Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM are often considered the granddaddies of the first person shooter genre, and they both spawned consistently successful franchises, both of which are being produced to this day. They have their similarities, but the franchises are separated by differences in aesthetic, gunplay, etc. For me, though, the main draw to either game comes from what kind of demons you want to spend the next several hours slaughtering.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood deviates heavily from the last handful of games, which has lead to divisiveness among the series’s fanbase. While some enjoy the new ground it treads, traditionalists disliked how not-Wolfenstein it feels. Both of these are totally fair ways of judging the game, and the different viewpoints stem from whether you want to look at the game as an FPS or as a Wolfenstein entry. This review is going to be from the perspective of the former, and I’ll be examining the gameplay features outside the confines of its franchise.
Youngblood continues the story of The New Order and The New Colossus as a sort of volume 2.5, occupying a space in the timeline 20 years after the last without being a full main-series entry. After the death of Hitler, Blazkowicz has settled down a bit to raise his daughters, Jess and Soph. When he disappears mysteriously, the girls enlist the help of their friend Abby to track him down, joining forces with the Parisian resistance. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement: they help eliminate Nazis from the city, and the resistance helps find their dad.
The first cutscene of the game is a long one, starting with BJ taking one of his daughters hunting (and dispensing a quote that will naturally be echoed back to him at the end of the game), while the other stays home to complete her mother’s brutal training regimen. This continues through their father’s disappearance, them running away from home with Abby to join the resistance, and even their very first kill. I’d normally excuse a long first cutscene for establishing characters, but neither of them have much character to establish.
Most of the comms between the girls sound not unlike friendly comms between teammates in a voice chat, without all the slurs of any sort. Throughout the game, Jess and Soph shout excited encouragements to each other like “damn, dude!” “you’re killing it!” “let’s kill some Nazi assholes”, with very little awareness of their own mortality and the danger they’re putting themselves in. During more quiet sections, they become introspective, reminiscing about their life as children and wondering what might happen if they never find their dad. I’m certainly not saying they’re flat characters, but compared to BJ’s confrontations of his fears and failures in New Colossus, it’s a bit of a step down.
Let’s get into the gameplay. Since BJ has two daughters, the game has two players! Invite a friend over, and— oh, there’s no split-screen. Sit alone in your own house and play with your friend from a distance and work together to blast your way through Nazi-controlled Paris. Don’t have a friend? That’s alright, the AI is mostly adequate! I’ve seen complaints about bad AI giving players issues, but for me she was mostly fine. …