Wolfenstein Youngblood

FBT pauses to consider the new Wolfenstein spin off. But it doesn’t pause to consider him.

If you whinge about Youngblood, especially about the female leads, you feel complicit in the misogynistic bile that was spouted when it was announced; just like that Ghostbusters reboot, the problem with it was women – BJ’s twin daughters, Soph and Jess have taken over the franchise! From the dark recesses of the Steam forum, meninists denounced Youngblood as Social Justice Warrior propaganda, libertard leftist feminist pandering; Wolfenstein wasn’t about the Nazis, now it was about the Feminazis taking over men’s digital roles too! The meninists refused to play as a woman. Makes sense, given women refuse to play with them.

I loved that Machinegames doubled-down rather than taking the easy route and make BJ's sprogs a boy and a girl; it was play as a woman, or as a woman. I could not wait, imagining I’d be torn between a Femshep or Lara, Jill Valentine or Claire Redfield, Princess Zelda or Princess Peach. Which Ms Blazkowicz to be? This game was gonna change everything. Instead … W:YB is Ghostbusters-level shit, and it’s because of the women that are in it. It’s so bad it’s turned me into a meninist.

Picking up some 20 years after New Colossus, the US is now free of Nazis but Europe remains under their rule. When Dad goes missing, and the US government refuses to mount a rescue for fear of provoking the Nazi Warmachine, the t’weens steal battlesuits and head to Europe to save the old man.

New Colossus was more interested in its own cutscenes story than letting us have a go, but those scenes were worth it. Anya’s pregnant, topless, blood spattered dual-weapon take down, the town run by the KKK, auditioning for a part in a movie about BJ - Colossus was a subversive bit of work and this, an 80s-set spin off … is instead a generic shoot-n-loot Borderlands knockoff with two of the most obnoxious leads I’ve ever seen. Are we sure BJ’s really been captured? He didn’t just ‘go out for some smokes’?

I don’t understand why they made the twins so annoying, immature, and unlikable. They treat it all like they skipped school to visit the mall. You’re provoking another world war, freeing Paris, killing huge mechanised Nazis and their dogs while trying to save Dad and the whole time it’s like they’re at Laser-tag. They can give each other a health or armour replenishing ‘pep’ talk, but I'd rather get killed. Spouting supportive lines like ‘Killin it Jess!’ ‘Way to go sis!’ just sounds horrible - I don’t hate it because two teenage girls shouldn’t be in a video game, I hate it because I'm playing a game alongside two bratty teenagers playing a video game.

They break into a Nazi base, take the elevator and the security camera shows them fucking about dancing? I didn’t expect them to ape dour dad’s existential mumbling but characters who behave like 13 year olds at an Ariana Grande gig is hard work to get behind. How am I supposed to get into this if they're pissing about like it's a pillow fight during a pyjama party? Rex Colt did the Devil Horns in Blood Dragon, but here it actually feels cheesy not cheesy-cool. I just don't know what I'm supposed to make of this game, of them. It's not like Saint's Row where you expect the leads to muck about.

At one point I wonder if they're actually dangerously psychotic, that it's all a subversive comment on violence in video games, or that they represent the next generation of FPS, it's a meta reference to BJ's beginnings ... but I'm giving it too much credit.

This being set in the 80s, they’ll also yell ‘that was tubular!’ and ‘totally dude!’ - what, they grew up watching Teenage Mutant Nazi Turtles? Is this funny, childish, ironic, what? At one point Soph lets out a kiddish, horsey laugh - what the hell was that?! Later, Soph tries a cigarette for the first time and, of course, splutters - how am I supposed to take those childish antics when I'll then slaughter Nazis as them, they're kids. I’m as confused as a meninist seeing BJ in a dress.

What really gets me wound up is the game makes them interchangeable - you pick Jess or Soph, but the choices are cosmetic. Ability, starting weapons, unlocks etc., it can all be found or unlocked in-game; you’re literally choosing which hairdo you prefer. Yet the opening scenes show one as a shooter and the other a bruiser, but it doesn't matter in-game. How did you think creating two female leads with no characterisation was a good idea? You’ve reduced them to objects. In the cutscenes one is slightly more cautious, the other a bit more reckless but that’s it. In single-player, the other sister becomes a follower. But they didn’t follow dad’s teachings, they followed dad’s distant cousin - Daikatana.

