Hands-onReturn to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection

We check out the PlayStation 2 version of Activision's upcoming first-person shooter.

We recently had the chance to get some hands-on time with a more complete build of Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection for the PlayStation 2. The console incarnation of the 2001 PC hit that followed up id's first hit, the classic Wolfenstein 3D, is being tailored specifically for the console market. The game features a number of tweaks and additions to its gameplay and content, as well as a strong visual presentation thanks to its nearly two-year development cycle.

While the core content in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection is obviously based on Return to Castle Wolfenstein for the PC, the game is not a port. Developer Raster and id have taken the opportunity to revisit the single-player game and build on original developer Gray Matter's excellent work. The game's story has been fleshed out and includes the addition of a prologue made up of a series of missions set in Egypt that detail the first meeting between main character B.J. Blaskowicz and Agent One.

As far as gameplay goes, Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection offers the same core game mechanics with some enhancements, and some changes have been made to the structure of the game. The game's user-friendly control scheme is a marriage of the control options from the PC game and Halo-style controls. The setup works well, and Raster has added a 180-degree quick turn and an enhanced targeting option to compensate for the obvious loss in precision when going from a mouse to a console controller. Veteran PC players will notice a change to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection's gameplay. Many levels will encourage a much more deliberate style of play that is a departure from the more "guns blazing" approach allowed by the game's PC cousin. At the end of each level you'll come to a statistics screen that shows you the breakdown of your performance. This feature boasts a new bit of functionality thanks to a change in the game's secret system. As you discover secret areas in the game you'll earn points at the end of a level based on how many you found. You'll use the points to purchase items or health and ammo upgrades to enhance B.J.'s abilities and make your life a bit easier in the levels that follow. Choosing the right power-ups becomes very important in the later levels of the game when you face off against some very tough foes, some of which were created specifically for the game.

The graphics in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection look sharp and have come quite a ways since the last time we saw the game. At first blush the game compares quite favorably to the PC version of the game, with its high level of detail and smooth frame rate. Closer scrutiny reveals that the game also includes quite a few graphical improvements as well. The sky has been redone and animates smoothly. You'll find new skins have been added for some enemy characters that are based on the geographic region they're in. If you look closely you'll notice quite a few little touches of that nature along with a solid approximation of the PC game's graphics.

The levels we had the chance to play were spread throughout the prologue, headquarters, crypt, and factory areas and gave us a good feel for what to expect out of the game. The control was easy to pick up and was spot on once we got comfortable with the PlayStation 2 controller, which took all of 10 minutes. The varied levels let us cut our teeth on the different levels of challenge you'll encounter as you go deeper into the game. We were able to try out one of the new additions to B.J.'s arsenal, the holy cross, which makes short work of the undead you'll encounter in various areas of the game. One of the notable differences in the PlayStation 2 game was in the pacing. There's a stealth component to the gameplay that gives you the option of slinking around and quietly knifing people in the back pretty regularly. The game actually encourages this by giving rewards in the form of useful pickups when you successfully shank someone from behind. The stronger emphasis on this element of the game actually works pretty well and adds a new layer of tension to the action.

The only real fly in the ointment in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection is the lack of any multiplayer support, spilt-screen or otherwise. The addition of the prologue levels helps to compensate for the loss, but the lack of multiplayer gameplay options certainly stings. Fortunately the game's high level of polish and its strong single-player component are likely to help the game rank as one of the best first-person shooters on the platform. Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection is currently slated to ship for the PlayStation 2 this May. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.

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