STAFF REVIEW of Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War (Xbox)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003.
by Flood

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War Box art The legendary Wolfenstein series has finally made it to the Xbox. Its predecessor, Wolfenstein 3-D, was the first first-person shooter video game ever released. Now Xbox owners can finally play what PC gamers have been playing since it was released in 2001. But Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War isn?t just a port from the PC version. Id Software has totally revamped Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and optimized it especially for the Xbox.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is set during World War 2. The main character is B.J. Blazkowicz, a US Army Ranger fighting with the Allies against the Axis. The object of the game is to try and get to Hitler?s right hand man, Heinrich Himmler, and kill him and everyone else in the way. You are give a variety of weapons to do so, knives, handguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, and the all-mighty Venom chain gun. The guns are quite balanced and realistic. For example, you?ll have to deal with an unsteady scope when using a sniper rifle, as well as it kicking back just like a real gun. Unlike most first-person shooters, the game isn?t just a frag fest. It?s possible to be very stealthy and still get the job done. But if you prefer to run into every room shooting, it?s not a problem. The game is quite flexible in that respect. It all depends on how you play it.
A big draw for the game is the ability to play on Xbox Live. The online play of Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a little awkward at first. For one, when you join a game, you are automatically put into observer mode. In observer mode, you can freely view the game?s action from a birds eye view with the ability to zoom in or out. From there you can join either team, axis or allies, and jump right into the game already in progress. This eliminates the need to wait for the current game to end, like in Ghost Recon. Although, this sometimes leaves you very confused and unsure what to do.
The gameplay on Live is great! On a server hosting the suggested amount of players, everything runs very smoothly. It can sometimes be hard to tell your teammates from the enemy in heated combat because teammates? names only show up when you place your crosshairs over them. One great feature in Live gameplay is when your teammates talk, a speaker icon appears over their head and on the compass so you know who?s talking and where they are. Unfortunately, you?re not given the ability to use all of the weapons available in single player. The game also lacks the ability to play co-op on Live, which is only available offline.
One of the best parts of the Live multiplayer game is the class system. On Live, you have a choice of 4 different classes to play as: Soldier, Medic, Engineer, and Lieutenant. Each class has restrictions to what weapons they can carry, but each also has a special skill none of the others have. Medics can give out health packs, but can only carry one weapon. Engineers can set and defuse dynamite, and can carry more grenades than anyone else. Lieutenants can call air strikes and are the only class equipped with binoculars. Last but not least, soldiers can use any gun, and are the only ones who can carry the flamethrower and the Venom chain gun. The beauty of the class system is the many possible combinations for putting together teams. The balance of the team usually determines the outcome of the match.

The graphics in Return to Castle Wolfenstein are pretty decent. The textures on walls and scenery are very detailed. The character models are nice as well. The only graphics area Return to Castle Wolfenstein lacks in is shadows. The developers should have made the shadows more realistic to match the rest of each level. For example, when your character looks down, the only shadow that is cast is a circle that stays the same size throughout the entire game. The over all animation is pretty fluid during the game, free of choppiness and glitches. The effect surfaces such as metal and sand make when shot with a gun is quite nice. Although, the cut scene animations aren?t the best the Xbox has seen, but they?re far from the worst.

The music in Return to Castle Wolfenstein isn?t the greatest. At random times during the game when enemies are coming up, the music will suddenly change and become louder and more dramatic. Although this succeeds in heightening the action a little, it also sometimes happens when there are only 1 or 2 enemies in a room, when it should be reserved for bigger battles. After playing for a good hour or so, you will get very sick of the monotonous music score. Music scores like the one in this game make me wish that custom soundtracks were a mandatory addition for all Xbox games. But unfortunately for players of this game, they?ll have to either suck it up and deal with it or mute the TV and put a cd on. Though the latter might be better to keep your sanity, it?s not the best for playing the game. Many times throughout the game, you can rely on your ears to figure out where enemies are. Footsteps and full conversations between Nazi soldiers can usually give you clues to where they are located.

Work on the shadows in the game and make them more fluid and realistic. Custom soundtracks and co-op on Xbox Live would be nice too.

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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