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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

Click to enlarge

Forget these Allied losers, I want to join the Axis!
The favorite part of RtCW for most players will undoubtedly be the multiplayer aspect. There is good reason for this, as it manages to inject some new spins on old ideas as well as introduce some of its own original concepts into the mix, making for a very satisfying overall experience.

The multiplayer server browser is quick and painless to use. One simply has to select a connection speed and specify an internet connection in order to pull a list of online servers, which can be sorted by a variety of methods, though most players will undoubtedly sort by ping times. Double clicking on an available server is all that's needed to connect.

Once in, players will be taken to what is referred to as the limbo screen. From there, players can choose a side, Axis or Allies, as well as peruse the mission objectives for whatever level happens to be running at the time. Players can also choose from four different class types, including Soldier, Lieutenant, Medic, and Engineer. Each class has its own strengths: the Soldier can use any type of weapon, the Lieutenant can dispense ammo and call air strikes, the Medic can heal, revive, and automatically adds 10 health points to all the players on his team, and the Engineer has the important ability to plant, arm, and disarm dynamite.

The limbo menu can be called up at any time during play in case the player needs a quick glance at the objectives or decides to change his character class. A nice touch is that a small game window will still be open in the limbo menu, allowing players to view their game or view the action through a teammate's eyes if they just got fragged.

When death does occur, players don't necessarily respawn immediately. Instead, they are sent back to the limbo menu and must await a countdown, which is adjustable by the server owner, before they respawn. The countdown is completely independent, meaning that players could respawn in 10 seconds or 30, depending on when they die during the countdown. During this time, players can access all the functions described above if they so wish.

A particularly handy feature in the multiplayer is the compass, which every player has in their HUD. The compass provides a variety of functions, including pointing the way to teammates making requests or making it apparent where the nearest objective is, which is incredibly useful when you're a new player and are completely clueless about the layout of a map. It also makes it easier for medics to locate and heal ailing players when necessary.

The great thing about RtCW is that every class is absolutely essential for a team to be successful on the battlefield. Soldiers, as their name implies, are the big guns of the group. As far as I can tell, every objective-based map requires dynamite arming or disarming of some type, making Engineers indispensable for accomplishing mission objectives (though I could be wrong about this). The only way to get more ammo, aside from swiping a dropped weapon, is from a Lieutenant. Lieutenants can also call in the all-powerful air strike and use binoculars to scope out situations, which is more useful than it sounds when doing some serious team play. And of course, medics can heal team members and revive fallen team members, which is particularly helpful at a choke point on a map where the casualty rate is typically high. This is to say nothing of the automatic 10 health point bonus bestowed to every member of the team.

There are actually several different modes of play, though I suspect that only one of them sees any real action. The first, termed Objective (wolf MP), is the default mode, where each map has a series of objectives that must be accomplished in order for a team to win. This is the most common mode and probably the one that players will play the most. The second, Stopwatch (wolf SW) is like Objective, but has players swap sides after a win so that both can compete for the best completion time. The third, Checkpoint (wolf CP), has players competing to control various checkpoints on a given map. The team with the most checkpoints when the clock runs out wins.

I can't really comment on the last two game types, as I couldn't find any servers that supported them. However, the Objective based gameplay is a blast to play. RtCW really makes an effort to inject the concept of team play upon players, awarding wins to the team that distributes itself the best class-wise as well as support-wise. For example, in one game I found myself playing on a team comprised of nothing but Soldiers, Lieutenants, and Medics. As the medicine and ammo were flowing, we were racking up high kill scores compared to the other team. However, the other team, consisting of 1/3 Engineers, still managed to complete their objectives, particularly since we had no Engineers of our own in order to disarm planted dynamite. Though the calls of "we need an Engineer" echoed resoundingly through that game, no one ever bothered to play one on my team, and we were soundly trounced many times over.

One point I really liked about RtCW multiplayer is the lack of smack talk, except for the preset voice commands available to all players. Maybe the game is too fast-paced, or maybe I've just been playing too much Counter-Strike, but the smack-talk was kept to a minimum, if at all, on all of the servers I played on. No one chewed out a team member for an error or missed opportunity, no one yelled out "i 0wnzed u" when scoring a particularly messy kill, and most surprising, no one gave me any flak for very clearly being a newbie, with no idea what to do on a given map. It was a nice change of pace from the usual juvenile chatter that goes on in a typical online FPS game.

There are only 8 maps so far from which to play on, with 7 of those 8 being available in Objective mode (the last one is only available in Checkpoint mode). Though the maps definitely provide fast and furious play, they all seem to bear the same slate-grey look after a while, making it feel I was playing the same map with just a slightly different arrangement. The fact that they tried to make Engineers a must is nice too, but after a while the maps kind of fell into a "blow this up, capture this" pattern that became a bit repetitive. This is not to say that the gameplay itself suffers - I could probably play multiplayer RtCW for a week solid and scream "Eat that!" every time I head shoot someone, but the objectives themselves became a little bland after a while, as well as the overall look of the available maps.


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