Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Tides Of War
Yahorn! Let me try that again. Yahorn! Okay! now that’s better. With one simple word, I’ve separated those who haven’t played Return to Castle Wolfenstein from those who have. The reason for this is that if you’ve played Return to Castle Wolfenstein Tides of War (RTCW), then you know that a loud Yahorn! means victory. And victory is what developer Nerve Software has accomplished with its Xbox version of this popular PC saga. Set against a World War II backdrop during the reign of Himmler and Hitler, Tides of War attempts to recreate a supposed tie between the paranormal and Hitler’s reign.
During the opening sequence, you follow a monk on his way to destroy a devastating paranormal power in the form of Prince Heinrich. He succeeds in this but the journey soon begins as the SS paranormal division and its head, Heinrich Himmler soon make every effort to build an undead army and raise the dark knight Prince Heinrich to lead the charge. What’s a story without dark knights and the undead right? In comes tough-as-nails Army Ranger, B.J. Blazkowicz to put a stop to the Third Reich and its attempt to strengthen the Axis powers with the undead.
Other than a few surprises, RTCW has a pretty straightforward story of find the bad guys, see the bad guys, kill the bad guys before their evil plot it completed. I’m sure this sounds familiar as thousands of PC owners have no doubt played Wolfenstein 3D when it debuted on PC years ago by ID Software. Interestingly enough, this very same game that four guys from ID finished in a small Mesquite, TX apartment is available once you complete the single campaign. This isn’t actually a good thing though because of where the world of gaming has come since then. But it’s there for you to enjoy nevertheless.
It doesn’t take an expert to master the controls in RTCW as they are typical first person shooter controls. The interesting and maybe the cheesiest thing is the good old boot kick in your arsenal as if instead of blasting that Axis punk with your Venom gun you’d rather kick him to death. It has its uses though as you’ll often have to destroy barrels and kick walls to uncover secrets. And speaking of secrets, this game is riddled with them everywhere.
Unlocking every secret isn’t essential to complete the game, but for the truly devoted, it’s a fun experience. Weapons in the game are aplenty. How does the old saying go, “It doesn’t matter what you shoot ‘em with as long as they’re not moving afterwards”. Well RTCW has plenty of guns blazing for you. Old school snipers, high-tech snipers and even the prototype Venom gun as I mentioned above are at your disposal. If you fail to complete your mission it won’t be because of a lack of weaponry. They have a nice gritty feel to them that seem to somehow fit in the time and atmosphere of the game. Even the grenades have that WWII feel if there is a thing.
You can customize your control scheme as well which I found to be a huge benefit. In most of these first person shooters, having a control scheme that makes sense is winning half the battle. Each time you complete a mission you can instantly play co-op with a friend on that level. In my opinion, co-op play was a mere throw-in. The framerate suffers when you play co-op so not much time was devoted to this. I can honestly tell you though that all of these things are secondary because of Xbox Live.
The sound in the game once again takes a huge benefit from the 5.1 Dolby Digital support. For all the tech heads out there, Microsoft really gave us a bonus. Everything from explosions, footsteps and bullets firing is enhanced through a good 5.1 home theater set up. There weren’t any crickets chirping however, but I guess that’s good because it means you were doing too much stealth in a game that requires a lot of charging.
This game won’t win any awards for most beautiful but the 480p progressive support is no shabby beast. Despite previous rumblings about the game’s demo being too dark, the final version surprisingly isn’t. Well no surprise to me because a demo is just a demo with no valid structure. The levels are enough in size to afford you a decent exploring experience. The player animations are good along with excellent recreations of WWII clothing. From time to time, you’ll fire at Nazi memorabilia and it seems like a tragedy because you wish you could take it and sell it or maybe not.
Xbox Live made this PC port a necessity. The Live interface in this game is sparkling. Upon signing on, you’ll have the Optimatch, Create a Match and Quick Match options. Finally though, these options are what they say they are. Optimatch will bring up those options you set forth whereas a quick match will bring up a little of everything. If you have a top connection you’ll be able to play this game with up to 16 players. I’ve experienced it and it’s fantastic. There are always dedicated servers that people have created and left for you to use. The typical Deathmatch and such game types have been replaced with Elimination, Checkpoint, Stopwatch and Objective.They’re all pretty self-explanatory. If not just a tap on the A button will bring up the mission essentials along with who’s playing Allied and Axis. You’ll notice though that this game emphasizes team play.
You can choose to be different soldier types from Medic to Lieutenant. Each soldier class serves a specific purpose on your team. The Medic is there to revive fallen friends or provide health satchels. The Lieutenant is there to provide ammo or call in air strikes to obliterate the enemy. Engineers are best used during objectives that require some form of explosives and Soldiers are your firepower. Use the best assortment of classes to best fit the game you’re playing. Trust me when I say that RTCW on Xbox Live is a top notch experience. Honestly, I can’t understand why you’re still reading this and not laying the smack down on Jimmy, the Axis soldier from Connecticut or calling air strikes on Spanky, the Allied soldier from the UK!