Return To Castle Wolfenstein

Reviewed by: William M Frazier, send e-mail
Published by: Activision, go to the web site
Requires: Pentium II/400MHz or AMD Athlon processor, 3-D hardware accelerator with 16MB VRAM and full OpenGL support, Windows 95 OSR2 or NT 4.0 (SP6) or newer, 128 MB of RAM
MSRP: $49.99

Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein 3D. Both ran in DOS and required just under 640KB of RAM. They helped establish the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre. Now, like a blast from the past, we have Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This time the game is powered by ID Software's powerful Quake III engine. B.J. Blazkowicz, our U.S. Army Ranger hero, is back with a vengeance. His surroundings and enemies have never looked better.

I know that all you really want to do is get out there and blast the Nazi scum, but there has to be a story line. The Office of Secret Actions has assigned you to investigate rumors of occult activity and genetic engineering at a remote Alpine castle. You begin in a cell inside the castle with just a knife for a weapon (sounds kind of familiar so far). Right from the beginning you will notice incredible textures and highly detailed character models. This is the beginning of a long journey deep into the heart of the Third Reich. You will face zombies and mutants in addition to hoards of Nazi soldiers, all intent on killing you. Eventually you will travel most of Europe attempting to uncover a Nazi scheme to win World War II by utilizing the powers of the undead.

The Single Player missions in Return to Castle Wolfenstein are quite varied. Naturally you will encounter many 'Kill everything in sight' missions. After all, why else buy a FPS type game to begin with, if not to kill the enemy. On one mission you escort a tank through an enemy occupied town. Stealth is a virtue in many of the missions. One has you infiltrating an enemy camp and assassinating high-ranking officers. Many missions allow multiple solutions, increasing the game's replay value.

The computer AI has three adjustments. My favorite setting is 'Don't Hurt Me' (if I'm really doing awful I'll switch into 'God' mode). For those who can survive longer than me, you can increase the computer AI to either the 'Bring 'em on' or 'I am Death incarnate' level. No matter how good you are, these guys are pretty good. They will shoot and then either duck behind an object or retreat while they reload. They are also very adept at lurking on either the left or right of an open doorway. Go through it and you're toast.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is an excellent game with just the stand-alone missions. Add the Multiplayer missions and Internet game finding interface and you may have a Game of the Year candidate. Multiplayer is a team-based game pitting an Allied team against an Axis team in one of three types of games. Objective is the default multiplayer mode. Both teams will have one or more objectives to accomplish in a given time limit. The first team to succeed wins. Stopwatch mode is similar to Objective, but after every round the teams switch sides and must beat the other team's time from the previous round. In Checkpoint mode you compete for control of checkpoint flags in several areas. The first team to control all the checkpoints, or the team in control of the most checkpoints when time expires, will win.

Visually this game is outstanding. From beautiful colors and detailed textures to highly detailed characters with smooth animations the game is a visual treat. The sound effects and music are superb. If you hear a door creak open somewhere behind you get ready to shoot or hide. If you plan to buy this game look over the system requirements first. It should run fine on most systems built in the last few years, but the makers do recommend 128MB of RAM and a 400 MHz CPU. My biggest complaint is the long load times at the beginning of the game and between missions. If you like first person shooters, get this game.

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