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Review

Wolfenstein: Youngblood Review - Family Matters

  • First Released Jul 26, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Jul 25, 2019
  • PC

Young, wild, and free.

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In Wolfenstein's alternate 1980s, Nazis remain a tyrannical force of evil and oppression across Europe, even after Hitler was killed by series protagonist BJ Blazkowicz. Thus, the Nazi killing continues as the Blazkowicz twins, Jess and Soph, pick up where their parents left off for a spin-off in Wolfenstein: Youngblood--a relentless co-op shooter driven by an unapologetic, youthful attitude. It may not reach the same narrative heights of its predecessors or land every idea borne out in its new approach, but Youngblood hits where it counts.

Our introduction to Jess and Soph shows how their parents, Anya and BJ, taught them the means for survival on their rural Texas homestead. There's a tense tone of protective parents who've been through the worst and are preparing their daughters to be able to handle the same, which is quickly juxtaposed with the twins' carefree exuberance when alone together. Bring in the wizkid best friend Abby, daughter of Wolfenstein 2's Grace Walker, and you have a trio that brings their own unique swagger to the Wolfenstein name.

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Their personalities immediately come to life. Jess and Soph are boisterous and sometimes dorky, the same way many teenagers and young adults are, and it gives them genuine personalities that mostly just come off cool as hell, especially with stellar voice acting. They'll go back and forth about their favorite superspy novel series Arthur & Kenneth, even imagining themselves as their beloved in-fiction duo. They'll refer to things their parents have done, hype each other up in combat, and just straight up act silly in the elevator loading screens to the tune of '80s synthpop background music, breathing new life into the Blazkowicz family.

The game is less about a bold, fleshed-out narrative and more about instilling an infectious charisma in its star characters to match the over-the-top action and sow the seeds for what's next in Wolfenstein.

It's not long before they take a turn for the absurd; with BJ gone missing, they uncover clues to his disappearance and take matters into their own hands. But they're not exactly sneaking out of the house or secretly taking their parents' car out for a drive. They're taking a military-grade helicopter to Nazi-occupied France to find their dad, and well, kill Nazis. As either Jess or Soph (with your co-op or AI partner as the other sister) and equipped with high-tech Da'at Yichud battle suits, you join a French resistance movement in Neu-Paris, which quickly boils down to you raiding Nazi outposts and strongholds.

With Jess and Soph inseparable, co-op is at the heart of the experience, and thankfully partnering up online is a breeze. As a host you can have friends (or randoms) jump into your session seamlessly without interruption; the AI will assume control until a player connects and again right as a player leaves. If players have identical missions in the quest log, completing it will record progress for both players. And if you'd rather go it alone alongside a decent AI companion, it's just as viable an option for the entire game.

Youngblood captures that familiar Wolfenstein feeling of taking an automatic shotgun to a Nazi soldier, melting an armor-clad supersoldier with a laser rifle, or zapping a horde with a lighting coil, and what a powerful feeling it is. But what's new is that tougher enemies have one of two armor elements that are weak to corresponding weapons, encouraging you to actively juggle your varied arsenal. Furthermore, a slightly more diverse weapon upgrade system helps flesh out some familiar firearms to get them to function the way you prefer and tear through enemies more efficiently.

Light RPG elements also make their way into the character progression system; you rack up XP then dump upgrade points into new skills and perks, like raising health/armor caps, increasing cloak times, stocking heavy weapons, and much more. Enemies scale to your level, and only a few sections are defended by near-impossible enemies early on. It's a simple system that helps facilitate steady unlocks, making you feel like you're getting ever more devastating, but never overpowered.

