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In Memory
Sean Pettibone






Each single computer gaming genre that exists today can trace its heritage back to that one certain title that broke down the initial floodgates, allowing the subsequent titles that followed to be readily accepted by the blossoming gaming community. For 1st person action shooters, that unique honor has been bestowed to that one certain game released back in 1991 that forever changed the way game players blew the snot out of make-believe enemies:  Wolfenstein 3-D. Now over 10 years later, computer gamers can once again revel in the World War II themed 1st person shooter with the modern day follow up to that ground breaking game, entitled Return to Castle Wolfenstein. 


Sporting a highly advanced version of the Quake III gaming engine, outstanding graphics, realistic WWII weapons and ops, an intense and well scripted plot and overall theme for the single player game, and one of the most remarkable and addictive multiplayer configurations to date; Return to Castle Wolfenstein has all of the makings for one of the best computer gaming experiences to be released this year. Of all the various gaming genre’s to enter the realm of the PC and Console gaming over the past decade, the 1st Person Shooter alone stands out as the most recognizable and popular to both casual gamers and hardcore players alike. The ultraviolent, gun toting adventures as seen directly through the eyes of the in-game character has become a favorite pastime of gamers around the world, growing in popularity by leaps and bounds each and every day someone new has the chance to experience the gameplay first hand.  Though many games have followed in its wake over the past ten years, Wolfenstein 3-D   from id Software still has the dubious honor of being the first marketed FPS game, effectively shaping the PC gaming world for years to come.

Though base and simplistic in today’s modern gaming world, at the time Wolfenstein 3-D was a remarkable feat of development, giving players the ability to travel in a pseudo three dimensional world, battling Hitler’s WWII era Nazi’s as well as his other super nasty occult driven machinations. Its comic book styled plot line, intense action, and unparralled graphics at the time made Wolfenstein 3-D a hit in the blossoming PC gaming world. Now, 10 years later, the same creative geniuses that brought us our first FPS adventure have decided to pay homage to their classic release with a modernized follow-up game, entitled Return to Castle Wolfenstein.  If you were amazed at the gameplay and shear fun that the original Wolfenstein brought to PC gamers ten years ago, then be prepared to be stunned once again with this updated classic from id Software and Activision games.

For those unfamiliar with the original Wolfenstein 3-D game, its is as stated before a first person shooter, set in Germany during World War II. As the main character and hero, William J. “B.J.” Blazkowicz, you must overcome Hitler’s sinister plot to utilize the occult and his beastly machinations in order to rule the world. B.J. must use his skills in espionage as well as the available arsenal of weapons in order to overcome the crazed Fuehrer and his brainwashed Nazi soldiers and mutated creatures, hell bent on the destruction of our hero. Return to Castle Wolfenstein once again puts the player back into the shoes of B.J., transporting us back to the height of the Second World War, circa 1943.

In this sequel, Hitler apparently has escaped the final confrontation in Wolfenstein 3-D between himself and Blazkowicz:  B.J. however awakens as a prisoner of Castle Wolfenstein. While escaping, our hero uncovers another sinister Third Reich plot fueled by the occult to raise the dead and use them as Nazi ‘Super Soldier’. But an even greater evil lays in waiting at the ruins of Castle Wolfenstein:  one that could possibly encompass the entire world. B.J. Blazkowicz now must return to the heart of enemy territory and single handedly save the world from a threat even more dangerous than the Nazi regime…if he lives long enough.

The hype surrounding the release of Return to Castle Wolfenstein has been something of an understatement for the past year and a half. One of the most highly anticipated games of the fourth quarter in gaming retail (not to the mention the year), id Software went to great lengths to produce a high quality FPS title that would rival other games currently on the market as well as set the bar for future releases. In creating the game, the developers utilized an enhanced and updated version of the now famous Quake III Arena game engine, taking full advantage of the technological abilities inherit within the system.  Some added features of the updated engine include an all-new skeletal animation system (adding smoother character movement), a new camera system for the in-game cut scenes, and an advanced particle system that creates some of the most realistic and lifelike effects ever found in a game (smoke, fire, etc.).  These improvements to the gaming engine are truly remarkable, and must be seen firsthand to be fully appreciated.