Your sis will draw attention, ignore enemies, expose your sneaking, get in your way, block doors, even disappear - you need her to unlock creates, open doors and leave levels, leading to ‘wait for Jess’ pauses like we used to wait for Superfly. And because she has no self-preservation, she just runs into a scrum, gets killed and needs you to revive her which will mean abandoning whatever spot you’d dug into and run right at all the enemies who will have gathered around her, and get offed yourself. And then it really starts to suck.

We’ve expected to buy this sub-Spy Kids plot and it's Scooby-Doo twists, and that they can go toe-to-toe with mechanised stormtroopers but the resistance has a hideout in the Paris catacombs?! 40 years and the Nazis didn’t think to look there? The catacombs become the sis’ hub where they pick up side missions from resistance members - it reminds me of the long-forgotten Wolf reboot from 2009 which had a similar set up; and reminds me that was far, far better than this. Doing side missions like ‘stop that’ and ‘find this’ award XP you can use to refine how your character plays - but not the sis. Why can’t we improve her? Make her a support or a tank or remotely useful? Just a perk to make her STFU would help. Totally dude.

Out in the world, it doesn’t even look like the 80s. Running around an 80s music video would have been fun but it’s just New Colossus levels with a Dishonored sheen. How the hell are we not in a Germanic Duran Duran video? Once a mission starts you’re given lives (lives?! Guess that’s 80’s era) and if you lose one you’re sent back to the very start of the level; checkpoints barely feature. Any ammo you scavenged has gone but usually Nazis have respawned. And restarting means not stopping, even if you want to.

Once you’re in a level, bringing up the menu screen doesn’t actually pause the game. This isn’t Fortnite, why do this in offline single player? It even says 'resume game' - but it never stopped?! You’re committed to the entire mission if you want to progress, and that can be hours. Especially with your sis dying constantly. If you quit you abandon the entire level. The game opens with an epilepsy warning that suggests taking regular breaks. How?!

Worst thing is, it’s not just my sis who’s an idiot on the battlefield; we all are. Stealth is pointless - the suits can cloak but it’s no help and the level design isn’t made for avoidance or tactical gameplay. The AI of the Nazis is just ‘stomp toward you’ rather than engage or behave in ways you can recognise or have fun with. The lack of checkpoints and restarts means your gameplay is impacted - you become the Can I Play Daddy version of BJ, ultra-cautious and careful, if not rushing through fights to reach the end - while the Nazis all have armour which requires a particular type of weapon to take down but if you’re out of its ammo, you’re screwed. Meanwhile your sis is down, you go down, neither can revive the other so you both die and you have to start again. If you really want to.

The reason for BJ’s disappearance does make you wish this was a BJ game instead of the twins because his mission sounded a lot more frantic and interesting, with more of that weird precursor nonsense from the first game, and it implies what BJ gets up to in the forthcoming Wolf III. Youngblood should have been a Blood Dragon, a standalone romp, a parody - Nazis dressed liked New Romantics with shoulder pads and hairspray hair, the villain a Gordon Gecko type, Breakfast Club references, The A-Team, have a character voiced by Hasselhoff, Nazi Dynasty and Dallas on TVs, so much opportunity! Where’s the Truffle-shuffle victory dance, why doesn’t one of them say “whatchu takin’ about Herr Willis”, a version of the Apple Mac commercial where Big Bro wins. It’s the 80s! Why make the box art look like Stranger Things if you’re not going down that route? Tape Cassettes and 3D Glasses as collectables isn’t enough.

Youngblood had the chance to really show up the meninist idiots - it’s good that the twins weren’t just BJ with smaller boobs and there are loads of great fight moments but it doesn't hold together like New Colossus did, and the key thing is making us play as aggravating airy teens. This is insulting, not empowering. And then putting them in a weak shoot n loot, with a half-assed RPG elements, facing off with idiotic AI, in a boring level design, with a crappy story? This just sent female leads back to the 80s. This played right into the meninists’ hairy-palmed hands.

Youngblood is insanely bad. Even with proposed updates to actually allow you to pause, it's not gonna fix the biggest miss of the year. The only new game I’ve hated more in 2019 has been Rage 2. What TF are Bethesda doing to ID’s games?! I do not hold out much hope for Doom Eternal. I just hope Doomguy turns out to be a Doomgirl.