Review by LordShibas

"Review of the single player mode only"

This is a review of the single player mode in Return to Castle Wolfenstein only. Why am I only reviewing the single player mode? A few reasons really, but mainly because this is an older game and the online community is pretty much dead. I recently installed this game again, and played it in an effort to break my recently acquired habit of booting up my PC and playing Killing Floor for hours. I tried to join in the multiplayer mode, but there are only about six servers that still have people playing on them, and I was not able to log onto any of them due to the restrictions of the servers.

This was actually a good thing though. Not having the stellar multiplayer component of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RTCW) gave me the opportunity to once again focus on the rather unpretentious single player mode. I say “once again”, because I have played RTCW many, many times in my life, and I've spent three years of my life glued to the addictive, online multiplayer component of the game. RTCW was my first, and most prominent online gaming addiction. Simply installing this game onto my hard drive was a risky endeavor in itself, but luckily, the online portion of the game is dead, so I had no temptation. This time, my RTCW online fidelity was taking a back seat to the single player mode.

The single player mode in RTCW is a great game in itself, and even though it's archaic, it's still disparate enough to be enjoyable, and the game really brings back memories for me.

RTCW follows the uprising of a German Reich, whose motives are unclear at first, but as the game goes on, you will see them dabble in standard military practice, the occult, and even biological experimentation. You will play the role of a U.S. Army Ranger named B.J. Blazkowicz. The game starts out with Blazkowicz being captured by the Germans, and he is about to get interrogated. Through some clever tactics, he is able to break out of his prison cell and scrounge up a knife. This is where the game starts, and in the first part of the game, it's a self motivated extraction mission to get the hell out of enemy custody and get back to your allies.

Once you are back in allied hands, you will be thrown back into circulation to search for more clues. You will be getting orders from a prudish gentlemen in the Department of Defense. He and a few others will determine your next destination and objectives between each mission. Missions can range from exploring crypts, to pilfering a top secret enemy aircraft, or simply gunning down tons of enemies in the Reich's army.

The game is a standard FPS game, and it doesn't really break the confines of stereotypical FPS gameplay. You can carry an inordinate amount of weapons at once, there is pretty much no recoil on any of the weapons, and the enemy AI is pretty pathetic. However, this short, but sweet single player experience is a testament to how well a simple, FPS game can be enjoyable when all aspects of the game come together in a cohesive fashion.

Graphics 8/10

I remember playing this game back in the day on my Windows 2000 PC with 768MB of RAM, and it had top of the line graphics back then. Now, it doesn't look as good, but it still maintains a visually pleasing style, with some interestingly diverse environments to keep things interesting. A few missions require you to go undetected, but most of them allow you to use lethal force to lay waste to the opposition.

The enemy models all have a good amount of detail. The soldiers in the Reich have distinct features that allows for quite a few different enemy types. This is good since it doesn't always feel like you are gunning down the same soldiers over and over again. On top of the enemy soldiers, you will also be fighting against a slew of undead abominations and bio-experimental creatures as well.

Most of the weapons look pretty good, and the flamethrower and Venom gun in particular make a lasting impression. The flamethrower spews flames out in an impressive way, and even the little flame on the end of the nozzle moves in accordance with the way the player moves. The Venom gun is a mini gun that flattens enemies and leaves its mark on the environment by either destroyed objects or riddling the walls with bullet holes. Even though the majority of the game looks good, some occasional clipping issues do crop up, and there were some times when I got stuck on the environment and had to reload saves.

Sounds and Music 8/10

RTCW sounds fantastic. While the music may be more ambient than anything else, the sound effects really steal the show. Everything from firing your guns, to reloading them sounds authentic, and even simple tasks like jumping and stabbing your knife sound clear and distinct. I really loved the loud gunshots that accompanied the Mauser rifle. It really makes your shots feel like they count.

The game does lose a few points for having some pretty bad voice acting during the cut scenes, and for some reason, the Germans speak in English with a German accent, which didn't make much sense to me. Overall it's a great sounding game, and it sounds even better with the volume turned up.

Story 8/10

Most FPS games have stories that are pretty basic, but RTCW attempts to carve out a decent atmosphere and plot. Running around and killing mentally twisted Germans may be enough to motivate you, but the cut scenes between missions do a good job of making it seem like there is a larger goal at stake.

As the game goes on, things take a turn for the bizarre, and the bio-experimental weapons will be your enemies. It may seem like an odd jump, but the story lends itself as a good foundation and works overtime to make things seem logical.

Each mission is split up into several levels that have their own objectives. Some of the levels and objectives fit in with the premise of the mission, but others just seem thrown in there to keep you busy.

Even with the poor voice acting and somewhat haphazard level objectives, RTCW remains interesting, and while the story may not be the best thing around, it has its moments that make it above average.

Gameplay 8/10

RTCW is a by the books action shooter. The gameplay isn't squandered by having lots of in depth tactics to consider. You basically just kill everything and accomplish your objectives posthaste.

The standard PC, FPS controls work like a dream, and all of the controls can be remapped if you want to change them. However you choose to play the game, the controls feel very tight, and plenty of development time went into making the game feel smooth and easy to play. Each level provides new challenges for the player and the difficulty ramps up gradually to keep the player on his toes.

The stealth missions are the only real change of pace in the game, and in the stealth missions, you can use as much lethal force as you want to, but you just need to stop the Germans from sounding the alarms. It's very beneficial for you to utilize silenced weapons, but it's by no means necessary.

The single player game can start to drag a little bit towards the end, but once you push past this, you will be treated to an intense finale that will test all of your skills. The ending is not that great, but I wasn't really expecting it to be. RTCW is just a fun game from start to finish, even though it may bog down a bit towards the end.

Longevity and Re-Playability 8/10

The single player game is rather lengthy for an FPS game, and it will take you around 8-10 hours to get through your first time. There are also many secret areas hidden throughout each level, and multiple difficulty levels to try out.

Despite RTCW being an older game, I was still able to enjoy the game once again, and rekindle the fire that once burned for this spectacular game.

Conclusion

FPS games are a dime a dozen these days, and every game in the genre tries to throw some kind of monkey wrench into the gameplay to set itself apart from the rest, but RTCW stays true to the old school FPS formula and presents itself in a well polished, entertaining fashion. If you are an FPS fan and have never played this game, give it a try, you will not be disappointed. Keep in mind though, the online community is dead, so your enjoyment of the game will be based on the single player experience.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/20/09

Game Release: Return to Castle Wolfenstein (The Platinum Edition) (US, 01/01/03)


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