Published by Bethesda and developed by Arkane Studios and MachineGames, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the latest addition to the Wolfenstein franchise. In a franchise renowned for its eventive and fast-paced Nazi slaying serves up a fully dynamic cooperative experience that I haven’t seen since Army of Two. Wolfenstein: Youngblood offers up a first-person shooter experience and can be played alone or in a cooperative mode. At QuakeCon 2019, the full co-op experience was on display at the booth which paired attendees up with one another and dropped them into the same world to complete the 30-minute demo.
In Wolfenstein: Youngblood you play as either Jess or Soph Blazkowicz, the daughters of everyone’s favorite Nazi slayer B.J. Blazkowicz, the protagonist of the Wolfenstein franchise. Set in Paris, the twin sisters have one goal, liberate the city from the Nazis. As Wolfenstein‘s first co-op adventure, it’s tasked with not only introducing new protagonists into the lore of the franchise but also a new game-mode.
Now, if you’re not familiar with what makes co-op and multiplayer different, let me map it out for you. In multiplayer you enter a lobby and play with multiple unseen and unknown gamers. When it comes to co-op, this mode modifies the single-player mode of a game, allowing additional players, and increasing the difficulty level to compensate for the additional players.
The one drawback to a lot of cooperative games is that they don’t push co-op and instead have it as a nice add-on. At its best, co-op gaming presents a unique gaming experience facilitating high levels of cooperative play that necessitates communication and communal learning of the environment in order to advance. At QuakeCon 2019, myself and my husband/colleague got the chance to play through Wolfenstein: Youngblood demo. As a pair, we tend to lean towards MMOs or other multi-player based games so that we can game together, so when we sat down with Wolfenstein: Youngblood, we were excited.
How big was the learning curve for the game?
Kate: The learning curve is two fold. First, you have to learn your character, how she moves, what weapons work well, as well as her abilities. Second you have to learn combat, specifically how to engage mobs and take down heavies with your co-op partner. While the former isn’t too tough, the latter does take some time to get into. In our first run-through of the demo we didn’t make it very far – instead we spent the bulk of our time reviving each other and jumping into mobs without a clear path forward. But on our second play-through we made it to the end and were able to take down heavies by exploiting our advantage of having two players against AI. While it takes time to get in a groove, once you’re in it, the gameplay is smooth to move through while still maintaining mob difficulty.
Matt: The overall controls of the game are pretty straight forward if you have ever played any traditional FPS, however it does take some time to figure out what the unique abilities do and how they work. While anyone will be able to drop in and start shooting, any of the advanced things such using cloak and take downs will take some time to get use to. Learning the environment and HUD took us awhile as there were a variety of enemies and learning how to defeat them took time to get use to. As a new player, it will take some time to learn what each bar means, weakness for certain types of enemies, but once learned shouldn’t be any difficulty figuring things out. The environment is the interesting part. As you move down the streets of a Paris they allow for some lateral movements like going down back alleys and hopping in and out of some of the buildings, all of which allows for a variety of coordinated attacks.
What did you think about the character customization?
Kate: Skill trees are always fun and from the looks of it there by leveling up you’ll be able to craft a character that is defined by their specialties. For mine, I focused on leveling her health and sustainability, effectively moving her into a more tank role. Given that some of the heavies are kited easily which allows your partner to flank them and attack without taking damage while you hold its fire, making sure that each characters’ spec is complimentary to the other and not redundant will be key while in co-op.
Matt: I did not get to dive into this as much as I would have since we were on a timer. I will say they do seem to have some variety and if you play with a partner then each person can spec their character to compliment each other. Despite not being able to dig into all of it, you can just tell from browsing screens that the customization of not only your character, but also your individual play style is there.
Do you think the experience will be the same when playing with an AI?
Kate: I don’t want to make assumptions but the fact that the co-op play is so seamless and focused on working together makes me think that the single-player experience won’t have the same affect. That being said, the AI mobs adapted to our movements well which means maybe your AI partner will work just as well. That being said, even if it doesn’t work as well as a single player, the amount of great co-op games are slim, so it may not be a bad thing.
Matt: Nope, this game wants you to play with someone. The story revolves around two sisters so the game wants you to play as both sisters. The booth itself was even set up as this as they matched people who the played together with someone else so they could play with them. The way the mobs interact in the game and the environment all want you to play with someone else.
How does the co-op experience compare to others with that game-type?
Kate: It’s up with the best of them. The best part of a co-op game is the teamwork between you and your partner. Wolfenstein: Youngblood requires you to talk and explore combat and the map together. While the game doesn’t tether you to your partner, understanding their movements, weapon choice, and spec was essential to making to the end of the demo. There was no way that we could make playing as two singular gamers in one space, we had to be a team and that marks a truly great co-op game.
Matt: If you enjoy playing with someone and the co-op teamwork experience then I think you are really going to enjoy this game. There is no tethering, the game requires coordination in attacks, and just general teamwork. After playing the demo multiple times, this game is designed and made with the intention to play with someone. If anything, I am more worried for the people who do not want to play with someone on their enjoyment.
Now that Wolfenstein: Youngblood is out, you can get the experience for yourself. Kill nazis with teamwork and jump into the world of Wolfenstein on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and the Nintendo Switch. The game will make its way to the Google Stadia as well.