WolfensteinReturn to Castle Wolfenstein: Platinum Edition

by JJ Morehouse

VERDICT: You have to decide, do you want a compelling experience or do you just want to kill stuff? Or are you just in it for the multiplayer? Prepare for the most frightening and action-packed adventure teeming with shocking paranormal experiments, perverted, flesh-chewing SS weaponry and bone chilling encounters with the Fuherer's unrelenting...henchmen! Multiplayer, however, rocks the Fatherland hard. So hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to a massacre you go in a competent solo and outstanding multiplayer first-person experience that can be considered a cut above typical fare.

 Return to Castle Wolfenstein is the sequel to the big hit classic "Wolfenstein" which was the first ever first person shooter and along with Duke Nukum , stars of the '80s. It is War II and you have been captured by the Nazis and must escape (I won't say anymore.) Wolfenstein borrows much of its structure from No One Live Forever, last year's best shooter. Like NOLF, Wolfenstein is primarily a run-and-gun shooter with some stealth sections mixed in. The Multiplayer section to Return To Castle Wolfenstein is excellent it is split into teams of Allies and Axis (Nazis). One team must defend and one team must attack and clear objectives to win. Anyway there are four classes to each side, these classes being Soldiers , Medics , Engineers , and Lieutenants and each character plays a key role to the game as each ones skills are used in a game. You can, however, play a game with just Engineers and win but the others are so much fun to.  

About the Engineer : "Defuse the Dynamite" is a phrase you may hear a lot in a game, the Engineer's skill is that he can Lay and Arm, and also Defuse Dynamite. Dynamite is needed to blow up key things in multiplayer games (e.g., Doors). This makes the Engineer a key character and he is recognizable by the big "E" in a circle on his helmet. The Engineer carries six items, these are a Knife, A Lugar or Colt (handgun), a Thompson (Sub-Machine Gun), Pineapple or Potato Masher (Grenades), a Pair Of Pliers (For Arming And Disarming Dynamite), and packs of dynamite.   Your Pliers cannot attack but are needed to Arm and Disarm your Dynamite. Just press and hold to arm, and press and hold to disarm. Hold until the Blue Bar is full and resets.

I'm not saying that RtCW's single-player experience is a bad one, it's just pretty standard fare. Of course, once again you are tough-as-nails U.S. Army Sergeant B.J. Blazcowicz. Your mission is to sneak into Castle Wolfenstein and put an end to the nefarious supernatural plans of Heinrich Himmler and his SS Paranormal Division. The game begins after you've been captured, your fellow spy tortured to death, and a lowly guard dispatched to bring you to the torture chamber. Your escape from the cell is clever but it's told only through a cut-scene. There's almost no puzzle-solving throughout RtCW.

The best-looking and most satisfying weapon in the game is still the flamethrower. The multiplayer feels incredibly fresh and new. The enemy AI is good and he is very intelligent and capable of working together to hunt you down.

Wolfenstein's graphics are a rousing success. Armed with the Quake III: Team Arena engine, Gray Matter has lived up to the precedent it set for great visuals and Wolfenstein's 27 levels are spread across seven missions and feature a good variety of environments. The quality and detail of the levels' textures and lighting are uniformly excellent. Character movement is especially smooth though a bit wooden.

Wolfenstein's sound effects are generally good, such as footsteps on different floor materials. Wolfenstein traditionalists will be horrified to learn that Gray Matter has replaced Nazis screaming at you in German - a trademark of the series since the original version - with Nazis screaming at you in German-accented English. 'nuff said. (If they had spoken German, it would have added to the look and feel of being in a foreign country. I like when the character you are playing speaks, and this game was ripe for it. I hate the silence of most FPS games.)

Regardless of the single-player game, the multiplayer game is worth the price. Each map features a unique set of goals that must be accomplished in order for one side to win. One map, called Depot, provides targets for both teams, forcing each one to play offense and defense simultaneously.

Team-based play is only as good as how easy it is to coordinate team actions and how seamlessly you can fulfill your class role. Wolfenstein is successful here as well. The game uses the quick speech system first implemented in the original Tribes.

Characters look magnificent, sporting details down to authentic lip-synching, even though NPCs exhibit scant personality. Both indoor and outdoor scenes provide overt contrasts unrivaled by most competitors out there, especially all those featuring undead Nazis rampaging throughout the land!

The layouts feel correct - castle architecture, town and building layouts make real-world sense, and provide a realistic backdrop for the action at hand.

The enemy AI in RtCW takes into account such factors as being fired upon and retreating, opening doors, etc. If you're running on certain surfaces and the enemy is within range, they'll hear you and take action.

The sound draws the player into the conflict and playing with the emotions. Enemies talk to themselves and each other, radios play classical music, and flags flap in the wind. Hearing zombies creak out a raspy cry of anger as they shuffle towards you is bone chilling.

Who? The hardcore gamer. Don't play with a dialup modem - all you'll do is lag the game. If all you want to do is blast your way through countless Nazis and zombies and do it in style, then this game is probably for you. But if you want a deep, engaging storyline with surprising twists and turns, this probably isn't your cup o' tea. Return to Castle Wolfenstein features an amazing multiplayer component coupled with a good, if somewhat underwhelming single-player game. RATED " M " for mature only. The manual is an excellent period piece - excellent artwork! For more info, game updates, cheat sheets, FAQs , etc. go to   www.activision.com .

JJ Morehouse is a HAL-PC family member who is a Texas A&M Junior and self-confessed hard core gamer.