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     " You could easily strip the models and paint them to look like Unreal Tournament or Half Life and really not notice any difference. "

      Title: Return to Castle Wolfenstein by Activision

      Format: PC First Person Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: The game that created the first person shooter (FPS) genre is back. In the 80’s, we were wowed and enthralled by the concept of looking straight down the barrel of a gun and fragging the crap out of some Nazi scum. Now, with state of the art graphics, more historically referenced gear, a cool story involving druids and the occult, and some intense multiplayer, Activision and Id think the Wolf still has what it takes to woow gamers. But, with something near 15 years between releases could it still have what it takes? Read on, my monkeys, and find out!

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Without question, this game is pretty and leaning towards gorgeous. Bright, vivid, and full of detail, you’d be hard pressed to gaze at Wolfenstein and scowl. From the incredible detail of the models to the great motion captured animations, from the transparent cobwebs to the single greatest flame thrower effect in video gaming history, it’s almost solid across the board. I say almost because Wolfenstein is plagued by the single most common falling in any of these (FPS’) games- clipping. See through walls, bounce across other people’s heads, and generally get lost in the confusion of too many people occupying the same space when you run into close quarters. Still, though clipping is present, it is fairly minor and so only just keeps Wolf from hitting the illustrious "5". 4 out of 5

      Sound: Okay, so I admit it…I’m a freak. Sound is almost as important to me as good graphics in a game. It’s not just that I hate having to turn my speakers down to drown out non-committal or whiny musical scores or thinking that they sampled the gun sounds by banging on a tin can, it’s that good sound can enhance a gaming experience so much! Let machine guns whirrrr menacingly, let ricochets piercingly ring right next to your ears, let rocket explosions deafen you for moments at a time. It makes a game so much more engrossing and the experience so much more total. So, to that end, I’m thrilled to say Wolfenstein does a fantastic job with their sound. Loud, exciting, and true- you’ll definitely be swept up in the fray. They did an especially good job on the distance to noise ratio- that being, you’ll often be capped by a sniper rifle you won’t get to hear until a good second later. But, not to be all praise, there is one glaring omission: the lack of diversification among the automatic rifles. MP-40s, Tommy 45s, and the big 30 cal’s all sound far too much a like for my taste. Anyone who’s shot some of this stuff for real will tell you that it all sounds distinctly different and that one aspect really isn’t handled well. Also odd, though not really bad, is the presence of semi-German in the game. Only certain words are translated…making the Nazi’s seem to lack a language of their own. Funny. 4.5 out of 5

      Game Play: This section is going to be unusually short compared to my other "Game Play" reviews. Why? Because there’s just not that much to say about Wolfenstein’s playability. It is, quite simply, just another FPS… Which I found to be a HUGE disappointment. Now, I grant you, they did invent the genre and so maybe I should cut them some slack, but I hoped with the new foray in Activision and Id would have yet another landmark advance in what an FPS could give us. Instead, really, it’s just the same old fair- twitch shooting, jump dodging, fast spinning, only head aiming, ridiculous damage taking, mediocre weapon using, team death match game. And that’s a huge frickin’ disappointment. Now, I grant you, it is a fun game…and I’ll probably continue to jam on it for a while yet, but really, when you get right down to it, it’s just another clone. You could easily strip the models and paint them to look like Unreal Tournament or Half Life and really not notice any difference. And that includes the weapons and characters offered. From the sparse selection of different guns, to the virtually identical functionality of what little they give you, you’ll be far less than inspired. From the fact that just about all of the playable characters are recycled from the days of "Team Fortress Classic" to the grim reality that almost half of them get no real choice of weapons, from the down right silly damage engine to the inclusion of a god damned mini gun (why do you have a F*@#$NG MINI GUN IN A WORLD WAR II GAME?!?), the game’s actual combat is as bland as I’ve seen in quite some time (and I’ve played both Time Splitters and Armorines). The only real saving grace Wolfenstein has is that it does do the FPS thing very well…but still, I was really expecting more and better. 3 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: Bright, colorful, and most importantly huge, the Wolfenstein’s levels are truly glorious. The single player takes you through wondrous castles and across open fields while the multiplayer does a good job of giving you both objective and death match maps. The big failing here, though, is the fact that most of the maps are so frickin’ uneven! Instead of levels that you could jam on for hours and fight tooth and nail for the upper hand, almost all the levels are decidedly unbalanced in one teams favor. It means that the only real way to have fun on it for any length of time is to be on a rotating levels server which, I think, leaves something to be desired. 3.75 out of 5

      Multiplayer: The good news: Fun, objective based missions to jam on with up to 30 odd people. The bad: Very limited level selection, incredibly unbalanced maps that are all about knowing the secret ways in and the hidden good locations, and poor character archetypes to choose from. Add all that up and you get a decidedly average multiplayer experience. Fun but not great. Cool but not enthralling. You’ll game multiplayer and you’ll like it but you won’t miss it once you’ve moved on to something else. Also, on that note, is an interesting addition to Wolfenstein: Voting. Now, unlike most team games, when you get fragged by a team mate you have a way to get back at him- filing complaints and voting to have them kicked. Each time you frag someone (on accident or purpose) on your own team they can file a complaint against you. 5 complaints and you’re kicked. The down side: All it kicks is your name (not your IP). And, since there’s not a registered on line community, it means that all someone has to do is change their nick to stay in the game. But, since voting exists, it gets people riled and, in my experience, there is more team fragging and retaliatory crap going on than in any other game I’ve played. It’s a neat concept, but they didn’t take it far enough. 3 out of 5

      Replayability: Well, Wolfenstein is, when you get right down to it, just another FPS so you tell me. Do you get much replay out of ‘em? Personally, I really don’t…they bore me way too fast. But at least it’s a good FPS as far as FPS’ go. 3 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: As you may or may not know, Hitler was big into the occult. He sincerely believed that magic and psychic ability would help him win the war. Obviously, his plan had flaws…but that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that Id took this concept and made an interesting off shoot of it for Wolfenstein’s story. It seems that some druids in the 10th century conjured some demon and, to contain it, locked it in a tomb somewhere in Europe. Hitler’s found out about it and wants the demon bad. So, the allies are sending you in to stop him and clean up his mess. Okay…so it’s not that original and still has you against the whole Nazi army, but at least it has historical ties and is kind of cool. 3.5 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: It’s just another FPS, so the learning curve is small to non-existent. That’s good. What’s bad is that, like all FPS’, the levels are all about knowing the secrets and there’s nothing to tell you. And, when some of those secrets are necessary to actually be able to play competitively, I find it distasteful. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Installation went off without a hitch, but I’m not so sure about the sys reqs. The box says a "P2 400", but even with all the graphics turned down and a decent video card we couldn’t get it to run worth a damn on a K6-2 450. Ask me, if you’ve got less than a 750 and a GeForce 2 I wouldn’t bother. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Good but not great. Fun but not amazing. Wolfenstein does tribute to a genre that, frankly, should be dead by now. Worth picking up for a hard-core fan or if you find for a real deal but definitely passable otherwise.

      The Good: Pretty, entertaining, and full of Nazi slagging fun!

      The Bad: Trite and uninspired…It’s all been done before.

      The Overall Ugly: It’ll probably be decidedly forgotten by mid next year.

      What it's Worth: 30 bucks.

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