Thursday, November 1, 2001

4:26 PM
One of the most influential games of all time, but not the first of its genre as many people believe, id's Wolfenstein 3-D was unleashed upon a stunned PC community back in 1992. To say this was a seminal breakthrough in gaming is like saying that water is wet and it speaks volumes that nearly a decade later, id Software is still on the top of the pack. This return to the classic though is not being written by id, it does not contain bleeding edge features and it will not require a PC upgrade to play. So what is all the fuss about? It's simple, the game just flat out ROCKS.

At this point, I should mention my observations are based on the recently released multi-player test. The multiplayer aspect of the game as demonstrated in the test is under production. Nerve Software is responsible for adding the multiplayer code and has only been working on it since June. It really is just a "test" with one map, one style of play, 4 classes of player, a limited range of weapons and no off-line bots.

The first thing that strikes you, as you boot up this 66 MB taster, is really how well presented it is. Already the menu system is fully working, glossy and easy to use. There are a couple of omissions in the in-game browser, such as the ability to see if a server is password-protected, but generally, it works well.

Based on the Quake3 engine, its possible for regular Quakers to go in and tweak the graphics to best suit their specs. Some options are not supported but, no doubt, the final release will be as fully configurable as other Quake3 licensed titles. As mentioned earlier, a PC upgrade is not mandatory either; any reasonable PC from the last year or two should be able to get a decent showing though, obviously, a powerful PC is rewarded with richer visuals.

You start the test by choosing your station in the game. You can be the Allies or Axis with the option of being an engineer, medic, soldier or lieutenant. Each class has their own skills that are needed in the game.

After choosing your class, you are placed in limbo waiting your spawning into the game world. This is a nice addition. You can view the action in a scaled down window, check out the level's objectives, change your team or class and, if you choose to be a soldier, change your main weapon. Spawning takes place in waves, a pleasant balance between sitting out the rest of the game as in Counterstrike and the instant spawning of Quake where, once dead, you frequently have to wait over half a minute to rejoin the action.

Upon spawning, it must be said the most exciting team to play is the allied team. With an awesome feeling of insurmountable odds, you start at a beach landing and you have to race up the sandy beach whilst avoiding barbed wire, heavy flak cannons and the constant firing of the Axis mounted machine-guns. You must gain access to the Axis stronghold, which involves the need for an engineer to plant explosives at one of the two entry points. Enemy bunkers are well placed to make this difficult but then that is why you have grenades...

Once into the compound, the two teams can mix in close quarters combat with a reasonable selection of authentic weaponry. It must be said that it is best not to use the flame-thrower in close combat. You can set yourself on fire, as well as your opponent. The agonizing second or two it takes the minigun to spin up is also exciting as you face off with an enemy soldier. Overall, I think the weaponry offering is just about right.

The goal of the Allied team is to retrieve the documents from one side of the compound and travel to the transmitter room on the other side. It's nice to have a more complex structure for team play. Games like Counterstrike are fine, but it can be simplistic and easy to tire of the singular goals of "rescue the hostage" or "defuse the bomb". The Axis team, by contrast, has the simple goal of preventing the Allies from succeeding.

Another feature worth mentioning is the sprint gauge. By holding down a button you can call upon extra reserves and run flat out for a short period, only slowing down when you have to catch your breath. It's features like this mixed with the incredible ambient atmosphere that goes towards creating such a fun game.

It's easy to say, "This is going to be the next big thing" nowadays. In the face of such stiff competition as the upcoming World War 2 game Medal of Honour, it might be foolish to say that. However, in Return to Wolfenstein, I am confident this will be the game to take over Counterstrike as the next big multiplayer game.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein PC Preview by Leigh


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