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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Activision
DEVELOPER:
Nerve Software
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
RELEASE DATE:
May 06, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on March 04, 2003

First Impressions: One of the best PC titles around is soon to hit the Xbox, and Xbox Live, with a major bang.


It's a known fact ? the World War II theme and first-person shooter gameplay system go hand-in-hand. Just look at the critically acclaimed Medal of Honor series, EA's Battlefield 1942, and the focus of this article, id's Return to Castle Wolfenstein. If you aren't aware, RTCW was released onto the PC world in the fall of 2001. It debuted as not only the true successor to the original granddaddy of all FPS's, Wolfenstein 3D, but also as one of the more addicting and fully enjoyable multiplayer experiences around. And now, thanks to the folks at id and Nerve Software, this behemoth of a game is currently scheduled to hit the Xbox in May, complete with a multitude of worthwhile enhancements, Xbox Live support, and a really cool subtitle to boot.

Unlike the hard-core, true-to-life World War II storyline you'd find in the Medal of Honor titles, RTCW takes a more supernatural approach. The year is 1943, and as U.S. Army Ranger B.J. Blazkowitz, a highly trained U.S. operative, you are sent into Germany to investigate the rumors of occult rituals and genetic engineering going on within the Nazi r?gime. Unfortunately, things go awry, and you and your partner are captured and stowed away inside the dreaded Castle Wolfenstein, which is where your adventure will begin. Contrary to the title of the game, however, your missions will take you into all parts of Europe; not just the castle. You'll visit devastated cities, underground catacombs infested with all sorts of evil, Nazi bases, and settings in and around Africa that take place within the game's newly added prologue missions, of which there will be seven in all. The prologue should introduce a whole new chapter into Blazkowitz's legacy, complete with brand new enemies to face and stories to tell; this will explain to us what exactly happened to B.J. and his comrade, Agent One, before they were captured and thrown into Castle Wolfenstein. If the prologue isn't enough to entice gamers who've already experienced the PC version, the original game has been tweaked as well; complete with new weapons, and modified levels and item placement. So for the most part it should be an interesting experience for veterans of the game.

Gameplay in RTCW will be typical to the genre. You'll be able to collect a of plethora of weaponry; including pistols, semi-automatic machine guns, sniper rifles, Panzerfaust rocket launchers, a deadly, experimental mini-gun known as the Venom, and a flamethrower to vanquish your foes, whether they be Nazi soldiers, the living dead, or the game's insanely cool, and quite freaky, boss characters. Additionally, going along with the theme of the overall game, new weapons and items have been added to your arsenal ? there's the shotgun, which in addition to being usable in the single player game will also default to the engineer's main weapon in multiplayer, and three new items, the Holy Cross (obliterates the undead), EMP (disrupts the mechanical enemies), and X-Shield (acts as a protective shield), have been included to aid you in certain situations. Getting back to some more of the gameplay aspects, asides from just blasting everything in sight, in addition there will be your classic switch pulling and moments of stealth.

Of course, the best reason to get excited about RTCW is its multiplayer components. While the single-player mode is no doubt quite rewarding, the game has really always been about multiplayer, which is coming in two forms for the Xbox ? co-op and Xbox Live. First off, a Halo-inspired cooperative mode will be included in the game, meaning you and a bud, taking on the roles of Blazkowitz and Agent One, can take on the single-player mode as a team, via split screen or system link on two different televisions. As a longtime fan of the game, I'm very interested to see how well they pull this off. The real emphasis, though, is going to be on the Xbox Live support, through which players will compete in team-based missions that are addictive as the strategies to complete them are complex.

