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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 500 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 660 MB


Return to Castle Wolfenstein
May 3, 2002 | Eddie Park
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Sometimes I just have to tip my hat to anyone who works in the game industry, particularly the Mac game industry. Take Return to Castle Wolfenstein for example - here's a game with a prologue cinematic by Blur, a single-player game by Gray Matter, a multiplayer game by Nerve, produced by Activision, and stated to be from id software. Add to this a porting job from Westlake Interactive and publishing by Aspyr, and you've got quite a pedigree for this title. One of the most anticipated Mac titles of this year, RtCW had Mac gamers dancing on their toes and burning up the forums asking "When?! When will we get our hands on this game?!" Thankfully, RtCW has finally seen release, and Mac kiddies everywhere are settling into some Nazi-shooting action.

One of the biggest questions involving this title, particularly with the impatient, is whether or not it was worth the wait. For those that can't read past two paragraphs without their brains going numb, I'll answer it right here: This game delivers in spades. This is a great game. This game is worth getting. This game would be worth getting even if it were delayed yet another month.

Do I need to prove it? Fine, then read on.

Wolfenstein - Apple FIRST, baby
Anyone who's been using Apple computers since the beginning should be more than familiar with the overall backdrop of the Wolfenstein saga. Castle Wolfenstein, which popped up on the Apple II sometime back in the mid-80s, is considered a classic by many. Playing an agent of the Allied forces, players started in the bowels of the notorious castle and had to work their way past guards, the dreaded SS agents, and finally make their escape from the castle.

Perhaps in a nod to the original, RtCW starts in exactly the same way. Players will find themselves in the shoes of Army Ranger Blazkowicz, an agent for the Office of Secret Actions (OSA), which seems to be a joint effort between the U.S. and the UK to help win World War II. Recently captured by German Nazis, the first mission has players attempting to escape from the confines of Castle Wolfenstein.

The escape this time, however, is just the start of a much larger game. The single-player game will toss Blazkowicz into six separate missions, each one more suicidal than the last. Players will find themselves infiltrating radar installations, eliminating high-ranking officers, and retrieving secret documents as they work their way through the game.

As the story unfolds, players will find the Nazis tangled in everything from biogenetic engineering to studies in the occult. Though the story had a few hitches, overall it kept my interest high enough to keep me thinking as well as playing. Thankfully, RtCW doesn't fall into the FPS trap where the thinnest of plot threads holds together what basically turns into a frag-fest.

No thank you, I don't want my grenade back
I've read a lot of online reviews of the PC version, and many of them knock the single-player version of RtCW as being uninspired, maudlin, and even boring. Maybe I just haven't played enough FPS titles to jade myself, but I honestly have to say that RtCW delivered one of the finest single-player FPS experiences I've ever played. Shoot me down if you must, but I really think that RtCW is just as high quality in its single-player game as well as its multiplayer.

As mentioned earlier, the game is split up into six separate missions, with each one of those missions broken into several subsets. The scope of these missions is varied enough to where players hoping to simply run-and-gun it may find themselves loading saves more often than they would like. One of the things I really enjoyed was the fact that all the levels played so differently and had objectives varied enough to keep things fresh. Some of the missions required serious stealth action, with the walk or duck key firmly depressed at all times, while others were unapologetic kill-fests.

Of course, what's a shooter without weapons? In keeping with the World War II theme, RtCW stays away from pulse rifles and flak cannons, introducing players to more mundane weapons such as Steins, MP40s, and Thompson machine guns. Rounding these out are several scoped rifles, two types of grenades, the infamous Venom gun, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher, a knife, and one final weapon acquired late in the game. Each weapon is different enough from the others to where players will no doubt argue over their favorites. The MP40, for example, can keep up a fairly relentless rate of fire, but pales in damage compared to the Stein, which is in turn limited by its tendency to overheat quickly. Certain weapons are quieter than others as well, which is useful when trying to keep a low profile. In certain levels I found myself taking out soldiers with nothing more than the knife, using the backstabbing ability which allows a quick kill for those silent and sneaky enough. I have to admit, though, that the flamethrower became near and dear to my heart, simply because using it allowed me to ignore whatever armor a Nazi soldier happened to be wearing. Sure, it takes a second or two before they start reacting to being set on fire, but the subsequent screaming and running around makes it all worth it.

The enemies in Wolfenstein are numerous and varied, ranging from several different versions of Nazi soldiers and including occult horrors such as zombies, cybernetic beasties, and even an all-female task force reputed to be a coven of witches. Almost all the enemies have access to the same weapons as the player, meaning that players won't be able to guess what weapon they'll be facing just based on the character model. Not only that, but the enemy AI is quite fierce and clever. Enemies will react differently depending on the given situation. If outgunned or alone, they will fade back, calling for help, until they join up with a fellow soldier. They will duck under cover, pop out and fire, and duck again, trying to keep your attention while their friends flank you. If they know you're coming, they will strategically place themselves in a room for maximum effectiveness when you barge in with guns blazing. The more elite guards will go through a frenzy of evasive maneuvers if caught in the open, making them much harder to hit. In one particularly embarrassing event for myself, I came across a small room and heard guards telling each other to "get ready." Smirking, I primed a grenade and lobbed it through the door, thinking myself quite clever. While I was congratulating myself, apparently one of the guards had the presence of mind to kick the grenade back at me, and I had just enough time to hear "tink tink" before the subsequent explosion knocked me across the room.

The amazing thing is that RtCW is filled with moments like this one. The single-player experience is incredibly immersive, and it was quite easy to imagine myself as being a one-man strike force infiltrating Nazi camps in order to accomplish objectives. For myself, the stealth-based objectives were particularly white-knuckle affairs, as you have to do a lot of waiting and listening in order to determine the best times to move, duck for cover, or sneak up on a guard for the quick backstab kill.



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