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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5463)
Written on  :  Oct 20, 2003
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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At least they weren't Illinois Nazis

The Good

In Germania 943AD, knowing he could not destroy him, a druid imprisoned an immortal Dark Knight (nope, not him) into the bowels of the earth. One thousand years later the Third Reich dug him up. Such is the basic story for Return to Castle Wolfenstein—an interesting premise that goes undeveloped for most of the game. I should say here that I did not *dislike* the game, but I do chastise it for not being more.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a very successful multiplayer game that feels like it has a single-player version tacked on. It’s up to BJ Blaskowitz to save the world by defeating the insidious Nazi plan to… well either resurrect an ancient warrior or create biomechanical super soldiers or use some super rocket or all of the above. Didn’t Nazis used to be evil enough? Anyway along the way he’ll have to fight… um… Nazis, ancient warriors and super soldiers with only a small arsenal and the ability to save anywhere.

Level design is hit or miss (see below). The best levels involve the castle itself with its crumbling architecture, secret passages, and multiple zombie hiding places. Other great levels include a village overrun with occultists and an expansive graveyard with eldritch monoliths.

Weapons are fun except I never understood the difference between the two grenades and sorely missed having a shotgun.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is an update to the Wolfenstein series using an updated engine making this Wolfenstein 3-D++. In a vacuum, some formless void where we haven’t seen first-person shooters since Wolfenstein 3-D, this works well. But in the post-Half-Life world, with dynamic, immersive, and even branching gameplay being offered, Wolfenstein invites unkind comparisons.

The Bad

While graphically superior, Wolfenstein can’t hold a candle to the Thief series. Lacking dynamic lighting and any sensibility about stealth gaming, Wolfenstein’s levels dealing with avoiding alarms and plundering Nazi gold come off as unpolished. “Humorous” dialog between Nazi soldiers feels lifted from No One Lives Forever’s cutting room floor. IronStorm, though flawed, presented the player with a better story, more distinctive gameplay, and more thoughtful level design than can be found here. Finally, Wolfenstein uses the mission/level type of design, replete with summaries that reveal how many of the secret areas you’ve found. Aren’t we past that?

Enemies come in a small variety of flavors: Enemy Sturmabteilungen, graduates from LucasArts Stormtrooper sharpshooting schools, preferring to fill the air with lead than aim, Leather-clad Ilsas, Black-clad paratroopers, and Bosses—few in number and embarrassingly easy—including old Dark Knight himself.

Game of the Year, my ass...

The Bottom Line

In spite of this, I enjoyed the game having paid less than full retail. While I, as a single player, continue to feel abandoned by the multiplayer movement in gaming, there was enough here that I felt I got my money’s worth. For instance, I was interested enough to keep searching for those elusive bottles of 1938 Chateau Latour.