“Five more,” Anya demands of her daughter Zophia — or Soph, for short. She hits the punching bag not five, but four more times. Exhausted from a bout of intense training, she squats down and asks if she can rest.
Anya’s face hardens. She puts her daughter in a chokehold, reminding her that it’s always the one who can hold out for a second longer that walks away with their life.
Somewhere in the fields by their home, Soph’s sister Jessie and her father are out on a hunt. With a gun in hand, Jessie, nicknamed Jes, peers into the scope as she steadies her aim on a ram.
She asks her father BJ if she can pull the trigger. He prompts her to take a moment to feel out her surroundings. With impressive skill, she rattles off the location of a couple nearby threats — but one slips by unnoticed. Before a venomous snake can attack her, BJ snatches it up by the throat.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood does a great job of introducing its protagonists Soph and Jes. We first meet them as teens learning what it takes to be a survivor in a Nazi occupied world. Shortly after, Wolfenstein: Youngblood catches up with them a decade later as they search for their father, who’s mysteriously missing. Friend, science wiz, and hacker Abby hooks the twins up with some powersuits, and the two embark on a mission to find their father.
Youngblood doesn’t take long to warm you up to its characters. Soph and Jes are charming, each with their own distinct personalities. Soph is spunky, but her sister Jes is all business. They exchange banter in the way real sisters do, making references to books and conversations they have shared. It’s enjoyable watching cutscenes where the two interact with one another, or other characters, because they’re so likable.
The characters of Youngblood are what drew me in. But the game is great, too.
Came for the Nazi killing, stuck around for the sisters
I played as Soph while my co-op partner played as Jes. We donned our powersuits and then found ourselves on a Zeppelin airship filled with Nazis. As we explored its many rooms, we encountered a dozen or more enemies. Our first instinct was to go in guns blazing, but this summoned all the Nazis nearby, making us the center of a bullet storm.
Co-op becomes crucial as enemies will close in from all directions and can overwhelm you quickly. I know that because it happened to me. Health depleted, I fell to the ground and a bar slowly began to fill, counting down the time my partner had left to revive me. If both of us went down, we would have to start over from our last checkpoint. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
We tried a more subtle approach instead, and it worked far better. Jess and I snuck up on enemies, taking them down silently and not drawing too much attention. Then, once we’d thinned the herd, we went back to our reckless ways.
As we progressed, enemies became more varied and harder to kill. Some were tanky, having layers of armor we had to chip through before we could take them down. Others were soft, taking only a few shots from both Soph and Jes before falling to the ground. There was even an armored dog with a bomb that would run us and explode (oh no, not the puppers!) The variety kept us guessing. We pushed forward with caution, carefully judging our opponents.
Youngblood has mini bosses, as well. One enemy, in particular, has a special ability that makes them invisible. Landing a hit would make them reappear for a few moments before they would disappear again. His armor was thick, his gun absurdly strong. It took my partner and I at least 10 minutes of dodging, shooting, and frequent revives to finish the guy off. This reinforced that Wolfenstein: Youngblood is no walk in the park, even with two players.
We were told that each enemy variant evolves, getting upgrades to their loadout a total of five times throughout the game. This makes me suspect difficulty will ramp up, and that co-op will become even more important the further you progress. That bodes well for its RPG-style progression. As you play, you’ll unlock skill points that can be used to unlock new abilities. I didn’t see much of that during my demo, but I know that the sisters have the same abilities, and that they will be level gated.
Teamwork is also required outside of combat. The twins will encounter doors, keypad locks, and other environmental barriers that require cooperation. These are usually as simple as pressing a button on each side of a door, or activating a set of panels at the same time. I would’ve liked to see some more complicated puzzles, but again, we were early in the game.
The adds a cool twist to co-op called Pep Signals. They’re emotes that buff your sibling. My signal was the devil horns. Whenever I’d use it, Soph would emote while shouting words of encouragement like, “Keep it up, Sis!” as she buffs her sister’s armor. It’s good for a laugh, but also a reminder of how charming the sisters are, countering the game’s brutal story and gritty graphics.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood may be a spin-off, but from what I experienced at E3, it has what it takes to stand out on its own. It doesn’t just bring co-op Nazi killing fun to the series, but two sassy, kick-ass, loveable sisters with gameplay that requires real cooperation. Youngblood promises to be yet another Nazi-killing good time, and now, you can play with a friend.