Solid gunplay and some neat mechanics wouldn't mean much without the proper combat encounters to complement them, and Youngblood delivers. You'll often find yourself pulling out all the stops to either finish combat scenarios or realize you have to retreat and rethink your approach. A completely stealthy approach isn't as viable as it was in previous Wolfenstein games, even with the new cloaking ability, but it's a good way to thin out the opposition before going all-out guns blazing. It can get overwhelming when supersoldiers, massive mechs, and a bomb-strapped panzerhund bear down on you, but that's when Youngblood is at its best. Intense firefights can break out anywhere with little warning, and the main missions manage to keep a consistent action-packed momentum throughout.

Youngblood captures that familiar Wolfenstein feeling of taking an automatic shotgun to a Nazi soldier, melting an armor-clad supersoldier with a laser rifle, or zapping a horde with a lighting coil, and what a powerful feeling it is.

Admittedly, co-op centric features are a bit sparse. Each sister has a roster of emotes and motivational quips called pep signals that provide stat buffs or much-needed armor/health. However, that's pretty much what you get in terms of tandem abilities, and the absence of some sort of joint attack or tag-team abilities feels like a missed opportunity. In the fray, partners will be frantically trying to revive each other or falling back on shared lives which work like instant continues, taking the place of a traditional checkpoint system. It can be frustrating to make it to the final fight of a main mission, run out of shared lives, and be sent back to the very beginning of the mission. But if anything, it's a crude way to emphasize cooperation and tactical gameplay.

Overall, Youngblood leans more into an open structure by making Neu-Paris a group of separate districts (open hub areas) where you find your missions. After a brief introduction, you're tasked with assaulting three "Brother" towers--your main quests--attached to each hub area. Out on the streets, though, side missions and random events fill in the spaces and are conducive for racking up early XP, getting familiar with district layouts, and soaking up the vibe of a downtrodden 1980s Paris, but these missions quickly feel like filler that bulk out your to-do list.

The design of the districts are striking, however, and you'll see hints of Arkane Studios' influence; when I'm double jumping and mantling to the rooftops and top floors of buildings, I'm reminded of Dishonored, especially as I search for collectibles and chests full of currency. This approach also spices up combat with some verticality and the opportunity to flex the agile capabilities of those slick Da'at Yichud suits. The Brother towers even have alternative entry points that you'll have to discover yourself or find through side missions. It's a successful incorporation of that studio's strengths, and the game is better for it.

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The Paris catacombs acts your safe hub in Youngblood, and it's where you accept side missions from resistance members, stock up on supplies, or hit up the old knock-off Wolfenstein 3D cabinet. It's not as extensive as The New Colossus' U-boat home, and you won't get much from its inhabitants--they're nowhere near as involved as Wolfenstein 2's supporting cast since they're just quest givers. However, Jess, Soph, and Abby are there to pick up the slack.

They might be polar opposites of their parents, but it gives Youngblood its own flair. BJ's inner monologue and struggle internalizing life-long trauma is at the heart of modern Wolfenstein games, and Anya has seen the pure evil of the Nazi regime first hand through the years. Naturally, Jess and Soph have vastly different characterizations, only knowing a post-war world and presumably growing up in a stable household. They capture the spirit of a carefree youth, yet they share the same unfettered motivation for killing Nazis; it would seem that Anya and BJ taught them well.

The story doesn't reach the same highs as mainline Wolfenstein games, namely The New Colossus. It’s an incredibly tough act to follow, really. But aside from a cheap plot twist and underwhelming villains, most of Youngblood's lean story is quality stuff. To that end, the game is less about a bold, fleshed-out narrative and more about instilling an infectious charisma in its star characters to match the over-the-top action and sow the seeds for what's next in Wolfenstein. Despite Youngblood taking place after events we've yet to see unfold in the mainline games, it leaves the door open for some exciting, wild possibilities for where the series could go.

Jess and Soph are boisterous and sometimes dorky, the same way many teenagers and young adults are, and it gives them genuine personalities that mostly just come off cool as hell...