The basics of it are this: You choose a side, whether it be the Axis or Allies, and try to work with your teammates to achieve a common goal, ranging from acquiring and securing super secret documents to blowing up a submarine and disabling radars. The interesting part is that there are a variety of classes available, each featuring its own important roles throughout each mission. The classic Soldier can equip powerful weapons that the other classes can't, such as the panzerfaust, flamethrower, sniper rifle, and Venom mini-gun. The engineer can set and arm dynamite that can allow the team access certain parts of the level, or blow up certain objectives, such as the aforementioned sub and radars. The all-important Medic can hand out medi-paks that restore health, can revive fallen comrades with a syringe, and give the team an automatic health boost. And last but not least is the Lieutenant, who has a huge variety of abilities at his disposal, including the all-important ability to hand out ammo to teammates, launch airstrikes with his smoke based grenades, and fire artillery strikes with his binoculars. Let's take a quick look at a scenario, just so you get the gist of it.

The most popular, and as such, classic, multiplayer level in RTCW is the Beach. Here, the Allies are assigned to break into a Nazi base, find top secret documents, and transmit them before the time expires (which is usually 8, 10, or 20 minutes). The level itself is set up much like the D-Day invasion, just on a smaller scale. As the Allies, you will start at the beach, where you must make it through the barbed wire fences and onslaught of Nazi stationary gun fire in order to the reach the wall and blast it with dynamite. There are two sections of the wall that need to be blown, a door on the left side and the wall on the right. The Allies' first goal will be to protect the engineers long enough for them to set and arm their dynamite; and naturally it's up to the Nazis to defend the walls from being blown up and, if at all possible, disarm any dynamite that is planted. Once the Allies are inside the complex, one of the main goals will be to secure the checkpoint (located right inside the door that is blown to the left) in order for reinforcements to arrive in that location, instead of all the way at the beach. As an alternative to your standard immediate respawns, reinforcements arrive at certain time intervals during a match (usually every 20-30 seconds), so at times you might be waiting a few seconds to come back into the action. You are free, however, to change your class for your next respawn, so you're not limited to a certain class throughout the entire mission. Continuing on, after the break-in, the Allies must find the docs, which are located in the war room deep in the basement, steal them, and take them to the Nazi transmitter nearby. And, of course, the Nazi players must do everything in their power to prevent this from happening.

Evidently, the Beach is just one of the many different multiplayer levels that will be available and, to be honest, it's quite small, and relatively simple compared to some of the others. Also, do expect all the bonus levels that were added to the Game of the Year PC edition, which includes the infamous Tram, Ice, and the Dam, to be available. On top of all of that, 6 brand new, exclusive levels will be available in this Xbox version. Once again, veterans of the game who think the Xbox version has nothing more to offer them should think again. Moving on, you'll compete in each level with four different play types at your disposal ? the Objective mode comprises of a single match, Stopwatch alternates sides and lets you try to top the oppositions time, Checkpoint is a non-stop frag-fest where the goal is to raise a certain number of flags in order for your team to win, and last is the newly added Elimination mode, in which the team left with a live man is the winner (this gets interesting with the medic class). As of now there is no maximum number of players that can play online set in stone, though Nerve is working hard to get up to 16 players (8 vs. 8) on at once, and hopefully without the repercussions we saw in Unreal Championship. Though, the chance that the number will dwindle down to only 12 is a good possibility.

Not only are we going to have all this online goodness, but also it will naturally come with full support of the Xbox Voice Communicator for real time strategizing and chitchat. No support of a keyboard does change things a bit, especially with the PC version having so many quick chat buttons, which were very helpful in calling for help and warning people of potential dangers, but in the end the voice communication should more than make up for it, and should make for a pretty seamless experience.

Final Thoughts
It's fairly obvious that Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War isn't just going to be a piss-poor port of its PC counterpart. Instead, id seems very adamant in giving a whole new audience a chance to check out the greatness of their game to it's fullest extent, complete with tons of additions and exclusives, not only in the single player aspect, but also the multiplayer as well. New prologue missions, a modified single player mode, co-op support, new weapons, full Xbox Live support with new maps ? the game's features just go on and on. And if you want any further proof that the online multiplayer aspects are going to rock the Xbox Live community, keep in mind that the developer, Nerve Software, was the company responsible for developing the PC online components, so the game is in the very best of hands. We still have a couple of months till the title debuts, but all indications point to a game that's going to be well worth the wait.


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