A BLAST FROM THE PAST REVIEW
FBT stops to ask directions to Castle Wolfenstein
The whole point of Previous Weapon’s Blast from the Past is to recall an old game, have an opinion of it then replay and see how badly wrong you were. Problem is I can’t recall anything about Castle Wolfenstein, other than some sexy leather-clad Nazis which is weird, for both the game and me. But beyond that, I can’t remember a thing. If anything, for a long time I mixed this up with the other reboot, Raven’s misfire Wolfenstein (2009) which is so embarrassing it’s not even available on Steam or GOG. But I still have my Return to Castle Wolfenstein DVD so I must have played it. Guess there’s only one way to find out. B.J. Blazkowicz to the rescue. I’m assuming he’s in it.
Still a Blast?
During a flashback, Saxon mentalist Heinrich lays waste to everything before being tricked and imprisoned alive. Flashforward and Himmler, the occult nut, sends a group of Nazis to find and release Heinrich, to inspire the Nazis and destroy the Allies. Isn’t that the plot of Blade 3? BJ and another agent are sent into Castle Wolfenstein where the experiments are being carried out, only to be captured. Rebooting the original, BJ fights his way out of Wolfenstein, reports on what they’re up and is ordered to stop the Nazi’s resurrection plan.
Wait, I thought we were returning to Wolfenstein. Did we just leave? The first post-Wolfenstein level, battling through catacombs filled with zombies, the undead and those leather-clad Nazis I so well-remembered is great, but soon we’re assaulting labs, bases, foiling a V2 attack, stealing an experimental jet plane, saving Nazi-defectors in bombed out cities, protecting a tank and trying to stop a u-boat. You could easily mistake RtCW’s middle section as Call of Duty 2, in both style and approach. We jump out of planes, have stealth missions around outposts, get cut-scenes where bosses discuss the war effort and it reaches the point where Wolf-style scenes with experiments and abominations seem at-odds with the military tone instead of the other way around. There’s a strong feeling this is Wolf in name only, and it’s trying to reboot as a standard WWII shooter.
Wolf created FPS – indomitable hero cuts through baddies, puts down bosses, reaches finale. This is supposed to be Wolf not a distant relative and it becomes just another shooter without the castle - yes, the original left the Castle too but tonally it was all the same whereas here a screengrab could be mistaken for Medal of Honor; there’s nothing Wolf about it really.
We do get some fantasy-based baddies once we face Deathshead’s lot, legless ‘Lopers’ which leap about, and the stalwart of genetic modification, Super-Soldiers; armoured behemoths with mini-guns and rocket launchers. But again, we’re fighting them through bleak labs and boring bases. Had this all happened in a dark, gothic castle filled with secret passages, outcroppings, spires and old brick and cobwebs, it would be something much more pressured and intense, and we’d feel more progression as we cut our way through. I’m not pining for a gothic shooter, just the old-school only-way-out-is-through attitude of Wolf3D. Jumping from cut-scene to new mission doesn’t have the same building intensity or overwhelming odds that the original tried to present. A mission where we skulk around a village assassinating key generals is not Wolf or BJ’s style. It’s just a war game, with BJ doing little missions to slow the Nazi war machine.
With Deathhead’s Uber-soldier defeated he fecks off for the rest of the game (to become the main villain in the other-other reboot) and we return to Castle Wolfenstein finally. Well, the castle grounds mostly to stop Himmler’s high priestess from summoning Heinrich – for some reason she needs to do this in a bikini.
RtCW is a good shooter, but it’s not Wolf. I didn’t expect this to rewrite the FPS genre, but I also didn’t expect it to ignore its namesake. There’s Wolf references; Hitler posters reveal secrets, there’s gold and objects to collect and we can eat dinner off tables for health bumps, but it’s just fan-service rather than part of its DNA. When it’s not trying to be a CoD game it’s juvenile and misjudged – besides the leather-clad Nazis and bikini’ed Priestess, there’s a NOLF-like moment towards the end where we watch an extended argument between a guard who has orders from a General not to let any vehicles through, and a driver ordered to bring the General some cheese. The random and inane chats of HARM Henchmen I can giggle at, Nazis, not so much. Playing it now I can see why I completely forgot it; the foes, the weapons, and the levels are so early CoD I just merged it into that period. Now I understand why busty, leather-clad Nazis were the only thing I remembered.
Really, RtCW’s legacy is stepping up multiplayer; so much so that Enemy Territory, a planned RtCW add-on sequel was abandoned due to lack of interest but it’s multiplayer levels released for free - and was so successful, it was remade into Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
Wolf has been rebooted three times, yet none of them stick to the the one thing that made Wolf Wolfenstein. I want the close-quarter intensity of the original, the desperate fight through a castle like a medieval die hard. Had it rebooted that, become a claustrophobic, intense fire-fight just trying to escape the Castle that built FPS it would be great. In RtCW there’s not much to return to.
2001 | Developer, Gray Matter Interactive | Publisher Activision
Platforms; Win | Xbox | PS2