Name: Return To Castle Wolfenstein
Developer: Grey Matter, Multiplayer by Nerve.
Price: £34.99
Min System Spec: PII 400, 128mb RAM, 16mb 3D card
Recommended System Spec: Not Published
Official Web Site www.castlewolfenstein.com
Reviewed By: Single Player: Fugue, Multiplayer: Mack

Return To Castle Wolfenstein

Few games can claim to have created a genre, Wolfenstein 3D released in 1992 did just that, not only was it one of the first 3D games it began the gaming industries love affair with the first person shooter. Classics such as Doom and Quake followed ID's first adventure placing you in the role of a US soldier doing battle with evil Nazi's, and of course their undead creations.

Almost a decade later the long awaited sequel doesn't stray too far from the original games concept, you are once again a US soldier going up against the German Army, Zombies, Super Soldiers and half bodied spinning electrocuting things. It's a strange mix of WW2 action and fantasy that sounds very dodgy, but it succeeds on every level.

Graphics.

There are several games using the Quake 3: Team Arena engine in development but this is the first to show just how good it can be for both indoor and outdoor environments. The interiors look fantastic with plenty of moody lighting and excellent details, it also runs very smoothly even on what would be considered fairly low spec systems by today's standards.

The exterior locations include wooded valleys and snowfields, there are no weather effects to speak of but as most of the game takes place indoors it's hardly a problem.
There are plenty of nice effects including fires, destructible objects such as chairs, paintings, flags and even suits of armour. Some very nice little touches include cobwebs and curtains moving in windows, it all looks stunning.

The weapons all look pretty good and have good muzzle flashes/shell cases and nice reload animations, the characters also move very realistically (most apparent in multiplayer games with team-mates), death animations are good and occasionally amusing as bodies fall from heights and down stairs.

Gameplay.

As with most FPS there is nothing new here, it's standard linear gameplay with your route blocked by a series of locked doors until you find the one that opens. There are switches to push, levers to pull, water to swim in and gas bottles exploding to blow holes in walls. Hidden throughout the levels are secret rooms full of health packs (or food) and ammo and some treasure items to collect.

Two cursors guide you through the levels, a hand icon that appears over doors, food, tables (that can be tipped up for cover), buttons and levers etc that can be interacted with, and a shattered block icon over objects that can be broken. By exploring rooms most secrets are relatively easy to find using the icons. Ladders are easy to negotiate once you get the hang of descending.

Each mission has a few objectives to complete before you can go on to the next, these involve finding documents, killing Generals, protecting scientists' etc. Occasionally you may have to meet with resistance fighters (note to self: red circle with line through means don't shoot) who supply you with new weapons, there are a few civilian characters which definitely should not be killed.

As with most of these games you can carry a ridiculously large amount of weapons and ammo, health packs are liberally scattered about the maps. For the most part you face human enemies, some are elite units such as athletic female guards armed with silent Sten's or tough engineers with Flame-throwers.

Only in early levels do you encounter zombies, unfortunately they seem a little out of place even though this is a story based on the supernatural. Most of levels are straight forward blasting action with the occasional stealthy mission thrown in, these require you to take out guards with silenced weapons, if an alarm is tripped its game over. There are a few "Bosses" to deal with though they will hardly cause most experienced FPS fans any real problems.

Missions.

Not a terrific amount of variety as for the most part the game requires you to blast everything in sight, the locations vary from the games title Castle Wolfenstein to Laboratory complexes. Some of the more stealthy missions are excellent, one in a town requires you to take out a bunch of Generals using a silent Sten, another involves sneaking past guard towers into a base complex.

Although very good the levels are an odd mix of Project IGI type stealth, Half Life "lab blasting" action with the odd Rune like monster brandishing a shield thrown in for good measure. Cut scenes, showing your superiors discussing your heroic efforts help the story line unfold as you progress, the missions are fairly easy and it has to be said the single player game is a little short.

Weapons.

Your arsenal includes all the familiar weapons plus the odd "special" a very good chain gun called the "Venom" and a Tesla gun that shoots an electric charge causing enemies to fly back comically when hit. The rest are standard WW2 shooter fare, Thompson, Colt, MP40, Luger and scoped/un-scoped rifles, grenades and timed explosives.

The flame-thrower is the highlight of the game, seeing it sweeping around a room is amazing and leaves bodies lying on the floor burning for a short time, the effects are nothing short of stunning. Another nice addition is the silent Sten, which is great for the stealthy missions, it also overheats quickly. Some weapons have alternate modes, for instance a silencer can be attached to the Luger.

Fixed weapons in sandbags or on vehicles can be used, in fact grabbing an MG42 at certain points in the game is pretty much essential to deal with hordes of enemies. Grenades have nice explosions (and can be kicked back at you) but are a little weak, the FG42 paratrooper's rifle with scope is particularly good but not when you are on the receiving end.

AI.

Throughout the game the AI is excellent although there is little or no teamwork used by the enemy, most will find cover when shot at while nearby guards will home in on your position. Using silenced weapons can give you the element of surprise as can sniping, but some sharp eyed sentries with binoculars will raise the alarm if a body is spotted.

The more elite units are quite tough, female guards with silent Sten's roll and run between cover, some of the "monsters" will hunt you down once they have spotted you, the bosses are distinctly lacking in intelligence. There really is nothing particularly revolutionary about the AI but then this is a basic run and blast em shooter so tactics are a bit irrelevant.

Sounds and Music.

The game sounds are all very good, weapons have distinctive sounds and shell cases can be heard hitting the floor. As you approach some rooms guards can be heard talking to each other or occasionally calling out to others in different rooms, others will shout out if they spot you and then the shooting starts.

Some enemy's sounds can give away their positions, such as the female guard's heels clicking on stone floors. One of the monsters taps its fingers on the floor while its larger cousins actually make the screen shake when close, its little touches like this that really add to the atmosphere.

There is plenty of background noise from aircraft, explosions and gunfire. The music is ok though not exactly memorable, on the default settings it's just about the right volume in the background so not to detract from the in game sounds.

Conclusion.

An excellent if a little short single player game and some of the best multiplayer action in a FPS game for years, apart from the cd key issue when joining multi games it's bug free which is a major plus these days. The fantasy side to the game is only a very small part so WW2 fans need not be put off, if it's realism you are after waiting for EA's Allied Assault would be a better bet.

MULTIPLAYER REVIEW

 

Fan Sites

www.rtcw.co.uk

www.planetwolfenstein.com

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Reviewed on

Windows 98
PentiumIII 450
256mb Ram
Geforce2 MX
DirectX 8.0


How it Performed
Ran well at resolutions up to 1024x768 in 16bit on default settings, occasional slow down. No crashes, no bugs apart from cd key issue.

Score
8/10
Reviewers Comment
A surprisingly good (if a little short) single player game, the zombie/monster side of the plot is thankfully only a small part and battling human enemies is great fun thanks to some fairly impressive AI. Multiplayer is superb, it's easy to set up and very playable on a 56k modem with up to 20 players, some excellent features including a voting system to kick off those pesky team killers, for multi fans this really could give Allied Assault some serious competition.

 

 

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