By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on July 30, 2019
If there is one man who knows how to kill Nazi's and thwart the evil plans of the Third Reich, it has to be William "B.J." Blazkowicz, a.k.a. Terror Billy. This hard-ass has been doing it ever since we first met him, back in 1981. Now, 38 years and 12 games later, it's time for old B.J. to, albeit involuntarily, pass the torch to his twin daughters, Jessica and Sophia...
You see, B.J. managed to disappear into the Paris underground during this alternate version of the 80's in which the German empire still reigns supreme in Europe. While the rest of the world has been cleansed of the Nazi scourge, Europe remains the very last bastion of Nazi territory. And taking into account B.J.'s attitude towards this particular group of people, it might not come as a surprise that he once again found himself knee-deep in all sorts of evil scum!
While growing up, both Jessie and Sophia have received extensive training by their father and mother, B.J. and Anya. In 1980, after not hearing from their father for quite some time, they discover a secret room in the attic of their house, where they quickly find out their father was heading for Europe, Neu Paris to be more precise, in order to meet with the French resistance. Jessica and Sophia, together with their friend, Abby Walker, "borrow" a FBI helicopter and a set of power suits and set out on a rescue mission. Once in Neu Paris, the twins get their first ever taste of killing Nazi's, quite literally in Jessie's case, as it turns out.
Both Jessica and Sophia are capable of a wide variety of skills. As you start your adventure, you get to choose which one of them you want to play as, and get to tinker around a bit with their initial loadout. You can choose which power suit you want to wear, choose your helmet style, which type of throwable weapon they carry, which pep-sign they use (we're going to come back to those a bit later on), which starting ability they use and with which pistol they start their adventure. Most of these options are purely cosmetic, although the choice in pistol, ability and pep-signal does actually effect gameplay. When you select the normal pistol, for instance, you automatically get the silencer upgrade, making it suitable for a stealthy approach. If you select the small machine pistol, you get an upgraded magazine, so you can spray more bullets before needing to reload.
Same goes for the starting ability and pep-signals. First, the ability. As you start the game, you get to choose from either Cloak or Crush. When choosing Cloak, you can crouch down and come virtually invisible for a short period of time with the press of a button. On the other hand, the Crush ability gives you the chance to slam into enemies and dealing damage this way, or to smash through fragile barriers, opening up new paths. There is something to be said for both of these abilities, depending on your preferred playing style. And don't worry if you can't choose between them. Both sisters are ultimately capable of using the same abilities and equipment, so the ability you didn't pick at the start (along with multiple other abilities) can be bought and subsequently upgraded from the Character upgrade screen at any time, using silver coins that are found throughout the environments or gold bars, which you'll have to buy using actual money.
Now, especially the latter of the two payment methods generated, as it always seems to do these days, a lot of criticism from various parties. As it stands, those people seem to have gotten their panties in a twist for absolutely no reason other than their "moral principles". My advice? Before throwing a hissy fit and start yelling loads of nonsense, first play the game. You see, the gold bars CAN be bought, but don't HAVE TO. I just played through the side missions and scoured the environment for the coveted Silver Coins which, incidentally, are in large supply all around Neu Paris.
But enough about that, let's get back to killing Nazi's, shall we? Because you're one half of a pair of twin sisters, working together is pretty important if you want to survive the seemingly never-ending supply of Nazi troops. Because there are two of you, this opens up a whole host of new possibilities as far as approaching any given situation in combat goes. If one sister draws the enemy fire, the other one can flank the bastards and perform a surprise attack. Or you could just both run side by side, screaming at the enemy and spraying bullets around like there's no tomorrow, although this approach more often than not ends in your or your sister's untimely demise.
But wait, when one of the sisters goes down, there's no reason to panic! You see, as long as the other sister still stands, she can revive her sibling by approaching her and holding a specific button. If this is too dangerous because of a multitude of enemies around the stricken sister, that sister can also choose to bleed out and lose one of the sister's shared lives. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the sisters have shared lives. Whenever a sister dies, one of these lives is lost. When the life counter reaches zero, both sisters meet their doom and you'll have to restart your game from the start of the current map.
Now, As I promised five paragraphs ago, we're now coming back to the game mechanic called Pep Signals. So, what are they? Well, they're a set of gestures that help you and your sister on their way when facing off against a particularly troublesome foe. There are signals that give you a health boost, an armor boost, give you the ability to revive your sister from a distance and so on. These pep signals can be unlocked and activated from the Character upgrade menu. There is a range of cool signals so be sure to check them out!
But, let me ask you a question dear readers; what is the most important feature in every shooting game? Yes, that's correct; the weapons! Well, let me assure you that Wolfenstein: Youngblood is definitely not lacking in that department. And what's even more, the developers saw fit to equip the game with a cool weapons upgrading process. You see, in this alternate history, there are three main weapon-part manufacturers, each of which concentrates on a different trait of weaponry. They are Stier, Tempo and Nadel. Stier focuses on damage, while Nadel focuses on accuracy and Tempo on fire rate. Equip three of the same brand of upgrades and your gun receives a bonus, particular to that manufacturer: damage, headshot damage and ammo capacity, respectively.
When in Paris, the sisters will meet a host of cool characters, some of who will ask them for favors. These favors are the side missions of Wolfenstein: Youngblood and really help to level up your character. And trust me when I say that you are definitely going to need every experience point you can get your power suit covered hands on. Neu Paris is divided into multiple areas, each of which comes with its own set of side missions and one over-arching main mission. To enter these areas, you will make use of Paris' metro and sewer system, freely accessible from your safe haven, the Paris catacombs. This is the hotspot for all resistance activity and provides you with the means to restock on ammo, shared lives and everything else you will need for your missions. From this safe haven, the girls set out on missions and wreak havoc across all of Nazi occupied Paris. It is also the one and only place where you can leisurely check your weapon and character upgrades without running the risk of being attacked by Nazi soldiers, so be sure to use it abundantly.
While I'm still a little sad that B.J. is not the main protagonist of Wolfenstein: Youngblood, I can only say that it is nevertheless a very good game and a worthy addition to the series. Take it from a guy that has been playing said series since 1991; Although there were some changes made to the formula, Youngblood still has more than enough Wolfenstein blood coursing through its digital veins. Yes, there is a lot of back-tracking going on and you will absolutely come across the same enemies numerous time during your adventures, but the game does what any Wolfenstein game should do, and that's being a very cool First Person Shooter with beautiful graphics, a well-written story and interesting characters on both sides of the conflict. Working together adds an additional dimension to the series and makes playing the game a highly enjoyable experience.
For those of us that strictly want a linear shooter in which they control good old B.J. himself, Wolfenstein: Youngblood might not be the best game in the series, but if you're of a more open-minded persuasion, the game delivers on all fronts. Jess and Soph are cool protagonists in their own right and their banter and bickering is often highly amusing. The overall characters are expertly crafted and look awesome, as do the environments of Neu Paris. The non-linear gameplay offers you much more freedom when it comes to choosing which mission you desperately want to play next.
All in all, I can only come to the conclusion that playing as Jess and Soph has given us a somewhat different but really cool Wolfenstein experience, one that we're bound to remember! Because of the co-op mechanic, Youngblood has a high replay value and is fun to pick up whenever you and one of your friends (or just you, if that's how you prefer to play) feel like having a bit of FPS fun. I, for one, had a lot of fun playing this grand adventure and can already hardly wait for Wolfenstein III to enter the stage and finish this awesome reboot series of the granddaddy of First Person Shooters!