Throughout Youngblood, traces of an ongoing game structure become more pronounced once you finish the main story. You can take on daily and weekly challenges as they cycle into the game, which offer some additional XP and currency to unlock any remaining abilities and weapon mods. What's a bit more substantial is the option to replay story missions on harder difficulties (hard, very hard, and challenging) for increasing amounts of XP and currency. While it's a bog-standard way to keep the co-op experience going, they at least offer an outlet to try new tactics, as these harder modes can become quite unforgiving. The endgame may not be extensive, but the ride was exciting enough that the content feels like a little value added.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood has the series' signature first-person shooting thrills that'll have you gladly busting shots and blasting lasers in the face of Nazi trash--and the opportunity to do so alongside a friend. It incorporates some new ideas which are serviceable for the most part, but hits more of the right notes in RPG elements and level design. It also knows the resistance doesn't end when one person cuts the head off a monstrous regime; the fight continues, sometimes into the next generation. And the way this brief spin-off broadens the saga with the Blazkowicz twins makes you wish there was more to see from this new cast of lovable knuckleheads. Jess and Soph--and Abby too--learned from the best, and embrace their newfound duty of ridding their world of tyranny while being cool as hell doing it. Youngblood is short, but oh-so sweet.

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The Good
Thrilling, challenging combat encounters
Light RPG elements spice up the solid gunplay
Bright, charming, and unapologetic attitude from Jess, Soph, and Abby
Seamless co-op system and decent AI partner for solo players
The Bad
Lack of variety in side missions and additional activities
Limited use of co-op for gameplay features
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Wolfenstein: Youngblood

About the Author

Michael loves them story-driven shooters, especially the modern Wolfenstein games. He spent around 12 hours (roughly split between co-op with a friend and solo with AI) coursing through Youngblood’s missions and endgame content on PC. Review code was provided by Bethesda.
295 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

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Mogan

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Edited By Mogan  Moderator

I get a strong Bill and Ted vibe off the sisters.

Belle and Theodora, I guess.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@Mogan: i can't really remember that movie but one of the girls is pretty sadistically twisted and the other is pretty normal by comparison.

The dynamic works though.

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dmblum1799

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But girls have cooties!

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Gamerforlife96

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@dmblum1799: yup :)

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ivory_soul

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Here's the summary of the comments:

"8/10 it's inflated!"

"8/10 this is a 10/10 f^ck GameSpot!"

"F^ck any game with females as leads! SJW agenda! Feminist agenda!"

"Welcome to EightSpot"

"Ohhhh maaaan a review higher than IGN's! The world is ending!"

"This is what you call video game journalism"

"Trump 2020! Watch out you women loving commie lefties!"

You can go back to playing now.

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Thelostscribe

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@ivory_soul: It's a fair note when Gamespot rates a game higher than IGN, it only happens a few times a year. Usually Gamespot rates a game 1 to 2 points lower.

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Honkler

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@ivory_soul: You forgot to add: "Look how perceptive I am, here's a list of common comments"

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aross2004

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@honkler: ...crickets...

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xantufrog

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xantufrog  Moderator  Online

@ivory_soul: lol, that reads like all of our review comments sections

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ivory_soul

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@xantufrog: Yeah, I accidentally read the comments on this game. GameSpot and IGN are notorious for having some of the biggest trolls on the internet. I usually try to avoid the comments section, but here I am stuck in the black hole.

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JSprunk

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Edited By JSprunk

@ivory_soul: You managed to turn a black hole into a toilet. Congrats. 5/10 troll attempt.

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aross2004

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@jsprunk: Says the person that claims the game only scored high because of females.

Hypocrite much?

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JSprunk

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@aross2004: LMAO...when you don't know meaning of the word hypocrite...

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videogameninja

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I think an 8 sits about square with what many were expecting.

Considering this is a “half game” much in the same vein as others out there like Uncharted: The Last Legacy for it to go over and beyond expectations for this type of release is a little unfair.

