It's evident that Return to Castle Wolfenstein hasn't aged well, but it has some exciting moments still intact.

User Rating: 7.1 | Return to Castle Wolfenstein PC
It's hard to talk about Return to Castle Wolfenstein without at least mentioning the original Wolfenstein. Although Doom catapulted FPS's to the top, Wolfenstein 3D was the game that started that ascension. Also, while Doom has stood the test of time and is still a blast to play, the original Wolfenstein has fallen into obscurity and most of it's appeal is gone. Well, along comes Return to Castle Wolfenstein to remind us that the franchise is still around. But the question is this -- does it deliver? It's hard to say. Since this game came out 6 years ago, it's unfair to compare it to other newer FPS's because our standards are different than what it was in 2001.

You are B.J. Blazkowicz and you are captured in a Nazi facility. Well, as luck would have it you are able to escape and grab a gun. You are a part of a secret government organization unknown to everybody but a small number of people. Apparently there is evidence that the Nazi's are developing a super soldier that would make it easy for them to win the war. It's your job to find it and destroy it. That's the gist of the story and none of it is particularly interesting. The cutscenes are few and far between and almost all of them are sleep inducing.

When it all comes down to it, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is nothing more than a beefed up remake of the original Wolfenstein. The company plays it off as a direct sequel, but it's not simply for the fact that the story is practically the same. The only difference is that the buildings are more detailed and some of the boss fights are different. Although still decent, the gameplay is definitely showing it's age. The range of guns is nothing that hasn't been seen in countless other shooters since. They consist of the usual machine guns, pistols, sniper rifles, etc. They all work fine, but there is nothing about them that makes them interesting to use. They're all very generic when the layers are peeled back.

The biggest problem about the gameplay is that, just like the original Wolfenstein, this game tends to be one big maze at times. In most levels, the areas look exactly the same and you'll find yourself navigating through the castle/building only to make a big circle and end up where you started. Although this does make the game feel a bit more open, there is always one clear path to the end of the level so it quickly becomes nothing more than a hassle.

Most of the levels consist of running through and blasting down everybody in your path. To try to add a little diversity, the developers threw in some trivial objectives. Most of them will likely have you either destroying something or killing some commanding officers. But here's the problem. It's never clear when you've actually done an objective. I even managed to forget my objectives in a few levels, but just by running and gunning through the whole level, I accomplished them. The game tries to make you think you're doing important things when in reality you aren't.

Every now and then, the levels will throw in a stealth portion to try and give you a break from the mindless shooting. You must take down your enemies silently and not raise any alarms or you fail the mission. This sounds like a good idea, but it fails miserably. This game makes the stealth portions so painfully boring that you'll try to rush through it just to get it over with, only to fail several times and therefore make it longer. In some of these areas, it's just too hard to stay unseen or take down an enemy silently. For instance, there was more than one instance where I quietly snuck up behind a standing guard and stabbed him in the back multiple times. Well, he didn't die. He turned around and shot me before he died. Hearing the sound of the gun firing, the nearby guards sounded the alarm and I failed the mission. The stealth mechanics just aren't developed enough to be any fun.

The AI in this game is a mix of good and bad. There were some times in this game where I found multiple guards in a room. One would take cover and fire while another one charged me while another one moved around the room and got me from behind. Whether they were meant to do that or it just happened coincidentally doesn't matter. It was still rather impressive. But in other parts of the game, the guards are so ridiculously stupid that it just becomes sad. If I learned one thing from this game, it's that Nazis can't see through windows. There was one instance in particular where I stood right in front of a guard behind a window, literally a few feet away, and he just stared right through me as if I wasn't there. It didn't happen too much, but every time it did, it was laughably pathetic.

Despite being 6 years old, the graphics still hold up fairly well. Nothing is painstakingly detailed and the enemies are used over and over, but it doesn't look any worse than an early PS2 game which isn't all that bad. The walls are adorned by pictures of Hitler and flags with Swastikas on them which help lend a little bit of authenticity to the game even though it's obviously a huge work of fiction. There are some strange instances of clipping or weird deaths, but overall it's not bad.

The sound is one of the worst parts of the game. Nearly everything is borderline terrible in every sense of the word. The voice acting is painfully dry and monotonous, the guns sound much weaker than you'd think they would, and the death cries of the Nazis aren't funny as they were in the original Wolfenstein. Now it just sounds stupid. The score is the brighter side of the audio, but it's still nothing special. It just barely makes it above the line of mediocrity.

Writing a review for this game now is pretty much irrelevant. Chances are that if you haven't played this game already, you most likely never will. Since the time that this game came out, other shooters have too and many of them are much better. Despite that, I'm glad I played it because it was nice seeing where the legendary Wolfenstein series was heading next. I was unable to play multiplayer so this review is based solely on the single player. Even so, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a game that has grown too old to be as revered as it once was, but is still fun nonetheless.