Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC) Review

By Athanasios 12.11.2021

Review for Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC

Unlike Doom, the name Wolfenstein became popular, not through quality games, but because of how big of a technical breakthrough the original, Wolfenstein 3D was. Yours truly actually believes that there's not a single entry in the franchise that can be categorised as truly great. Many would disagree, of course, and point at the recent, more story-heavy instalments by MachineGames. In the mind of this critic, the only one that got close to being a really good Wolfenstein, was Grey Matter's Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Sadly, while the developer made the right choice in incorporating lots of "silly" elements, this probably has more Call of Duty within it than Wolfenstein, as will be shown in the following 20th anniversary review.

Generic US soldier William J. Blazkowicz is in deep trouble. He is being held captive by a bunch of highly skilled Nazi soldiers; so highly skilled that he soon manages to escape his cell in a silly, James Bond-ish way. You begin your journey towards the exit, only to realise that this friendly flavour of Germans has managed to raise a bunch of medieval knights, whose bullet-spongy, undead carcasses will join the battlefield, making your breakout even harder. Worry not. This isn't a survival horror game. The solution to the majority of problems will be to simply "shoot them until they are dead."

Don't expect to be impressed by the enemy AI, or something. This first level is fun, but it's the simple kind of fun. Return to Castle Wolfenstein doesn't try to innovate, just to please, and it succeeds in doing so, with a relatively fast pace, and great controls. Sadly, as was the case with most first-person shooters of its era, gone were the more complex levels of the past, with the whole thing basically being an on-rails experience, with a few secrets sprinkled around the place to spice things up. Do things improve later on? Hmm. Maybe the correct term isn't 'improvement,' but 'change.'

Screenshot for Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC

Upon meeting his superiors, Blazko's new orders seem to be "Ok, forget about all that undead creeps. We will send you to other secret labs, where Nazi scum are conducting secret experiments... secretly!" From then on, you'll be transported in a variety of locales, with every single one having a totally different vibe, with stealth (or stealth-lite) missions, stages were you can go with guns blazing, stages where the sniper rifle will become your best friend, missions that require some - light - exploration, and so on and forth, with the majority of your opponents being soldiers of all kinds - and that's this title's first issue. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is another case of "jack of all trades, master of none."

From the more action-packed moments, to the slower, stealthy, and… err, snipey ones, nothing really stands out. This is definitely a good first-person shooter, as long as you are fine with… well 'fine.' Also, there's probably a bit too much sniping and hiding involved here, whereas this would probably be much more enjoyable if it had focused on raw, run-and-gun fun, like in those moments where you get to fight with a certain, elite Nazi faction with female-only members, as they have a much more advanced AI, since they try to surround you, and avoid your fire, whereas the rest are just a bunch of simplistic bots.

Screenshot for Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC

Again, there's nothing that's actually bad here… but nothing great either. You go from A to B, shoot some Nazis, and that's about it. Occasionally things get more exciting, like when you get to battle against something more "fancy" such as a super soldier, and then it gets extremely aggravating, like those missions when you lose when a guard sees you and he sounds the alarm. Some levels (usually the infiltration ones) are a bit more open-ended, but most are straight, and somewhat dull lines. In this critic's opinion, this, like pretty much all Wolfenstein installments, never realized its true potential.

The series is at its best when it embraces its cheesy, ridiculous elements. The Third Reich raising undead knights; sexy, leather clad Nazi babes in high heels; secret labs where flesh and machine monsters are being created… and so on and forth. This begins with Nazi generals that deal with the occult, wastes three to four hours with generic CoD-like missions, and the goes "remember the voodoo stuff you've witnessed a few days ago? We're sending you back." You 'Return to Castle Wolfenstein,' shoot some undead, kill the final bad guy, and head home before dinner.

Screenshot for Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC

In many ways, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is like its audiovisuals. At its best, this looks awesome. Eerie, ancient, dimly lit dungeons; beautiful villages where the silence is almost deafening; bases covered in snow and a veil of mist… and then you get boring after boring military base, and drowned-in-shades-of-brown corridors, and so on. The same continues with the music and sound effects; at times these create a fantastic atmosphere, but occasionally they can drive you nuts, as it can get annoyingly repetitive to listen to the same "tense" theme, or the same enemy screams and shouts.

Yes, like pretty much all FPS games after Doom, there's a multiplayer mode at hand, it is very good, and was actually one of the reasons this became popular back in the day. In the end, however, one can easily pick something better to do some deathmatch on, not to mention that this is mainly about the single player experience. Having said that, this is probably the best Wolfenstein ever made, flaws and all. Too bad that it didn't realize its true potential, with it frequently feeling more like another generic WWII shooter, despite the existence of zombie knights, Nazi cyborgs, and so on.

Screenshot for Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

This probably one of the best Wolfenstein games, but that's not saying much, as not a single one can be considered a true classic. Pretty much like all instalments, the "failure" here is that it didn't realise its true potential. Right next to the things that make this so fun, like the undead enemies, Nazi experiments, sexy soldiers, and so on, Return to Castle Wolfenstein also adds lots of elements that belong in a generic CoD wannabe, rather than a - pleasantly - cheesy, run-and-gun FPS. Not exactly a big recommendation, but genre fans will have two or three evenings of fun with it.

Developer

Gray Matter Interactive

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

16

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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