QuakeCon 2001: Return to Castle Wolfenstein update

We look at the new levels in Grey Matter's remake of id Software's classic shooter.


Return to Castle Wolfenstein

On the QuakeCon show floor, Activision and Grey Matter are demonstrating Return to Castle Wolfenstein in its now near-finished form. The single-player game is feature-complete, and the team is now focusing on polishing and balancing the levels. We saw two new missions not shown at E3--an intense urban assault mission and a stealth mission. The game's just-announced multiplayer mode is just two months old, and we have a separate look at its first public showing.

The urban assault mission showcases how well the enemy artificial intelligence can react to changing situations. You're fighting through a series of half-destroyed buildings--there's rubble everywhere and plenty of details like rebar sticking out of demolished walls. This environment provides plenty of cover for enemies to hide behind, and they'll change positions if you pin them down from a good vantage point. On one occasion, we stumbled into a plaza only to be fired upon by an MG42 machine gun emplacement and by another trooper equipped with a Panzerfaust rocket launcher--a sure death zone. Only by doubling around behind the machine gunner could you survive this sequence, and even then, the rocket trooper will change positions to cause you trouble later in the level.

This assault mission gave us ample opportunity to try out the game's most fearsome weapons, including the just-added FG42 German assault rifle that deals out plenty of damage and comes complete with a weak scope. Also, the flamethrower is just as visually impressive as it is devastating, and certainly came in handy for close-in corridor fights. Your arsenal will also include three submachine guns and two sniper rifles, one of which is silenced and equipped with a night-vision scope.

It's not always possible to stage a frontal assault. The other new mission we played emphasized stealth, as in it you'll need to penetrate a heavily guarded castle to eliminate several high-ranking paranormal SS officers and stop an arcane ceremony. We fought human enemies in this level, but other missions will pit you against zombies and other strange opponents that tie into the storyline. But in this particular level, you'll have to quickly take down the perimeter guards before they can raise the alarm. Inside we found examples of the secret areas found in most levels. These areas are reminiscent of those that peppered the original Wolfenstein 3D game, and conceal power-ups or treasure items, such as gold bars, and ornate chalices and crosses.

Most of the missions we saw were quite dense and relatively small, as is somewhat typical of many Quake III-engine games. However, there are a few very expansive maps, such as the German airstrip you'll assault at one point. This base map takes advantage of the Quake III Team Arena terrain system and is situated at the bottom of a green valley that gives a much more imposing sense of space to the level. There are a number of well-scripted events in the level, such as planes and vehicles that move around during your attack.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is on track to ship later this year. For more information, read our earlier previews of the game.

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