Twin sisters battle Nazis in fictional Europe

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Level editor, platform
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: MachineGames, Arkane Studios
Rating: M, for mature

By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News (TNS)

The Wolfenstein franchise continues to evolve with the release of Wolfenstein: Youngblood which introduces multiplayer mode. The co-op game lets players choose to take on the role of Jessie or Zofia Blazkowicz, twin sisters who travel to France in search of their missing father. Helped by their childhood friend, Abby, the duo dons power suits and raise hell in an alternate Europe where the Nazis have taken over the world.

They join the underground resistance led by Juju Desjardins and help out the ragtag group. It’s a formula that will be familiar to fans as the sisters tackle missions from different members of the movement. The main goal, though, is for the twins to infiltrate and hack the main computers of three massive facilities called Brothers and unlock the location to Lab X.

Using the abilities of the power suits, they can double jump and reach a balcony. The siblings can use their cloaking ability to sneak past foes. When one sister loses all her health, the other can heal her back up. Although Jes and Soph are powerful, Wolfenstein Youngblood is balanced so that they can’t just steamroll the Nazis.

One example of the challenge comes in the fact that two players have three lives to share between them. If they lose all three, they must start the level over. Elsewhere, enemies have shields that requires players to fire at them with specific weapons. It’s a clumsy mechanic but it forces players to be proficient with a wide array of guns.

This makes the learning curve steep initially. The first missions can be a roadblock for players, especially if they rely on a computer-controlled partner. Fortunately, Wolfenstein Youngblood becomes easier as players defeat Nazis, complete missions and level up. They earn upgrade points and silver coins that increase the abilities of their Blazkowicz sister.

They can boost a hero’s health and armor, increasing their chances of survival. They can give the hero the strength to handle dual wield weapons or knock down enemies by charging at them. On the offensive end, they can discover more powerful weapons during the campaign and upgrade the arsenal they have using silver coins.

To overcome the game’s challenges, players will need to rely heavily on their co-op partner, and this presents issues with Wolfenstein Youngblood. When players find a great ally, the game shows its potential as the second person introduces new tactics.

Unfortunately, the co-op experiences cuts both ways. If they’re stuck with a bad partner, it can be an exercise in frustration and it’s best to play with an AI ally.

The co-op experience also clashes with the style of the campaign. The past few Wolfenstein titles pushed players to take a deliberate approach. It was a game where players read and searched for collectibles. Youngblood has the same elements but that often holds up an experience where the partner player wants to move on to the next challenge. If players want to read all the text and sink their teeth into the atmosphere of this alternate version of Paris, it’s best to play with the AI.

Despite those flaws, Wolfenstein Youngblood still has a good core and a likable set of heroes. The Blazkowicz sisters are tomboys and have a wide-eyed wonder to the violent situations they encounter. It’s an interesting co-op experiment that shows how the series has one foot in the recent past and one pointed toward a compelling future.