"Return To Castle Wolfenstein is one of the few titles that has received major hype behind it from the PC version of the title, and delivers with a nice touch on every platform it is released on. Obviously, even with the infamous hype, the weakest version of the three currently released is the PlayStation 2 version, as it lacks multiplayer/online play in comparison to the “online heavy” Xbox version. But can it survive without the online play in its deck of cards? "
Return To Castle Wolfenstein is one of the few titles that has received major hype behind it from the PC version of the title, and delivers with a nice touch on every platform it is released on. Obviously, even with the infamous hype, the weakest version of the three currently released is the PlayStation 2 version, as it lacks multiplayer/online play in comparison to the “online heavy” Xbox version. But can it survive without the online play in its deck of cards?
In Return To Castle Wolfenstein, you take control of B.J. Blazkowicz, a U.S. soldier that is a specialist for stealth sniping and such. You have been ordered to follow Nazi leaders through several areas to uncover what they are plotting to do against allied forces. You will soon come to discover, along with the help of Agent One (your partner), that the Nazis are up to things that the human mind could not even begin to conceive.
Let me get this clear: I love online play. I was addicted to online play on my Dreamcast, and was a bit of a freak of nature with online play with Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. I believe that if a game has online play, and is remotely moderate in quality (or an RPG/MMRPG, for that matter), then it should have a fair shot for your gaming library. However, online gaming also distracts from an actual overall score on the game itself.
Let’s face it, Diablo II was around a 6 or a 7 in a single player game, but a 9 or 10 when you played online, with several people from all across the world in one game with you, it can become an overwhelming experience that you will cherish a lot dearer than most single player games that you find. Sadly, this is not the actual games actual achievement, and thus you cannot grade a game based on the online play alone.
This is one of the few reasons that I am happy to be writing this review for the offline version of Return To Castle Wolfenstein, as I have a clear picture of how the game should be played, not the fancy fallacy that we create in our minds on how the game has to be played. If you enjoy online play with your first person shooters, then I highly suggest that you stray from this game, and rate “Yes” on the thingy at the bottom of the page.
Now that we have the “online play warning” thing out of the way, we have to indulge ourselves into the fact that there is no multiplayer. “When will this tragedy end!?” you scream? Yes, I know. While online play is a cheap way to review a game (unless it is strictly online play), I do believe that this game lacks extremely with no “battle mode” between two players in no form whatsoever. After all, that IS what mode GoldenEye so popular.
Finally, considering we have the “burning questions” cleaned off the table, let us get to what really matters: the gameplay. Fact is, I do not enjoy many first person shooters. On top of a severe case of motion sickness, which I mentioned in my Unreal Tournament review, I cannot play most first person shooters for longer than around one hour at a time or less. This game was no different in that category... at first.
After I ended up getting through the few level set (the newly added “Egypt” set, which was a bonus to atop the PC version of the game), everything seemingly flowed a lot smoother down the stream, if you catch my drift. Finally! No blowing chunks everywhere after fifteen minutes of combat with a sissy Nazi! Praise Jesus! Once I got over the whole “motion sickness” ordeal, I come to find that this game is very smooth in the gameplay department, and easy to get the hang of.
The game’s movements are very slick in comparison to that of the Unreal Tournament/Championship series, yet also so similar to the Unreal series, as well. The controls to move your character are Heavenly, and the guns go off in a flash (or at least whenever you decide to shoot them off, that is). My main complaint is the fact that you have to toggle between weapons at a very slow and confusing pace, and possibly reload that weapon before use in the heat of battle, setting you up for a deadly counterattack.
Overall, the interface for the in-game action is a mixed bag of nuts. First off, if you are near something that should be taken, touched, or pulled, you will be greeted with a Hand icon that will confirm that the object can be interacted with. This is a great feature to an otherwise stale can of corn, and trust me when I say that stale corn tastes like ass. The default screen is entirely too dark to the point that you can get lost by looking at the wall at times. Sad stuff, so turn your television on the “Multimedia” picture setting.
Along with the casual faulty interface that clutters the screen in confusing places of where your health, ammunition, and the like are located at in their full to half to empty amounts, the length of the missions can either be entirely too long, or just right. Sadly, the “entirely too long” outweighs the just right. While certain areas are genius in a first person shooter, it just seems as if they trail on forever in a single player game. Atmospheres like these are more appreciated in multiplayer action than going solo in.
The missions themselves are extremely tight around the edges, and when I say “tight,” I do not mean the white ghetto term, I mean secured. You will be given a set of objectives to clear in each mission, which may linger on throughout a set of several missions combined. The difficulty of these missions can range throughout, from extremely short and easy (more like a prologue to the next mission, actually) to long and moderate to long and very, very tough.
It easy extremely easy to get lost in certain areas, but definitely not due to the fact that every one of the corridors in the game look alike (ala, Halo). In fact, I never even had this problem once throughout the adventure. Certain doors that were locked before in each mission can be unlocked later in the area, which can be confusing at times, however, if you have a sense of direction, you will probably figure out what is going on.
