Wolfenstein: Youngblood gives fans of the franchise another chance to do their favorite thing in a video game: killing lots of Nazis.
I’ve started playing the third installment in Machine Games’ reboot of the classic id Software franchise. You can see some of my hands-on gameplay in the embedded video. (See my interview with Machine Games executive producer Jerk Gustafsson for more about making Youngblood).
This video shows what the game is like in single-player mode, but it is best played with another human in online cooperative multiplayer mode. BJ Blazkowicz and his wife, Anya, are great characters who carry the first two games in an alternate universe where the Nazis won World War II. But this game features their twin daughters, Jes and Soph, who add levity to the storyline of resistance to the enemy. I share their incredulity in the beginning that they live in a world where the Nazis are still a threat.
I’ve played through the beginning a couple of times, and it’s not so easy on the standard setting. You have powerful weapons, but you go up against some heavily armored soldiers. It’s good to start in stealth mode, but you have to go hot with the guns early on. If you don’t take out a Kommandant early, he will call in reinforcements. That makes the gameplay harder.
It isn’t easy to tell which weapon works best on the armored enemies. You have a super-shotgun and an assault rifle in the beginning, as well as a pistol. But the enemies have indicators on them which tell you which kind of ammo to use.
The balance between the feel of the guns, the level of lethality, and the difficulty of bringing down multiple strong enemies at once is a hallmark of the Wolfenstein series. That’s why it’s one of my favorite shooter games. Add to that a good story and you can see why this series has been so successful.
As you can see in the cut scenes, the girls have grown up training to kill Nazis, but in a loving environment. Their antics are cute and funny, and they can give each other pep talks, which come with health or armor bonuses. But in single player, it’s not easy to keep them both alive. Your computer-controlled companion will often shoot at the enemies in the open, and that makes them vulnerable to the enemies that shoot lasers or other heavy weaponry.
The video includes the beginning of the game’s opening cinematic and its first action scene. You can also see the beginning of the Riverside level, where you have to take on more difficult enemies out in the open. Clearly, the armored suits help, but they don’t make you invulnerable. I tried to run-and-gun the Riverside level, and it worked reasonably well until I ran into the giant armored soldier.
While the cinematics in this game won’t run as long as in previous titles, I still love the characters and the story. Jes and Soph bring light-hearted humor to the relentless oppression of living in a Nazi-controlled world. The game ships today on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. It will ship later on Google Stadia.
I played the game on an Nvidia GeForce RTX-powered PC, and it looks great and runs fast.
Disclosure: Bethesda provided me a copy of the game for the purposes of this story.