Gamers who already own the game may not find much added value, otherwise it's a worthy addition to any gamer's library.
So, as sure as eggs is eggs, the bane of gamers and the boon of marketing departments has extended its greedy grip around id Software’s beloved first-person shooter, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Are the extras worth the cost? Read on…
Although all of you probably know the plot of the single player game already, I’ll re-iterate here to artificially lengthen my review. You are B.J. Blazkowicz, an Army Ranger recruited into the uber-secret Office of Secret Actions. Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to thwart the zany and wacky Nazi Heinrich Himmler’s plans to resurrect an army of 10th century undead which will put an end to the Allied cause once and for all.
Now we all know that nothing’s more fun in computer gaming then blasting Nazis to little bits. Well, in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, not only do you get to blast Nazis to bits, but also you get to blast fire breathing zombie Nazis! The developers even threw in some busty, spandex-wearing, cart wheeling killer female Nazis for good measure. You just can’t go wrong with that!
Fortunately, Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s single player mode is as much fun as it sounds – the level design is very well done, your weapon selection (mmm… flamethrower…) is nice, and the graphics are absolutely excellent. Developer Gray Matter took everything that was good about old-school first person shooters such as Doom and the original Wolf3D, and updated it with 21st century technology to deliver a title definitely worthy of its pedigree.
There are a few problems – for instance the obligatory “stealth mission” is a real pain in the neck, and if you quick save in the wrong places you could find yourself having to start from a previous saved game. Also, ammo can get real scarce in the zombie-infested levels, and trust me when I tell you that stabbing sword-wielding skeletons with a knife isn’t the most effective way to dispatch them.
However, those complaints are minor compared to all the things that the developers got right. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is just a mix of plain-old, good fashioned fun, top-notch graphics and sounds, and an atmosphere that will have you looking over your shoulder if you play late at night.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein also boasts some of the most intense multiplayer action to come with a first-person shooter. First off you have “Objective Mode,” which pits two teams (Axis and Allies) against one another with specific objectives in mind such as stealing plans or defending a base. This mode is an absolute blast, as you can choose between multiple classes (medic, engineer, soldier, and lieutenant) as you storm the beach to invade the Nazi base (or defend the base, if you wish to play as one of the Axis soldiers).
A variation of Objective Mode, “Stopwatch Mode” plays much the same except that at the end of every round, all the players switch sides and try to achieve the stated objective faster than their opponents did. Finally, you’ve got “Checkpoint Mode,” in which teams battle for control of a number of flags. The first team to control every checkpoint flag is declared the winner.
All of these multiplayer modes are a boatload of fun, and the action is fast and furious. Storming the beach in Objective Mode plays like it comes straight out of “Saving Private Ryan,” and definitely conveys the feeling of the speed and harshness of war to the player. I’m normally not a terribly big fan of multiplayer games, but Return to Castle Wolfenstein will remain on my hard drive solely because of its network gaming capabilities.
Let’s talk a little about the goodies that come with the Game of the Year edition. First up there is a “Making of Return to Castle Wolfenstein” video that is sure to thrill anyone with insomnia who loves watching six-minute 320 x 240 AVI files. Bring your NoDoze and your eyeglasses for this tour-de-force, kids! I’m certain they could’ve come up with a better featurette than this one, which mostly consists of in-game video captures and monotone developers.
There’s also a short E3 trailer, demos for Jedi Outcast and Soldier of Fortune II, and a movie for the upcoming Star Trek: Elite Force 2 (which actually looks pretty cool). Oh, and they’ve thrown in some wallpapers, concept art, cartoons, and screenshots as well. Nothing terribly interesting, but it certainly shouldn’t be considered a crime for id to have included this stuff.
One of the two main additions is the WolfRadiant level-editing tool, which is about as intuitive as Chinese arithmetic taught in Esperanto. That said, I’ve noticed some well-done player-created maps on some of the fan sites, so I’m sure that there are some budding “level-lords” out there who are willing to spend the time it takes to learn this tool.
The other major addition – and, in my opinion, the much cooler one – is the inclusion of the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D. I was amazed at how much fun this game still is, despite it being as ugly as a box full of hairless Chihuahuas. The game ran pretty nicely on my 2GHz system (“nicely” meaning “not too fast”), and I still got a rise whenever one of those nasty Nazis yelled “AIIEEEEE!!!” after eating lead. Some folks may have problems getting the sound to work properly, but I managed to make do on my Windows ME system.
Whether or not you should get Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year Edition completely depends on whether or not you’ve already got the original. The level-editing tools are nice, but there are already level-editing tools for Return to Castle Wolfenstein available on several fan sites. The inclusion of the original Castle Wolfenstein 3D is also pretty cool, but certainly not worth a re-purchase.
That said, if you’re a fan of first-person shooters and haven’t got a copy of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, then run – do not walk – to the nearest retail store and snatch up a copy of the Game of the Year Edition for some of the best single and multiplayer gaming around.