To that end, Wolfenstein is one of those rare FPS that is known just as much for it’s amazing narrative and characterization as it is for it’s satisfying gameplay. As such it is a little disappointing that it doesn’t even begin to reach the same heights as its predecessors (at least that’s the impression from the review.) but at the same time it doesn’t sound like it’s a complete excuse to just go around blasting Nazis.

While Wolfenstein: Youngblood may not reach the same heights as the other big name numbered entries in the franchise it sounds like a perfect excuse for those looking to kill those hot summer days thanks to limited new game releases.

And besides, who doesn’t love yet another excuse to blast Nazis away?

-BRINGING IN THE NEW BLOOD NINJA APPROVED-

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DEVILTAZ35

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@videogameninja: What is comical is that the makers actually explained to people not to expect it to be exactly like those games lol.

Then it comes out , not exactly like those games and people complain because it is not exactly like those games lol.

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nikolistary

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Wow.

I think this might be the very first time Gamespot gave a higher score than IGN's 6.5.

Hell has frozen over.

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musicman65000

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I'll pass. Too much SJW!

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Bot101101

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@musicman65000: Please do enlighten me how this is SJW? Because two women are female characters? Maybe you're too young to play this game

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yosus

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@musicman65000: being anti nazi is SJW? WTF!!!!

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ivory_soul

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@musicman65000: Stop playing games then dude. The gaming industry is one of the frontlines of diversity and if you don't like it take a time machine back to 1950 or get with the times. I'm tired of the "SJW" nonsense whenever a developer pushes cultural or racial diversity in a game. Gamers need it more than anyone else! Such toxic bullshit.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@ivory_soul: It's silly to call this SJW affected anyway as they are sisters not lovers lol . Fun game with just the right amount of sarcasm from the pair. Voice acting is quite good too . To be honest that was what i was most worried about but the banter between the pair works so well during the action.

One of the best modern shooters so far from a AAA Dev along with the severely underrated Day's Gone.

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ivory_soul

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@deviltaz35: Well, for some gamers, and I'd like to think it's the minority now, any women who are leads and don't have skimpy clothing or portrayed as weak seems to offend them and make them feel insecure. SJW is kind of a dated term now as how is diversity a bad thing? Gamers throw this term around and most don't even know what it really means. So what if they were lovers? How would that be bad? It's just as normal as a man and a woman leading right? I'm so glad the developers are pushing diversity and ignoring the snowflakes.

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cetaepsilon

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@ivory_soul: Fire Emblem doesn't have woke politics and it scores higher

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ivory_soul

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@cetaepsilon: I don't know how that's even relevant.

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ivory_soul

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@mypetmonkey: I'm not. That term is pretty much old and beat into the ground. It's not even relevant anymore. People wanting diversity is a bad thing? Go back to 1950 dude.

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mypetmonkey

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@nikolistary: You get it now then.... Glad you learnt something today.

I do love winning.

Smootches XOXOXO

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Gamerforlife96

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@musicman65000: and too much cringe

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XenomorphAlien

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Seems to be getting middling scores. I'll keep an eye on this

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vl4d_l3nin

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@xenomorphalien: Bethesda seems to have been on a downward spiral since FO76. I hope DOOM Eternal doesn't disappoint.

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ecs33

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@vl4d_l3nin: Doom will be one of best games of 2020

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XenomorphAlien

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@vl4d_l3nin: Doom won't

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@vl4d_l3nin: I don't think I'd call a 77 metascore a downward spiral.

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vl4d_l3nin

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@Mogan: I guess not. "Rocky downwards decline" then.

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Fedor

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Inflated score just like W2NC.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood More Info

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  • First Released Jul 26, 2019
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Wolfenstein: Youngblood
    5
    Average Rating66 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Wolfenstein: Youngblood
    Developed by:
    Panic Button, MachineGames
    Published by:
    Bethesda Softworks
    Genre(s):
    First-Person, Shooter, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language