Video game review: 'Wolfenstein: Youngblood': It's all about your friends

  • "Wolfenstein: Youngblood"

    "Wolfenstein: Youngblood" Courtesy of Bethesda Softworks

 
By Christopher Byrd
Washington Post
Posted8/4/2019 7:00 AM

"Wolfenstein: Youngblood"

Developed by: MachineGames, Arkane Studios

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Published by: Bethesda Softworks

Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

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In 2014, the Swedish development studio MachineGames pulled off one of the more distinguished revamps of this video game generation. "Wolfenstein: The New Order" injected fresh life into a series that kick-started the first-person shooter genre in the 1990s by combining the twitch combat that players expect with the kind of pensive writing one might find in a high-toned war movie. 2017's wonderful "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus " tweaked the formula by relaxing the difficulty curve of "The New Order" and doubling down on the narrative moments that provide excellent contrast to the Nazi-killing action, which is a hallmark of the series.

Picking up 20 years after the events of the last game, "Wolfenstein: Youngblood" stars the twin daughters of the series hero, B.J. Blazkowicz, who take the fight against the Nazis to the streets of Paris. A few cutscenes notwithstanding, "Youngblood" (which was co-developed by the French developer Arkane Studios) doesn't have the number of arresting narratives as "The New Colossus." But, in a series first, its campaign is organized around co-op gameplay. This addition, while diverting, is not particularly rousing. Like so many big budget video games it's nothing more than a safe bet.

The game opens with a quiet and effective scene set near Mesquite, Texas, in 1979. It shows Blazkowicz and his wife, Anya, rigorously training their young adult daughters, Jess and Soph, in the art of combat. The parents' concern for their children is obvious as is the siblings affection for each other. The scene then cuts to the following year where, in Paris, Jess and Soph meet up with members of the French resistance.

The girls are looking for their father who mysteriously vanished but left behind clues that he'd traveled to the City of Lights on a secret mission. In exchange for helping to track down their father the twins agree to run missions for the resistance against the Nazis. These assignments take them from a Zeppelin that serves as a casino to various locations scattered around the game's re-creation of Paris.

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Over the length of the game players will cross and recross many of the same areas and visit some sights, like a Nazi interrogation center, on different missions. Such backtracking didn't grate much on me or my co-op partner because we had a decent time chit-chatting and shooting Nazis. We both found the girls sisterly camaraderie -- their fist-bumps, dancing in elevators, and banter -- bemusing, if a bit childish. If there was one design element that my friend and I singled out for commendation, it's the game's pep system. Pressing up on the control pad allows the sisters to rally each other with an encouraging word and a physical gesture, like a thumbs-up. This system adds nicely to an atmosphere of mutual reliance.

Different peps can be purchased with the in-game currency. Once my friend and I saved up for a pep that replenishes full health and body armor we delighted even more in the tempo of the game. Although we never had too much trouble advancing through levels, we hit a couple of bottlenecks with the first two of the game's five bosses. The first boss frustrated us because his regenerating health made us feel that we weren't getting anywhere by shooting at him. But after consulting YouTube we realized that we just had to wear him down to trigger a scripted cutscene. After that fight I worried that "Youngblood" might have the sort of bullet-sponge bosses that vexed me in "The New Order." The second boss seemed to confirm this after he repeatedly wiped us out the first day we faced him.

Fortunately, any apprehensions I had were allayed after my friend and I decided to complete as many side-missions as possible to level up our characters. Once we accumulated enough experience points to unlock upgrades for our weapons, we noticed a night-and-day difference when we revisited the second boss. We had little trouble getting past the next two bosses which we steamrolled on our first attempt. But the final boss was a worthy opponent that took us several attempts to vanquish.

"Wolfenstein: Youngbloods" provides a decent co-op experience for friends to indulge in. It's like going to a place where you know the service is fine and you wouldn't look for anything unusual.

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