Return to Castle Wolfenstein

RTCW's plot is a mishmash of cheesy cut-scenes and half-baked mission objectives involving the Nazis' attempts to create zombie supersoldiers during World War II. The weak story and the fairly predictable enemy AI mean the game doesn't forge the enthralling feel of games like Halo or Half-Life.

Fortunately, that's the only real downer in what is otherwise an outstanding dose of FPS goodness. The exciting gameplay mixes gonzo combat with occasional stealthy moments and lots of "unlock the door" puzzles. On a typical mission, you'll start out chasing some whup-the-Nazis objective like trashing V2 rockets, and along the way, you'll gradually encounter spooky occult weirdness. A big part of RTCW's allure is the creepy, Gothic atmosphere - the presentation of the zombies and other creatures is well executed and can be genuinely unnerving at times.

On the multiplayer front, RTCW delivers a deep, intriguing twist on the wildly popular Counter-Strike. The action here is more cerebral, emphasising teamwork and accomplishing specific objectives over twitchy combat - it's great fun. The effective controls will feel standard to any remotely experienced gamer. As with all good controls, you'll rarely notice them.

RTCW's slick graphics and sounds set the perfect mood. Haunting music and excellent sound effects pair nicely with gorgeous, well-lit environments and smoothly animated monsters and Nazis.

Surveying the WWII theatre, RTCW's compelling action will most likely be overshadowed by the more promising Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Still, this engaging battle is well worth the price.

Publisher: Activision.

Developer: Gray Matter and Nerve.

URL: www.returntowolfenstein.com.

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