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Return to Castle Wolfenstein | review | game | Lollipop

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

(Activision for the PC)
by Eric Johnson

In these very pages I've traced the lineage of the Quake-style shooter back to its roots and one name has been repeated time and time again like a mantra. You will hear the diabolical words Castle Wolfenstein spoken in hushed tones and with much reverence. Wolfenstein has a hell of a legacy and a whole mess of bastard children. Eleven years ago, it was the original first-person shooter. A mere three years after Pac-Man fever polluted the airwaves, it was a primitive World War II computer adventure game that shouted at you in German while you tried to escape from a Nazi stronghold. So eleven years, a hundred bastard children, and an inconceivable number of technological innovations later, the creators of Doom and Quake have returned to their roots and recreated a game that boasts more firsts than any other. The result is Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a game that lets you run around and kill Nazis, tons of them, and what could be more fun than that?

You also get to kill zombies, but the game gets pretty weak whenever they show up. The cyborg-zombie hybrids are cooler than the normal zombies, but they aren't quite as much fun as the lethal Veimar Republic reject SS babes you have a showdown with in an abandoned cathedral. Most of what you do in Return to Castle Wolfenstein is kill things. It's a real meat-and-potatoes first-person shooter that gives you a lot of guns and dangerous things to shoot at in inventive situations and beautiful environments. Unlike just about everything else they've done in the past few years, the developers at Id have produced a beefy single-player game consisting of thirty-something exquisitely-designed levels.

The single-player element of Wolfenstein alone is enough to warrant its recommendation. But not only do you get this beefy single-player game, you get the most insane multi-player action imaginable. The combat scenarios involve missions, with one side on the defensive and the other on the offensive. For example: The axis team holds a fortification, the allies have landed on a beach, much like D-day, but smaller. The allies have to breech the sea wall, hold the forward bunker, steal plans from the basement of the fort and radio them back to HQ from the radio tower. The axis team has to prevent these events. All teams are subdivided into classes with various skill sets: Medics, lieutenants, engineers, and soldiers. Engineers blow things up, medics heal people, Lieutenants pass out ammo and call in bombing raids, while the soldiers carry powerful weapons. All four skill sets are needed for successful completion of a mission, so the multi-player demands larger groups of people. Over sixteen is ideal, but you can get away with eight. Communication is facilitated by a quickchat system that allows you to ask for ammo, call for a medic, or taunt each other with the press of a button. If you are killed, you can lie on the floor and pitifully call for a medic or jump into the reinforcement cue for redeployment after a minor but occasionally critical thirty seconds where you can select to regenerate as a different class.

The chaos and bloodshed is unreal. More intense than that found in most straight up death matches because it involves multiple, tangible objectives, and a brutal scramble to complete them. The weapon selection is limited in comparison to that in the single-player mode, but it keeps the balance of power precariously even. It was this mode that I grew to enjoy first, and the month of afternoons I pissed away playing it online is testament to its quality.

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