Return to Castle Wolfenstein reminds me quite a lot of Jedi Outcast except with fewer lightsaber toting villains and more stealth required.  Another First-Person Shooter which is a sequel (of sorts) to the original DOS game.  Although originally released in 2001, the game has aged surprisingly well as is just as playable as many of its modern contemporaries (Call of Duty et al).  As alluded to in an earlier post, I downloaded it as part of a Steam Special about a month ago and have been playing it on and off during my time off.   

In plot terms, the storyline is quite creative, borrowing from historical fact and speculation.  It centres on Himmler and his interest in the occult.  To assist the German war effort, Himmler is hoping to use paranormal resources to give the Nazis the crucial edge in victory and much of what he hopes to uncover is situated in Castle Wolfenstein.  As the investigation progresses, so too does the intensity of the game ramp up, fighting all manner of villains in order to halt this latest scheme. 

So let’s start with…the game play.  Utterly standard FPS movement and controls.  Sensitivity of joypad/mouse can be calibrated nicely and if one is playing with keyboard controls, there aren’t a huge number of buttons that will need slamming in the game.  Enemies are fast but not impossibly so which means the player can reasonably expect to dodge attacks rather than hope that ones ribcage is made of titanium. 

One of the nice touches is the fact that enemies don’t fade away when they’re killed like in the original game.  Although the levels are fairly small in size and reasonably linear, they can also act as handy breadcrumbs when determining whether an area has been passed through before or not, particularly as there are always doors that can open one side only and lead back to earlier areas (handy for those deliberately left medical packs).   RtCW’s graphics are nice, almost quasi-cartoon like which are detailed enough but not so much that detract from the overall experience.  Some of the furniture can be interacted with and much is wreckable, with particular glee elicited from destroying those ubiquitous red, white and black flags.

Sounds – this is why RtCW put me in mind of Jedi Outcast.  Not the fact that snippets of the Star Wars sound track were playing in the background but you could hear conversations in the background which would be a useful tip off that enemies were located around the corner but could be surprised.  The conversations themselves could also be amusing or helpful as well as mundane and routine – the unexploded bomb in the factory is one particularly memorable one.  The voice acting is quite decent and scripted well enough though I would have liked it if the main player commented on his discoveries (like finding his dead colleague at the beginning of the game).   

The game doesn’t offer anything new to the FPS experience but is a worth update of a classic.  Its single player campaign is detailed enough and features the usual types of challenge: stealth, explore, ransack, race against time, gauntlet marathons etc.  The supernatural element of the game allows for more creative enemies to be employed which will at least give the player chance to think a bit more creatively and consider more unorthodox solutions to standard problems.  There are few puzzles though one can get stuck in certain sections as the way forward isn’t obvious at a glance.

Despite being eleven years old, RtCW is a worthy addition to any gamers collection and the supernatural element makes a clear distinction from the Medal of Honor/Call of Duty batch of games.  The main gripe is that there is no option to jump in at certain levels (unlike the DOS original) once you’ve completed it just in case there’s a favourite section you wish to replay.  Alas I haven’t tried the multiplayer version – there’s Civ V to be playing!  Worth grinding through the main story once and then maybe trying again with a harder difficulty…just for the sheer hell of it.

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