Back in the early 90’s, 3D games were still a novelty, and before Doom became a shareware sensation, Wolfenstein 3D began establishing what the FPS genre would become a few years later.
About 10 years later, when the movie Saving Private Ryan and videogames such as Call of Duty, made the WW2 theme mainstream, and games such as Golden Eye for N64 influenced the spy genre, it was a good time to revisit the concept and create a remake/reboot of one of the early examples of a First Person Shooter.
Game: Return to Castle Wolfenstein [PC – Xbox – PS2]
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: November 19, 2001
Gameplay – 7.0
Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a pretty straight forward FPS, taking into account how Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D and other 90’s games of its kind worked.
The missions don’t take place in huge mazes that have you going for a key there, press a switch over there, or locking you into a huge room with tons of monsters.
There’s actually a little stealth involved in here, and you can take out enemy soldiers with a knife in order to advance silently, and it’s not a good idea to enter an area guns blazing.
Like Wolfenstein 3D, you start out escaping from a cell in the dungeons of a castle, and you have to find your way out by exploring hallways with some patrolling nazis here and there, who die after a few shots or a well placed dagger thrust.
For someone used to big tough hero characters such as Doomguy, Duke Nukem or Quake’s Ranger, dying after taking just a few attacks may seem a little boring, but after a couple of missions you’ll be taking into undead monsters.
The guns from 1943 weren’t as accurate as in modern military shooters, so sometimes you’ll be pulling the trigger of a Luger pistol very close to a hostile and won’t be able to hit him, and even with a M40, if the enemy is at mid-range, you’ll waste a lot of bullets trying to hit a few shots. In a way, this game is a little more realistic than other more popular franchises that take a more Arcade-y approach, but for players looking for something like that, it means it can be frustrating, hence kinda boring.
It’s worth mentioning that in Mission 3 you’ll get a silenced machine gun, which makes the infiltration segments of the game more interesting, since it gets hot pretty soon if you don’t let go of the trigger, and you’ll have to avoid getting it overheated. Or you could just throw grenades everywhere if you don’t care if they sound the alarm and new guards come out of rooms you searched and were completely empty.
Graphics – 7.0
Even at the time of its release, some PS2, original Xbox and GameCube titles looked pretty amazing in comparison of what you’ll see here. The character models may have looked “fine” at the time, but the animation of their motions looks clunky and just plain weird at times… Even Golden Eye 007 that came out 7 years before have better death animations.
Some characters take cover and roll on the ground to avoid your shots, well, Perfect Dark in Nintendo 64 looked like actual people trying to save their asses a year before, but in this game, they should’ve used mo-cap, like 1997 Turok did, making dinosaurs and humanoid beings look pretty amazing even by today’s standards (just play the remaster to see what I mean).
After you escape Castle Wolfenstein, you’ll have to go through a village, and then have a mission in an open field with a few Nazi camps and bases. Turok 2 and other games of the late 90’s have better open environments and nature areas than here, and don’t get me started with the water, it’s just a blue polygon that’s supposed to be a lake. Super Mario Sunshine a few months later looked like virtual liquid in comparison with the cheap excuse for a body of water they try to sell you here.
Story – 6.0
The voice acting is pretty mediocre, and you just can’t take anything seriously with the way characters are speaking, like lazy guys reading something for the first time, no emotion behind it.
At least you find Nazi official’s notes around the levels that give you an insight into everything that’s happening with the SS Paranormal Division trying to wake up an ancient evil, and the intro movie with a wizard and a demon lord actually looks pretty cool; but overall, you’ll probably skip most cut scenes.
Audio – 6.0
The music is mostly just ambience noises to set the mood, and a few loops of what a marching band would play and stuff you’d expect to hear in a WW2 film. Sometimes you get close to a record player and hear music from the 1930’s and 40’s, but overall, the audio is pretty forgettable, and the sound effects are low quality compared to previous console generation shooters.
Replay Value – 4.0
I remember when I first got Golden Eye for N64, started playing in Agent difficulty, then went back to play in Super Agent and got a few extra missions, and in 00 Agent, besides getting super tough more intelligent enemies, you had to do a bunch of stuff before you found the level exit, and it could take you countless tries before you could complete a mission. And it was fun.
You could spend all nighter with a game like that and other similar titles that are now fond memories of how great 3D FPS used to be. But in Castle Wolfenstein, in one of the late missions, I was missing a side objective, went back to look for it, and just gave up. It just isn’t as entertaining to explore levels and kill Nazis here.
There are a few secrets to be found in each level, but unlike Doom, Quake and other titles that were actually fun, you probably won’t feel like looking around and destroy every breakable object in order to get 100% of the game.
Maybe in 2001 there still weren’t as many games set in World War 2 as after Call of Duty came out and it became mainstream.
But if you enjoy the action aspect of killing undead Nazi creatures in Germany under Hitler’s rule, play Zombie Army Trilogy instead. And if you enjoy the stealth aspect, play Death to Spies: Moment of Truth, which actually makes you feel like a spy infiltrating a Nazi base and assassinating SS officials in a realistic way.
Also check out Rise of the Triad, it was supposed to be a Wolfenstein 3D sequel but ended up being more silly and