QuakeCon 2002: Return to Castle Wolfenstein impressions

Activision debuts the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of id Software's first-person shooter set in a World War II where the Nazis call upon zombies and occult powers.

Console versions of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, last year's PC shooter from id Software and Gray Matter, are already well under way and had their first US showing at QuakeCon 2002. The PlayStation 2 version has been in development for one year at Raster, the studio that did Quake III for the Dreamcast. By contrast, Nerve, the small studio that did Wolfenstein's team-based multiplayer component, has taken a mere six weeks to get the Xbox version up and running. Both versions were playable on the show floor, and there was a six-Xbox LAN game running as well.

It's taken quite a bit of effort for Raster to adapt Wolfenstein to the PlayStation 2 hardware, mostly due to memory constraints. Raster has had to split some of the larger levels in half to make them fit in memory, which has somewhat changed the flow of the game. And because the PS2 version won't have multiplayer support, additional single-player levels have been designed to further flesh out the story-based campaign. The game should play nearly identically to the PC version, except that the monster placement and balance has been adjusted somewhat and there will be a "Halo-esque" auto-aiming feature. The auto-aiming system we saw popped the weapon on target once the reticle neared an enemy, but Activision said this would change before the game's release.

Nerve says it's been quite easy to get the Xbox version of the game into its current working state, even though there's still quite a bit of polishing to do. The only challenge was converting id's OpenGL engine to the DirectX graphics standard the Xbox uses, but that turned out to be easier than expected. The Xbox version is said to not only duplicate the PC experience, but also improve on it. The game will have 5.1 audio support and enhanced visuals, and it will likely have HDTV support. There will be full support for Xbox Live for competitive multiplayer, and the two-player co-op has been confirmed for at least split-screen and LAN play.

The Xbox and PS2 versions are scheduled to ship simultaneously sometime early next year. We'll have more information on the games closer to their release.

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