Reviewed: July 14, 2003
Released: May 27, 2003
Long before Doom, Duke Nukem, and Quake iD Software released a nifty little 3D game called Wolfenstein 3D that introduced PC gamers to an all-new genre Ė the first-person shooter (FPS), and the gaming world was never the same. The original Castle Wolfenstein dated back to the early 80ís as a top-down action game on the Apple II computer system, but no one was prepared for such a ground breaking three-dimensional experience. It may be primitive by todayís standards but Wolf3D is easily one of the top five achievements in computer gaming in the 20th century.
It took almost ten years for a next-gen PC sequel to arrive and another two years before Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection made its way to the console arena. Those trying to make a platform decision will need to note there are a few significant additions (and omissions) from the PS2 port versus the PC and Xbox versions.
Those who have already played the PC version or RTCW will instantly recognize and appreciate several additional levels that preface the original PC missions. On the PC you started the game locked away in some cell in a castle high in the mountains. On the PS2 (and Xbox) you get to flesh out the story a bit more by starting the story before your capture and subsequent imprisonment.
I generally cringe when it comes to FPS games on consoles except for those rare games that actually support a mouse and keyboard or my new Logitech NetPlay Controller, but Operation Resurrection does a surprisingly good job of providing some excellent control and targeting aids that more than make of for the lack of precision of the preferred mouse-look.
The rest of the controls are simple enough and you will slip right into the game after only a few minutes. The menus, inventory, weapons cycling, and other commands are all intuitive and the HUD that occupies both lower corners of the screen keep you informed on critical information.
RTCW is all about killing Naziís and in later levels hordes of hideous undead creatures being resurrected by Hitler and his devious scientists bent on world domination. Even though your missions will often include benign objectives such as securing documents, smashing a radio, destroying supply lines, etc. these are just clever ways of saying ďkill everything that moves and chop up the bodies just to be sureĒ.
To make this blood fest more enjoyable you are provided with dozens of traditional and several non-traditional weapons for unleashing your specific brand of justice. To make this blood fest less enjoyable is some pretty pathetic AI that relies more on sheer numbers and difficulty than strategy. Enemies will charge directly at you like mindless zombies, which is perfectly acceptable when you are fighting mindless zombies, but in the case of trained Nazi soldiers and the elite SS I would expect a little more evasive tactics and strategy. After about a half-dozen levels you will realize you are playing Serious Sam in a WWII motif with toned down enemy numbers.
And again, this is perfectly acceptable provided you know what you are in for before you purchase and play this game. There are some slightly misleading claims in the media hype and even on the box that indicate the gameplay is a bit more advanced that it really is. Stealth and sniping is all but impossible in this game other than those few scripted events where you are almost led by the hand and encouraged to be stealthy.
Most of the time the enemy is alerted to your presence long before you even see them. Trying to zoom in with a sniper scope is virtually impossible unless you plan on sucking up significant damage from the victim who is already firing on your less-than-covert vantage point. Itís things like this that turn RTCW into a simple run-and-gun FPS.
The lack of any multiplayer support whatsoever is this gameís ultimate failure. As a single-player, stand-alone experience you wonít find anything with more atmosphere and total carnage. It even surpasses Red Faction II. And while I can overlook the lack of PS2 online support the fact that they couldnít even include a 2-player (or 4-player with multi-tap) co-op or deathmatch mode is quite unforgivable. This is a huge part of the PC and Xbox experience and is sorely missed on the PS2 port.
Considering the limitations of the PS2, Operation Resurrection is a near perfect PC port. In fact, if you lower your PC down to PS2 resolution the games would be identical. The developers were able to bring over all the detailed textures and recreate all of the stunning environments from the PC while maintaining a consistent and fluid framerate, even in the most intense battles.
The lack of anti-aliasing combined with the lower resolution adds some significant jaggies, but as long as you keep moving youíll hardly notice. The only other major glitch is some frequent clipping problems that will have dead bodies extended out over stairs, stuck halfway in a wall, or even hovering in midair.
In some respects the PS2 actually does a slightly better job than the PC for some of the visual effects such as the intense fire that you can almost feel the heat coming off your screen. The lighting is also exceptional and quite moody, and the FMV opening movie always looks better on a TV than the computer.
The soundtrack to Operation Resurrection is your typical military and patriotic themes that will stir up the appropriate emotions. It is cued to the action and will rise and fall with the onscreen events and is also themed to the locations you are exploring, both in content and instruments.
Sound effects and speech round out the rest of this impressive sound package with thunderous and authentic sounding weapon effects and superb speech, or groans and moans when the characters dictate such murmurings. Nothing about the sound or music suffered in the trip to the PS2. Itís all great stuff.
Much like the PC version, RTCW has a small laundry list of secrets and treasure items for each level. Finding these is optional and provides a small incentive to be as thorough as possible your first time through the game, but I seriously doubt these are enough to encourage subsequent replays.
The total lack of multiplayer support is this games biggest downfall and if you have a killer PC rig or an Xbox then you are certainly going to get more bang for your buck with either of those versions. If the PS2 is your gaming system of choice then you will have to settle for a 15-20 hour adventure before this game gets traded or returned to the rental store.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection is a great game that is only hindered by the limitations of the platform and perhaps the ambitiousness of the designers. After all, they did include excellent multiplayer modes on the Xbox so we know itís possible on the console.
If you are looking for a run-and-gun shooter that doesnít require a lot of thinking or strategy then look no further. The quality of Operation Resurrection ranks right up there with any other FPS title you can currently buy for your PS2, and there is plenty of fun to be had for the lone wolf commando.