Though the visual mechanics surrounding Return to Castle Wolfenstein are well developed, the true ‘meat’ of the game can be seen in the overall production values inherent within the gameplay and storyline of the title.  As a FPS, RTCW stands out as a high caliber game, giving players hours of intense 1st hand action with some outstanding weaponry, rivaling such previous quality titles such as Unreal and Quake III among others.  The single player mode of RTCW stays true to the World War II backdrop of the game, allowing players to utilize prominent weapons of the time, and battle in realistic warn torn areas of Europe .  Anyone familiar with WWII history will notice the painstaking detail given to every aspect of RTCW, including the weapons (save the secret ‘experimental’ ones found later in the game), uniforms, and vehicles. The locations that players must battle in over the course of the game are also quite realistic, from the war torn villages and hamlets, to the crypts and castles, and the Nazi bases and laboratories:  every inch of the playing field within the game has extremely fine detail within it.

The storyline and plot of Return to Castle Wolfenstein plays out like a classic World War II film, progressing through nicely rendered in-game cut scenes as the player completes objectives and levels of the game. Though not crucial to the overall ‘shoot-em-up’ aspect of the game, the storyline does pace the game nicely, giving an eerie tale to go along with the mayhem and violence that occurs while playing. It also helps explain some of the more unusual elements of the game, including the mutant ‘X’ creatures, zombies, and Nazi ‘Super Soldiers’ that players will encounter during the course of the single player game. 

Once the single player game has been mastered, players can continue on with their WWII fighting escapades by jumping into the fray that is the multiplayer aspect of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Although the single-player game happens to be the bread-n-butter of this particular title, the multiplayer gameplay mode was just so outstanding that it almost overshadowed the initial single player game.  Unlike most other FPS games, the developers of Return to Castle Wolfenstein opted to stay away from ‘death matches’ and other forms of solo forms of multiplayer gameplay, and instead have incorporated more elaborate forms of team oriented gaming. Based around the popular ‘capture-the-flag’ motif, RTCW pits two teams against one another in different versions of its multiplayer game, allowing contestants to battle it out for supremacy in various war torn locales of World War II.   Instead of the normal ‘flag-grab’ situations however, RTCW allows players to battle over multiple strategic positions on the map, or complete varied and specific objectives (ie, destroying radio towers and sub bases, etc) that fits the overall theme of the game to a tee.  This is were the character classes come into play, forcing players to strategically use the abilities and skills that each class has in order to accomplish said objective. As the lieutenant, players can call airstrikes or artillery shelling as well as give ammo; the medic can revive wounded (killed) teammates or give out health point packs; engineers can arm explosives or disarm enemy dynamite, not to mention repair heavy weapon placements; and soldiers can carry the more destructive forms of armament (such as flamethrowers and sniper rifles) that is always useful in mowing over the enemy troops. Without at least one member of each character class, players will find it very difficult to achieve or defend any other their goals within the game, making RTCW’s multiplayer game a true team effort.

Putting away all of the hype and hoopla that has accompanied Return to Castle Wolfenstein over the past year and a half, the game as a whole is a well produced piece of software. The single player mode has an extremely well written and thought out plotline, incredible first person action and adventure, and some of the best graphics and character modeling to date in its gaming genre. Not only that, but the World War II theme and in game aesthetics are extremely detailed, pleasing even the biggest wartime history buff. The only aspect of the game that could possible match or even surpass the single person portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein is the multiplayer mode of the game, which blows away almost every other form of teamplay combat that this reviewer has had the chance to engage in. The term ‘addiction’ doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the level of engrossment that most players will feel after jumping into one of the matches on a RTCW server. If replayability is a key factor in a game purchase for you, then this title will definitely fulfill your need.