Return to Castle Wolfenstein
The grandaddy of first person shooters has returned, and it took no less than 3 companies to make it happen. Let’s see what the combined forces of ID Software, Gray Matter and Nerve have cooked up for us.
The first thing you notice when you’ve installed the game is that there are 2 icons on your desktop; one for single and one for multiplayer.
Of course I first wanted to see the single player experience so I clicked that icon after which I got to see a nice intro which didn’t seem to make any sense at all. I was ready to kick some German ass.
During the game, the storyline unfolds (duh!) but it doesn’t make much sense at all. You start off as Agent Blazkowicz (couldn’t they just name you John Smith or something ?) escaping from Castle Wolfenstein and when escaped you need to go back to kick some German butt. During the game you’ll encounter Germans, monsters, witches, etc…
I didn’t know that the undead were playing along during WW2 though…
Most of the time you’ll be chasing a German bad-ass called Deathshead who likes to create the “ultimate soldier” which looks like a combination of flesh and metal that makes you wonder how they ever got any intelligence in it.
Still, these human-made monsters tend to be extremely deadly and hardly ever miss a shot at you even when playing on the easiest level.
From time to time you’ll also encounter some undead zombies and skeletons who like nothing more than to eat your brains. Fortunately they also like German flesh so if there are any Germans around it’s best to let both your enemies (Germans and zombies) fight with each other after which you kill the last survivors (always the monsters).
Let’s see what more lays in the story : nothing. You run around, killing smart and even smarter Germans (the aim of the Germans is so good that you would wonder how they could ever loose the war) until you get to the end of the level where some monster awaits you.
So is Return to Castle Wolfenstein a boring “seen-it-all-before” first person shooter ? Not at all !
Although the game doesn’t bring back nostalgic feelings of Wolfenstein3D, it’s got tremendous atmosphere. It has been a very long while since I’ve played a game that made me give the creeps every time that I entered a room, expecting to have some enemies lurking for me, and that’s exactly what RtCW does.
The sound is in my humble opinion perfect. The music volume increases at the right times, the guns sound as they should and your footsteps change depending on which type of ground you’re walking. Don’t think your character has any nifty on-liners though, he as numb as one can be and only when he’s hit, you’ll hear some grumbling which prooves that he’s got a voice.
The graphics are better than anything we’ve ever seen and it’s clear that the Team Arena engine is pushed to the limits. The textures are really sharp, the models and skins are nice and explosions look like explosions rather than pixels that flow around. This feast for the eyes has a price however, even with my Athlon 1.4 Ghz and GeForce DDR I had to switch back to 16-bit color because 32-bit made the game start playing like a movie in slow motion.
When you’ve finished single player, the natural impulse is to go to the multiplayer part and that’s where the work from Nerve comes in. They’ve looked around very carefully to check out which types of multiplayer are popular and have tried to cook up a combination of the best elements around making that teamplay is the number 1 issue here.
RtCW multiplayer is like Counterstrike with awesome graphics. You can choose between joining the Axis or Allied troops and have to try and achieve certain objectives.
Also, when taking sides, you choose which type of character you have and depending on that choice you’ll have certain weapons. This increases the necessity of teamplay since a medic can for instance heal wounded soldiers so that you don’t have to wait until reinforcements come, saving you time which might be just that edge what you need.
Counter-strike will probably remain the most popular online shooter, but the only advantage it now has is the low system specs. Wolfenstein has great teamplay, great graphics and good atmosphere. If your computer can take it, there’s no reason why not to play it (if you’re into teamplay multiplayer of course).
Overall, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is one of the best games we’ve seen this year even though it isn’t like the original anymore. I’ve only got one more thing to say : go out and buy it !