Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review

Those of you who were into computer gaming in the early 90s undoubtedly played Wolfenstein 3D.  This game was responsible for launching the first person shooter genre and so holds a hallowed place in the annals of computer gaming.  Now id and Activision have teamed up to bring you a new chapter in the Wolfenstein saga, updated with cutting edge graphics and a brand new storyline.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is almost two separate games, single player and multiplayer.  In fact, the single and multiplayer games are launched with different shortcuts.  The reason for this is that the two modes were created by different developers.  Gray Matter Studios, which brought you Redneck Rampage and Kingpin, was charged with the development of the single player campaign and the newly formed Nerve Software created the multiplayer component.

In the single player campaign you are a U.S. Army Ranger sent by the Office of Secret Actions to investigate rumored Nazi experimentation with occult artifacts and genetic engineering.  You'll have to fight your way through 27 different missions grouped into seven episodes which take you from the infamous Castle Wolfenstein to tombs and archeological sites.  The levels look gorgeous, thanks to the Quake III engine and the games use of high quality textures and a nice attention to detail.  The lighting is also well done and does an excellent job of enhancing the mood of the various levels.  The quality of graphics also extends to the enemies and civilians which populate the game's levels.  The character animation is excellent, from the movement of lips when speaking to the articulation of bodies when moving.  

The AI in the game is pretty good and the enemies appear to have a life of their own.  Sneak up on them and you'll hear them engaged in conversation or see them going about their business.  The guards speak English, which is fine since it lets you eavesdrop without needing to learn a new language.  Sticklers for detail take note: if it bothers you that the Germans speak English, perhaps you shouldn't be playing a game that features Nazi zombies.

If you are noticed by the guards (especially if you announce your presence by shooting at them), enemies will take cover and use any available obstacles as they make their way closer to you to get a clean shot.  Guards in nearby rooms will come running to join the fracas when the shooting starts.  If there is an alarm nearby, they will set it off to bring in even more reinforcements.  The AI is smart enough to both seek cover and come at you from different directions, but  veterans of first person shooters will not have too much trouble contending with the enemy.  Judicious use of cover and good weapon control will get you through most missions without too much trouble.  The biggest thing that you'll need to watch for are the enemies the game likes to occasionally place in blind spots.

Many of the missions also involve some degree of puzzle solving of the locate the correct switch variety.  Most missions also hide secret areas around the map which can be accessed a variety of ways including climbing to hard to reach areas, destroying paintings hiding secret rooms, and blasting fuel barrels to destroy walls.  After completing a mission, the player is presented with a summary screen which, among other things, lets the player know if secret areas were missed.  This provides a degree of replayability to the missions, as players will be challenged to uncover everything hidden in the missions.