We got a chance to sit down and play the upcoming spinoff of Wolfenstein, playfully entitled Wolfenstein: Youngblood. This expansion of the Wolfenstein universe takes place some years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus following the efforts of B.J. Blazkowicz to rid the U.S.A. from Nazi occupation. At this point, his twin daughters Jessica and Sophia are now young women, being rigorously trained in both hand-to-hand combat and shooting. A series of cut scenes jumps back and forth in time, showing both the last moments they were with their father, the moment they realize where he has disappeared to, and a present day mission in Nazi-occupied France, as the twins attempt to locate their missing father.
Youngblood is kind of like playing a first-person shooter where symbolically two players have one of their arms tied to the other. This is truly a two-person shooter if there ever was such a thing, where the sisters can’t progress without one another. Jessica can’t leave Sophia behind and Sophia can’t open many doors without Jessica’s help. Unlike many cooperative games where one player technically could die and the remaining player could just struggle on alone, the Blazkowicz sisters fail if either fully dies. The good news is, where as getting depleted of health is something that does happen a lot in this game, there is at least a mechanic where the dying sister will start to crawl calling out for help as her life expires. If the other player makes it in time to heal the dying character she will be revived. But it’s a constant challenge. The demo we toyed with had us paired with another journalist we never met, and we were constantly bringing each other back from near-death. And, in keeping with what one would expect in Europe after Nazis having had full control of Europe for over forty years, there are a lot of the bastards. Once you’re in a firefight with them they come at you from all sides.
It may seem at first that they are vanquished easily, but underestimating their tenacity is a big mistake in this game. Just two or three around flanking you on each side becomes oppressively difficult. What’s more, certain enemies are massively upgraded. In the demo we played there were super armored flame units, a flying unit that could go invisible and shoot lasers and some kind of gigantic robotic dog. None of these baddies were anything you could take on head-on and doing so meant another, “Save me sis!” near death scenario. The first mission was a tear-it-down brick-by-brick slaughterfest through a Nazi Zeppelin. The level was everything you would imagine a Nazi pleasure plane would look like, complete with arcades, robotic bartenders, luxury amenities and gambling tables. The second mission was a fight-for-your-life dash through the conquered streets of Paris. The aforementioned robotic dog shows up here and you have never seen daunting until you’ve gone toe-to-toe with a twenty foot robotic Nazi dog.
Some of the staples of the modern era of Wolfenstein are in joyful use here in Youngblood. As the sisters approach the first Nazi kill of their lives–living in liberated America they were trained to kill Nazis but never had done the deed–they’re both pensive. Jess chastises Soph how she might chicken out before Soph reassures her. As Jess sneaks up on the soldier she hastily steps on a discarded candy wrapper, giving up her stealth surprise. A stab to the gut doesn’t put the enemy down, but Sophia blows his head off like a popped grape. They both cheer with wild glee that they finally killed a Nazi, but Sophia immediately takes a massive puke take before continuing to laugh and cheer. Jessica realizes in disgust that some of the dead solider’s brains have flopped into her mouth. She’s initially disgusted but Sophia’s chuckles bring her back to laughter too.
No doubt about it, this is an FPS game for those who want and need wanton carnage by the barrel full. It’s not for the light of heart, but it’s appropriately measure at a step less than just plain easy. You’re going to have to think quick, act fast and consider every move. The cut scenes are filled with the plucky arrogance of two sisters just exiting their teen years balanced against BJ and wife Anya’s stern but appropriately cautious view of the ever-present threat the Nazi’s pose in this fictional world. We inquired who the voice actors were playing Jessica and Sophia, but were told that Bethesda is holding off on announcing who they are until a later date. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is scheduled to be release on July 26th, 2019.