Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Return to Castle Wolfenstein has been keenly anticipated by FPS fans around the globe. There is a sense of destiny with this title in that it takes the shoot'em up genre back to it's roots. In 1992 id released Wolfenstein 3D and in doing so gave birth to one of the most popular genres ever, the FPS. Many celebrate id's later creation, Doom, but it was Wolfenstein 3D that really paved the way for the mass of titles that now grace the genre. Nine years later and it's time to return to Castle Wolfenstein to do battle with the Nazi forces once again.
The game consists of seven missions that are made up of 26 levels. Each mission is made up of 3-5 levels. I was actually impressed with the levels. The only exception to this was the crypt levels. The zombies looked out of place in this game. The battles with the Nazis actually felt like a damn good W.W.II FPS but the zombie elements were just plain silly and out of place. There are a few bosses in the game and the difficulty seems to go through the roof whilst fighting these. On the whole the levels were great but it is a shame that the game descended into combating the supernatural at times.
It was a huge disappointment to find that none of the cutscenes have subtitles. In most FPS games deaf gamers expect, although never deserve, to be at some disadvantage, in regards to audible clues that enemies are present not being visually indicated and in this respect RTCW is the same as you are unaware that guards, who are talking, are just around the corner. It is the least we could hope for that the game's storyline is subtitled. However once I was over this disappointment I found that by pressing the 'N' key a notebook pops up and this gives you all the information you have missed plus extra. This notebook also lists the mission objectives.
I honestly thought that the notebook feature had been a safety net for deaf gamers, that is until I began the second part of the third mission (called Rocket Base). On this level your primary goal is to prevent a rocket being launched. Verbally you are told that the rocket is passing all of it's tests and that a two minute countdown is underway which updates with messages such as "one minute thirty seconds to launch" or words to that effect. The point being that none of this is given in text. On your first attempt at playing this mission you will wonder why you have failed. In a nutshell then, the single player side of the game is awkward for the deaf gamer, not impossible, in fact quite enjoyable most of the time, but awkward.
The multiplayer part of the game is outstanding and I'm pleased to say completely suitable for the deaf gamer. There are three variations of play for multiplayer. These are Objective - you team up, either Axis or Allies, and have a set amount of time to carry out your objectives; Stopwatch - similar to Objective except that you switch objectives at the end of the time limit; Checkpoint - you and your team have to battle for checkpoints on the map with the idea that your team has to try and claim them all. Communication with the other players is through text. There is a quick chat mode. This is activated by pressing the 'V' key and brings up a menu and you simply press the appropriate number to select your message. These messages are both simultaneously verbal and in text and provide a quick form of player communication.
There are four character classes in multiplayer mode. There is the Soldier, Engineer - demolition's expert, Medic - cures injured team-mates and the Lieutenant - provides ammo, calls airstrikes and is sort of overseer. The multiplayer side of the game is excellent and worth the price of the game alone. I have played quite a few multiplayer games and have found them very enjoyable. I did have some lag during play but considering the fact that I'm using a 56k modem then that is to be expected. The stability of the games I've had also surprised me. For a game out of the box (and without any patches) I haven't had a single multiplayer game crash on me. Unlike Counterstrike, death doesn't mean that you have to wait until the actions finished. You simply goto the Limbo menu. From here you can change side and class if you want and re-enter the game. This takes away the boredom and keeps you interested. The only thing I would add though is that I would have liked to have seen AI bots in this mode to enable you to enjoy the thrills of this side of the game by yourself.
Technologically the genre has come on in leaps and bounds, and it shows. RTCW looks absolutely fantastic. The level design and look is fantastic and some of the character models are as good as anything to date on the PC. In case you are wondering the system requirement for this game are not too bad. The game has minimum requirements of a Pentium II 400MHz with a 16MB graphics card and 128MB RAM. Personally I would recommend that you have a 32MB graphics card with a Pentium III or Athlon and at least 128MB RAM (more if you're using Windows 2000/XP).
Return to Castle Wolfenstein has been highly anticipated and on the multiplayer side at least it does not disappoint. It would be hard to suggest that the single player side of the game is accommodating for deaf gamers but liberal use of the quick save feature can atone, to some degree, for the lack of visual clues to show that enemies are nearby. If you are a multiplayer gamer though you will be pleased with this side of the game on it's own and see the single player game as an awkward, but somewhat enjoyable extra.
Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10 Return to Castle Wolfenstein must really be looked at as two separate games. If I were to grade the single player out of five then it would receive 2½ because of the lack of visual clues. However the multiplayer side of the game would receive an excellent 5 as it is superb. This is how a total score of 7½ was arrived at. If multiplayer is your thing then the game is a must buy. If you like both elements then the game is still recommended. However if you are strictly a single player then you might want to try the demo first.
Deaf Gamers comment: An enjoyable game that could have been as good a single player experience as it is a superb multiplayer experience. The Rocket Base level with the (verbal only) two minute countdown is just one of a few niggles that could have so easily been put right. Multiplayer is a different story though and comes highly recommended.