I'm generally suspicious of games that people say are "better with friends" simply because most things are like that. Needlework, paying taxes, repeatedly hitting the thumb with a hammer – all of these are things that are “better with friends”. Humans are social beings, and society can do both miserable and pleasant things much better. "Better with friends" is rarely a good selling point.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood is not only better with friends. it requires them. Sure, you can play it alone, the game notes, and hand over control of your ubiquitous companion to the game's questionable artificial intelligence, but doing so is often frustrating. I will only underline it in bold here: I strongly recommend that you do not deal with Wolfenstein: Youngblood if you intend to play it alone. Play some of it solo. I did! But everything? Definitely not.
It's not a thing against Youngblood. The game has always been a two-player cooperative experience – the $ 40 deluxe version even includes a buddy code that allows someone else to download the game for free. The only limitation is that he can only play with the player who gave him the code. It is a co-op shooter. It is unreasonable to criticize it for being nothing else.
In Wolfenstein: Youngblood, you play as Zofia and Jessica Blazkowicz, the twin daughters of the former series protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz and his wife Anya Oliwa. The game takes place in a world where the Nazis won World War II and gained world domination. It began in 1980, about 19 years after the new colossus, which ended in a new American revolution against the Nazi occupation. This revolution was successful at the beginning of Youngblood, and Jess and Soph grew up together on the Blazkowicz family farm in Mesquite, Texas.
As daughters of resistance fighters who liberated America from the Nazi occupiers, they were brought up to survive. Despite growing up in the relative security of liberated America, the Nazis continued their despotic rule abroad. Nazi hatred is ingrained in Zofia and Jessica, and killing Nazis is in their blood. When her father is missing in occupied Paris, the brazen 18-year-old twins seize the moment and steal a helicopter and power armor to find her father and join the family's Nazi killing business.
And they're so damn hyped to kill Nazis.
Youngblood was developed from the ground up for teamwork. Sneaking up on enemies or fighting head-on is more difficult. So you have to choose an approach and communicate the best way to do it. Bosses and firefights are annoyingly difficult without a real person being able to coordinate – it's incredibly unclear what to expect if you get into a firefight as enemy reinforcements pour in without analyzable logic, resulting in exhausting solo game shootouts that are much easier to handle with someone who cares for your back. But even with a partner, if you don't comb through the game's small but complicated cards that are full of secrets and clues that could give you an advantage in reaching your goals, it will be more difficult than it should be. Without taking the time to do this, it can be difficult early on to meet super soldiers above your own level early in the game to have a decent arsenal of skills or weapons.
MachineGames' Wolfenstein series is known for damning falling back into a harder, denser era of first-person shooting. While you technically have the option of hiding or driving with blazing weapons, all roads eventually lead to the latter. How could they not? These weapons are big, loud, and full of commercially available upgrades. Few things are more Wolfenstein than a long corridor that is obscured by the fireworks of blinking snouts and the red of the Nazis reduced to raw meat. Few games show the weighty, cathartic mess of digital shooting like Wolfenstein games, and Youngblood easily deserves the name Wolfenstein in this regard.
Youngblood's greatest departure is structural, which could be due to the contributions of the disgraced developer Arkane Studios. After an opening mission on a zeppelin, Youngblood drops you off in Nue-Paris, a network of three small, open cards with many interiors that are connected by a fast travel system. Each district has a tower that contains an important part of the Paris Nazi operation, and it's up to you to figure out how to break into each.
This is Youngblood's immediate goal, which you cannot achieve until you have spent some time doing side missions of your choice. Some may give you tips on how to find a way into one of the towers. Some could only help you improve your skills to take on the tough enemies lurking in each tower. You could choose not to do these side missions and storm the towers right away, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Most important technical aspects when playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood are not unresolved, but are easy to overlook. Part of it is the easy-to-ignore method to teach players how the game works. The tutorials are provided by collectable laptops, which are mostly clearly visible, but are not always placed in areas where you need to be. This means that you may never learn how to use the special abilities you start with (easy enough to find out) your own) or that enemies have different armor types that are best handled with different weapons (it will be your day ruin if you never learn this).
This means that as a co-op game, it is not primarily designed for solo comfort. You cannot pause your game even when you play offline. There are plenty of safe rooms to hide in, and there's a hub area that's just for relaxing, but you're playing Youngblood at its pace, not yours. The fleshiest and best parts of the story are delivered via collectibles – a strange choice because stopping to read newspaper clippings doesn't happen often in a co-op game. But it makes sense to see that Youngblood intends that you return to all three districts frequently, complete side missions throughout the campaign, or keep Paris free from Nazis after playing with different partners. It's really fun – it's a damned joy to break through the Nazis in this game – but without the rich storytelling the series is known for, it's a bit hollow.
A consistent theme in the Wolfenstein saga by Machine Games is fascism as a capricious, self-immolating ideology that cannot be controlled sustainably. In creating an alternate story of Nazi Germany conquering the world, the series argues that fascism doesn't produce an ideal dream – just a growing list of public enemies and increasingly confused despots made possible by the complacent.
As a game about the next generation, Wolfenstein: Youngblood becomes a story about the future, and while its replacement story is largely not about exploring a perspective beyond "Fick Nazis", the primary separation between the facists and everyone else is tomorrow . However, Youngblood thinks briefly about the responsibility we have to bring up the next generation with the skills necessary to defend freedom – to fight for a future, any future, better than this.
It's too short a story to really live up to any of these ideas, and that brevity makes provocative narratives less attractive – a resistance leader from the previous game is now the FBI chief, but without any context, that sounds wrong to The New The Revolutionary Spirit of the Colossus. Wolfenstein is one of the few video games in which the National Socialist ideology does not come from a dark alien ether, but a movement that exploits the existing fear and bigotry. However, since we are immediately in the middle of another Nazi conflict with the specific goal of saving a family member, we are unfortunately not given a look at what the revolution has built up in the past 20 years. Youngblood mainly leaves Wolfenstein's dream in suspended animations, which are partly, but also invisible. It seems to be a job for another game, not this one.
It's tempting to want Wolfenstein: Youngblood to be the thrilling third chapter in a grand revival of a classic franchise, but it's not. Instead, it's a fun experiment, a good game, to do good with your friend. Because killing Nazis is good, but with friends it's much better.