Anthony's Film Review
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
(Video Game, 2001)
Wolfenstein steps into the next era of first-person shooter games, with entertaining results...
Video game fans who have lived or studied the history of video games know that the genre of first-person shooter games started in 1992, with a computer game from id Software called Wolfenstein 3D. This is the game that laid down the foundation for all FPS games to come, with basic elements such as the first-person perspective, the handling of a weapon, picking up and using other weapons, and killing progressively harder enemies. Later FPS games would improve on this core formula. Examples include Doom adding heavier doses of blood and gore, Duke Nukem 3D adding a voice to the main character and the ability to jump and swim, and Half-Life putting more advanced artificial intelligence into enemies and providing a more sensory experience. With milestones like these, Wolfenstein could easily be forgotten by its successors. Thankfully, the developers decided to return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001.
Despite its title, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, because the events in this 2001 game do not follow those of the 1992 game. Rather, it's what you would call a remake or a reboot. Another way to look at it is that Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a reimagining and retelling of the first game. In Wolfenstein 3D, the player character, an American World War II spy named B.J. Blazkowicz, escapes from a Nazi prison at Castle Wolfenstein, proceeds to stop evil schemes related to chemical warfare and reanimating the dead, and even fights Adolf Hitler who is wearing a robotic suit. Similarly, in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Blazkowicz escapes from a prison at Castle Wolfenstein, reports to his superiors, comes back to discover and stop Nazi schemes, and ultimately fights an undeniably powerful foe at the end.
Let's talk about the gameplay experience itself. With this game, the original Wolfenstein game has been made with the FPS standards of 2001. As Blazkowicz, you can walk, run, sneak, and jump while using weapons that include silenced pistols, Lugers, grenades, machine guns, and sniper rifles. The many Nazi soldiers you encounter in the game may use smart tactics to try to get you. And, of course, the graphics, as well as the voice acting, are much more impressive than those of the early 1990s. There's nothing remarkable about this particular first-person shooter game compared to other games of the genre, but it's still nice to see a Wolfenstein game in a later FPS era.
Going back to the plot of the game, I must say that it's definitely more gripping than the story in Wolfenstein 3D. Now, to be fair, Wolfenstein 3D didn't really have much of a story anyway. What I mean is that, with the technical capabilities that became available, it is possible for Return to Castle Wolfenstein to tell a story in more detail than older games. Besides the escape from castle Wolfenstein, there is rumor of the Nazis excavating something ancient. The plot gets especially intriguing when you discover the Nazis toying with cybernetics and the occult. You even have to fight artificially engineered Super Soldiers as well as reanimated skeletons and corpses. Overall, it's neat to have a World War II story with both a science-fiction and a supernatural twist.
With a story that's pretty good and gameplay that matches, rather than exceeds, what other FPS games of the time do, I'm giving Return to Castle Wolfenstein a positive rating, but just above the average mark. Given how hard it is for FPS game developers to come up with brilliant new ideas that will blow away the competition, I'm not surprised that this game doesn't do that. But that's OK. It's still a fun gaming experience. More importantly, fans can be happy that Wolfenstein, the game that started the whole genre, can get a makeover that is worth checking out.
For more information about Return to Castle Wolfenstein, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.