Wednesday, December 12

Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review

The version played for review: PC (GOG)
Available on: PC, Linux and Mac OS
The price I paid: £4.29
Other Notes: *I know that zombies appeared in Wolfenstein 3D years before this game but they sucked in that game and they suck in this one too.

The 2000’s played host to some of the best first-person shooters ever made. It was in a lot of ways the golden age of the FPS. Alien vs Predator, Counter Strike Global Offensive and much more were all released during this decade. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is another one of these classics.

Although there is a story this is a game that puts its gameplay before its plot so let’s follow its example and start with that. WASD moves you around with Q and E allowing you to lean left or right around corners. Although you can’t fire while leaning it’s still an important skill in order to scope out enemies. The number 1 cause of death for me was simply being unprepared and then overwhelmed. Despite the fast movement speed and the large arsenal of enjoyable weapons, this is not the sort of game that rewards you for running in guns blazing. The title Return to Castle Wolfenstein references the original 1981 original game in the series; Castle Wolfenstein. Similar to the roots of the series this game uses stealth as a feature. Although going loud is always an option in all but 1 mission Return to Castle Wolfenstein also allows for a quieter approach. Silenced weapons, knife kills and slowly crouch walking all improve your effectiveness as a cloak and dagger agent. What I love about this game is how it allows you to mix these styles of play. I found myself relying on a mixture of sniping distant threats while using assault rifles for the enemies that managed to flank me. No matter how you play this game it’s spot on with its controls. If you have the speed and reactions it’s perfectly possible to run into a room gunning down everyone with nothing but head-shots. Seeing as I grew up with a controller and not a mouse and keyboard I find I lack the skill to really do this but I’ve seen others do it. For me, it’s more about taking out the Nazi scum before they’re able to get close to me.

Then you have the variety of enemies that stand in your way. Of course, you have Nazis which seeing as they are history’s biggest monsters are always fun to shoot. These human soldiers come in a few different forms. You have the general foot soldiers which often sport machine guns and low health making them the easiest to dispatch. The only real threat these soldiers pose is if they manage to swarm you in large enough numbers. Then you have the snipers which pack a punch but as long as you keep your eyes peeled and get the first shot you should be fine. Of course, as you progress into the game you will face tougher foes. These include the elite troops and super soldiers. Elite troops come in two forms as both the elite guards and the blackguards. The elite guards are female agents able to dodge roll avoiding incoming fire. Blackguards, on the other hand, are human tanks able to take a lot of hits before going down. While most of these will use conventional machine guns some of them will use the Venom Gatling gun making them deadly up close. As you move into the second half of the campaign you will encounter the super soldiers. You have the Loper that are zombies used in Deathshead’s experiments. They will use an area of effect attack that employs electricity to deal lots of damage up close. Don’t think you have the advantage with distance though, because they are able to jump at you hitting you with a very powerful attack. The best way to deal with these is to use a big gun and kill them before they’re able to do too much damage. Proto-Soldiers are a smaller version of a mid-game boss. They are half organic half mechanical monstrosities able to take multiple direct hits from even the rocket launcher. Their attack is almost as impressive as their endurance. You want to take cover as much as possible and hit them with the biggest weapons you have ammo for when you see an opening. I love all of these opponents. Each one feels different from the last and they force you to switch up your tactics and firearms. The only enemies I really dislike in this game are the zombies.

Zombies are far less interesting and fun to shoot than Nazis. It takes what defines the Wolfenstein games and just pushes it to the side for the most basic and dull of monsters. I’ve shot zombies in everything from Resident Evil to Call of Duty and it’s genuinely disappointing to see Wolfenstein use them. Besides just the laziness of using zombies, they are also awful to fight. One of their more common attacks is to fire ghost skulls from around themselves. These are hard to dodge even when moving. Unlike Doom where the projectiles are bright and possible to dodge these are transparent and just frustrating to try and avoid. On top of having awful attacks, they are absolute bullet sponges taking round after round. I wouldn’t call them hard per se. It’s just as they are never any fun to fight having them able to tank damage makes the whole encounter last longer than it should. These are a low point on an otherwise amazing shooter of this era.*

So why are there zombies here anyway? Well, the Nazis have set up a paranormal division of the SS and it’s up to William ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz to investigate it. Of course, you uncover a few different projects that involve bringing back the dead and creating a perfect super soldier. The story here is very light and never really the focus of the game. We are told most of it via briefings with the high command before and after most missions. It’s not great but it doesn’t really feel like it’s trying to be. The story is there to serve a single purpose and that’s as an excuse to kill Nazis. It serves this purpose wonderfully but if you want an engaging story similar to the modern Wolfenstein games then sadly you won’t find it here.

Ultimately Return to Castle Wolfenstein feels like the game Wolfenstein 3D wanted to be back in the ’90s. Although I still love Wolfenstein 3D it lacked the technology to really be able to give you this sort of experience. That’s why this game is so great, it’s classic Wolfenstein from both the ’80s and ’90s wrapped up in the brilliance of a 00’s FPS. If you’re a fan of the series and this one passed you by then it’s well worth picking up and playing through. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a top of the line FPS from the golden era of PC shooters!

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10.

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