeed. Luckily, there are plenty of people among the resistance who need help with various missions that are designed to weaken the local regime. Wolfenstein: Youngblood differs from the other games in the series in that the player can choose to take on missions in any order, which includes being able to take on the three main tower levels before they would normally be ready.
The bulk of Wolfenstein: Youngblood takes place on the war-torn streets of Paris that are guarded by Nazi soldiers in advanced gear, who work alongside powerful robotic allies. Jessica and Sophia have been given power suits to help even the odds against their foes, which gives them access to special abilities that they can earn from leveling up. The abilities the power suits grant include things like limited invisibility, striking the enemy with super strength, and being able to use the heavy weapons of the Nazi forces. Jessica and Sophia can also improve the weapons they find by purchasing mods using the Silver Coins currency that is found hidden around the world and is given away as a reward for completing missions. Wolfenstein: Youngblood features microtransactions in the form of Gold Bars that can be purchased for real money, but they can only be used to buy cosmetic items.
The progression system in the game is a welcome addition and it helps to make it feel as if Jessica and Sophia are growing stronger in order to match the increasing power of their foes. The power suits also give Jessica and Sophia the ability to double jump, which adds verticality to the stages and encourages the player to experiment with the ways in which they engage the enemy in combat.
The co-op aspect of the gameplay is a major part of Wolfenstein: Youngblood and the player can invite other people to join in their game at any time. It's also possible to play Wolfenstein: Youngblood as a single-player experience, with the other twin being controlled by the A.I. whenever no one else is playing. The A.I. of Wolfenstein: Youngblood is mostly effective, with one notable exception in the form of the revival mechanic. Wolfenstein: Youngblood follows the formula of most co-op games by reducing a player who hits zero health into a weakened state where they can be revived within a limited time by their ally. If both players reach this state then they lose a life. Wolfenstein: Youngblood allows the players to store up to three shared lives, which can be restored through opening special cases.
The point where the A.I. falters in Wolfenstein: Youngblood is that it often fails to revive the player in areas outside of the streets of Paris. Once the player reaches one of the towers, the A.I. will often ignore their dying ally in order to concentrate on the enemy, even if you are literally right in front of them. This oversight will often lead to the player needlessly losing lives and it's one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. The fact that the game is designed around co-op also adds another annoying issue in that it can't be paused, even if there is only one player and the system isn't connected to the Internet. The lack of a pause feature is annoying whenever it appears in any game, but it's especially bad here, as the character & weapon upgrades are hidden behind several menus.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a shorter game, with the main campaign lasting between twelve and fifteen hours, but there are side quests and daily/weekly challenges that can be used to pad the runtime. The length of the story is reflected in the price, as the game costs around thirty dollars to buy at launch. The length of the game wouldn't be as much of an issue if it felt as if there was a lot of content, but Wolfenstein: Youngblood wastes its potential with its small scope. The streets of Paris are small and barren, with the same selection of enemies repeating over and over again, which is also true of the numerous facilities that the players need to explore in missions. The fact that Paris is abandoned (outside of a single mission hub) leaves the game world feeling empty and lifeless. There are mild Metroidvania elements in the form of doors that can only be opened with the aid of weapons that can be found in the three towers, but these offer little incentive to explore old areas, as the meager loot on offer generally isn't worth the hassle of fighting through the same mobs of enemies that you have killed numerous times already.
There was a lot of potential in the idea for Wolfenstein: Youngblood but it feels more like a proof of concept for something bigger than a full-fledged experience. The idea of fighting alongside the French Resistance in a reality where World War II continued on until the '80s is an interesting one and there is a lot that could have been done with the concept, but what is here feels stripped down and reduced to the level of many of cookie-cutter shooter titles that lack the pedigree of the series. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is an entertaining game by its own standard, but it feels like its potential was wasted by decreasing the scope of what could have been an epic conflict.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a digital PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.