From front to back, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is very much the same game on the Nintendo Switch as it is on other consoles and PC. You’ll get the bombastic combat scenarios where you’ll tear through Nazi trash as the charismatic, dynamic duo of Jess and Soph Blazkowicz, twin daughters of series hero BJ Blazkowicz. And you have the opportunity to play it all alongside a friend. The portable nature of the Nintendo Switch makes this an even more enticing prospect, but the platform’s limited hardware hurts the game’s best parts; low frame rates and muddy visuals make the action harder to enjoy. While these issues are not prohibitive, they do make the Switch version the weakest of the bunch.
Youngblood is a bite-sized spin-off that jumps ahead in Wolfenstein’s timeline by taking you to the 1980s, almost 20 years after the events of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. You see an older Anya and BJ teaching their twin daughters Jess and Soph the means of survival, just before BJ goes missing. With the help of Abby, daughter of Grace Walker from The New Colossus, you’re able to track him down in Nazi-occupied France, particularly Neu-Paris.
Not long after the introductory mission do you see how Youngblood breaks off from the traditional Wolfenstein structure; Neu-Paris acts as a group of separate hub areas where most of the action takes place. Many of the side quests and random events in these areas feel more like filler and will eventually have you running through familiar areas frequently. If anything, it’s at least a means of familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of the Dishonored-influenced districts. Main missions branch off from the hub areas, and in these missions are where you’ll find the relentless, challenging firefights that keep up a satisfying momentum. This is where Youngblood truly shines on the PC version, however, due to the Switch’s technical limitations, it doesn’t quite hit the same highs. [Read our PC review for our full thoughts.]
Overall, technical performance hampers some of the great FPS action as it makes aiming, movement, and reacting a bit more difficult.
Light RPG elements are new to the Wolfenstein franchise, and they don’t shake up the formula too much, but make for some enjoyable twists. You’ll earn XP and level up to drop points into a skill tree that grants new abilities or buffs to make you more effective in combat. You can upgrade weapons to fire with even more impact or change the way they function altogether. There’s also an armor-type element to strong enemies that’ll have you juggling between certain weapons to lay down the most damage. All these small changes serve to bring a slightly more dynamic edge to a solid FPS foundation.
Youngblood is wrapped in the idea of cooperative play, which is a blast. Friends (or randoms) can jump into your session easily and the game-state will remain untouched–the AI simply gets taken over by the player, and vice-versa when they leave. Pep signals are core to the co-op experience; these are cooldowns that grant useful buffs or clutch armor/health recharges. The revive system is another key to teamwork that sort of comes in place of traditional checkpoints. Outside of pep signals though, there feels like a lack of synergetic co-op gameplay features, like tag-team attacks or teamwork-centric capabilities, and it feels like a missed opportunity. It’s worth noting that you will need to have a Nintendo Switch Online account to do any sort of co-op play, however.
When it comes to the Switch version specifically, the question on many minds is: how well does it run? To that, I would say: not great. The frame rate is the most noticeable shortcoming as the game generally runs at sub-30 FPS and chugs when the action gets intense in both docked and undocked modes. There’s also heavy use of motion blur to help smooth over the low frame rate. Overall, technical performance hampers some of the great FPS action as it makes aiming, movement, and reacting a bit more difficult.
While not as important, the downgrade in visual quality is readily apparent. The game runs at 540p handheld and 720p docked, but uses some sort of dynamic resolution for assets and character models to help keep the frame rate in check. This turns things into blocky messes in certain combat scenarios that take place in large environments. And the low resolution and a gray foggy haze slightly obscures objects and enemies in the distance, making them difficult to identify.
Youngblood suffers as a result of the Switch’s relatively underpowered hardware, but for all its technical shortcomings, the game still delivers intense, momentous, and challenging combat. Everything features-wise remains intact, and you’ll get to enjoy taking a shotgun (or fully charged laser beam) to the heads of Nazi scum. The Blazkowicz sisters, Jess and Soph, bring their own unique swagger to the Wolfenstein franchise, too. So if the Switch version is your only way of playing Youngblood, you can be confident it’s still one hell of a ride.