One of the finer points of the game does not even reside for the gameplay, but rather against it. You can save at any point during the stage, and you will restart from that point in the mission if you wish to. This is extremely helpful, as the game’s cheap Artificial Intelligence is to the bone, and highly annoying. You will likely die quite a bit on the harder difficulties, so this has the “illegal ROM” feel to it with the added save feature.
Which brings us to the ever-so-importantly-bragged-about artificial intelligence. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the game can either be taken as a brilliant developing plot, or a cheap way of pretending as if it was brilliant. Personally, I can see completely through it. All of the enemies move the same in the mission, so how is the AI that much more significant? Sure, they have a game-plan, but it is the same game-plan over and over again.
The only differences between the difficulties relies little on the actual AI on the game’s enemies’ part, but more on their accuracy in general. They will fire around the same amount of bullets, or attack around the same amount of times, only their accuracy will be raised dramatically compared to the lowest difficulty. Plus, those damn Elite Guards are like hell to take out, even with sniper shots to the face. Jesus!
The weapons selection is one of the higher, finer qualities of the game, as they help attribute to your favor by providing a different “Bang” for your “Boom.” Understand? Good. The variety of weapons is a relief. Rather than having twenty guns that all fire the same, you get a beefy selection between everything from the casual pistol, to the automatic weaponry, to an advanced uzi, to the casual rocket launcher, to the awesome sniper rifles. Everything, besides a cupful of the weapons, require different ammo, which is both a good and bad thing.
One of the higher qualities in Return To Castle Wolfenstein is the fact that, early on, while they give you a ton of ammo, the ammunition becomes scarce as the game progresses, making you use all sorts of ammunition for different guns later on in the game to conserve your “big guns” for the stronger enemies and bosses in the game. This was a brilliant move on the part of the developers, as it makes you think before you “spend your money,” so to speak.
One of the finer qualities in the game is the small amount of “replay value” that you will get with the full package. You must find several Secret Areas in the missions you are given, in which you can expand your health, ammunition count, armor count, or buy some healing items and the like. As always with survival horror games, this is no exception with the fact that there are a few puzzles, and let me tell you, they are TOUGH to figure out.
Sadly, as you progress through the game, it tends to become anti-climatic. The villains tend to become stronger in their introductory mission, but soon fade into the background as “easier” versions of themselves in latter stages of the game. This even proves itself with the hardest boss in the game, which also soon becomes a failure, all the way up to the lackluster final showdown. The game leaves you bitter, which is never a good thing on the resume of a developer.
All-in-all, Return To Castle Wolfenstein is definitely NOT a full package of a game. The prolonging effect of “challenge” that consists of groups of enemies with a tainted artificial intelligence, which in the end is a cheap incarnation of a suffering folly on part of the developers. Not to mention the lack of multiplayer/online modes in comparison to the related ports on the Xbox and PC (original). Regardless of the constant tripping, Return To Castle Wolfenstein manages to remain its balance, and still come out as one of the more satisfying single player first person shooters I have played in quite some time.
The sounds and music tracks are not that big of a deal, really. Not that they are lackluster or anything, as they are stellar, especially the electricity sound effects. However, the good thing about this category is the fact the sounds actually play along with the game. Example: if you can hear your footsteps, then the opposing guards likely can, as well. Good stuff.
Your basic PC graphics that look a lot better compared to that of games such as Halo (not graphically in one sense, but in the realism factor). Thankfully, barely any of the corny voice acting took place during the actual mission, and when it did, the mouths on the characters actually moved at the correct times! HOORAY! The game has several different atmospheres that look different, however, they are (at times) way too dark to proceed without the old cliche of the “Blind Leading The Blind.”
Oh boy, is this flawed but grand at the same time. Let me go ahead and say that I usually hate the way that most first person shooters handle, however, I happened to adore the way this game controlled itself throughout. Very well done. Sadly, there are way too many flaws, including the long wait of loading your toggled weapon if you were out of ammo. I realize this is “realistic,” however, not all video games can be very fun when realistic to the core. Regardless, for a first person shooter, it is pretty “pick-up-and-play” compared to the rest of them.
The game is good, despite all of my knocking on it. It mixes wonderful first person action against soldiers and the like for your basic gun-play that would make one of those gun-nut country singers go absolutely insane, as well as the paranormal aspects of the game, which will bring you into close encounters with mutants, zombies, mummies, and much more. Plus, the Secret Areas add a nice bit of challenge for the keen eye. Highly enjoyable, and a memorable experience in gaming.
Overall (not an average): 7.0
Yes, there is a lot of bad in this game, including the lack of all online modes, as well as all multiplayer modes (and trust me, a death match mode would have suited perfectly with this title). However, it is still a high quality single player first person shooter, and one of the best on the PlayStation 2 at the moment. For everything it screws up, it makes up for with something else, except the lack of online/multiplayer modes, which is there own damn fault. As a single player experience? 8/10. As an overall experience with the follies mentioned above? 7/10. It is definitely worth your rental money. Otherwise, buy the cheaper PC version instead.
Community review by zoop (February 05, 2004)
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