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XBox Reviews: Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War


Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War Screenshots

The Final Say!

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War
 - reviewed by Edwin Milheim
Review Date: 22 June 2003
Review Score: 9/10
Not based on an average 
Distributed By:

* Editors Note* This review was carried out by our American team member Edwin Milheim. We thought we get the benefit of someone who had access to XBox Live in order to better inform you.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War is developed by Nerve Software and is executive produced by id Software. The XBox game is based on the award winning PC title, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, originally developed by Gray Matter Interactive studios, and Nerve Software.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War Features

  • Players 1-2 (16 in Multiplayer)
  • Memory Unit
  • Genre: First Person Shooter
  • XBox Live
  • Rating: M+
  • Dolby Digital In-game
  • Content Download
  • Voice
  • Friends
  • Scoreboards

Activision, and id Software tries for another blast with Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War for the XBox video game system. Most will agree they have hit the mark. The XBox game is based on the award winning PC title, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, originally developed by Gray Matter Interactive studios, and Nerve Software. To begin with I have a thing for WW2 style games, even if they have a bit of occult mayhem in them.


Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War places the player in the role of Army Ranger, B.J. Blazkowicz. The player is recruited by the OSA and is the Allies’ specialist in covert operations and weapons. The job is simple enough for a guy like that, simply infiltrate the heart of Nazi Germany and stop the darkest plans of the Third Reich. Hitler's head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, is twisting science and the occult into an army capable of annihilating the Allies. Blazkowicz must fight the good fight to put an end to Himmler’s genetic experiments.  

This all starts in Egypt where the player uncovers the very early stages of the occult plans of Himmler. The player ends up in several locations throughout the adventure from Egypt to Norway and to the very heart of Nazi controlled Germany. 

The game itself whips you along at a pretty good pace, the story is told through cut scenes and the various documents and journals that the player finds along the way. The PC version of this series begins with the character already trapped in a cell inside the Castle. The XBox version sets up the game’s story a little better, giving the player a few new opening levels to play through.

The enemy AI in the game is pretty good but nothing that will set records. The enemy takes cover behind objects, then they would just step out in time to hose some lead death in the players direction only to take cover again just as you get a good bead on them.

Which is pretty darn thrilling in my book, at least the enemy does not just stand there toe to toe with the player blasting each other until one or the other dies. I think having played the PC game was where I got spoiled because I did find aiming at the enemy a bit difficult in the XBox game. My cursor was pretty much every place but on target half the time. While the enemy of course had better than average aim. Poor me. Finding cover has a new meaning for me in this game. Duck fire, dodge fire….Etc. 

The most annoying thing with the AI was that once in a while it seemed like the enemy spotted me way too easily. Even when I was around a corner and out of site. Maybe it has something to do with the code of the game where the actual edge of the corner is actually smaller than what is seen. Who knows? Of course this did not take anything away from the experience. If anything it set a little more of a thrill as I eased up to a corner and hoped nothing was on the other side.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War further does a good job at drawing the player into the Occult-ridden nightmare that the Nazi’s are to blame for. You do get a summer action movie feel going as you play, which was one of the things that kept me coming back for more.

In regards to my bad aiming, I was happy about one feature in particular. The single-player game mode has an auto-aim function that's great for beginning players, but it isn't without its problems. When going against Zombies for instance. These walking corpses are best killed with shots to the head, but the auto-aim locks your cursor at center mass (Chest). Even with auto aim the player is forced to waffle around with the aiming and to move it up for a head shot. If you're used to first person shooters on the XBox you will not have too much of a problem, but if this is your first jump from PC gaming to XBox, you may want to play at an easy level of game play to get used to aiming and shooting. Even with some XBox first person shooters from the past I still had to get used to aiming and shooting with Castle Wolfenstein Tides Of War. Often I was in such a hurry to blast the enemy I ended up looking up or down and trying to center the aiming more often than not. Plus one for the auto aiming feature.

In the end Wolfenstein's single-player campaign is OK, don’t get me wrong it gets the job done in entertainment value. Maybe I was just looking for more excitement than what was there. For the most part the single player game is the standard “Get this item, make your way to the end of the level” style. In the end it’s a good experience I very much recommend.

I did tend to have a love hate experience with the game, Return to Castle Wolfenstein Tides Of War’s environments are large and look very good. Both environments and models are very nicely done. The game has some really fantastic special effects, explosions and flame effects are just a sinful indulgence that just puts icing on this adventurous cake. Which is pretty sad when you think about it because in some of the levels your just to busy blasting the bad guys to get a chance to look around and site see.

Rounding things off very nicely is the sound. The sound is what I cranked. So much so that I heard more than a few times from my wife…”Turn that down!” The sound makes full use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 support, bringing a nervous gleeful giggle as the surround sound makes you jump as it sounds like a bullet hit or door opening behind you. (Depending on where you have your speakers set up of course.) 

As the pebble of comparing the PC to XBox jump grew in the back of my mind, I started playing with the split screen two player option with my daughter. The family that plays together, shooting and blasting anything that moves…stays together.  The XBox version adds a split-screen two-player cooperative mode to the campaign, and here is more of that love-hate factor. Playing with a friend or family member is loads of fun. During game play in this mode the frame rate slowed down a bit, but it was not enough to distract from the enjoyment. Maybe I am just nit picking as they say but the fluctuations in frame rate bothered me just a bit.

The XBox Live support is what makes the game stand out. The game can be played with up to 16 players online, and it comes with all the standard Xbox Live player-matching, XBox Live Communicator support, cooperative and multiplayer action giving this much more bang for the buck than if it had only a single player game mode.

Each team is made up of four character classes. The soldier is a standard grunt player class, who has access to the game's heavier weapons. The engineer class can drop or defuse dynamite, making him necessary to complete objectives that include blowing something up or stopping something from being blown up. The lieutenant class can drop ammunition packs for his teammates, this is essential since there are no ammo or health power-ups in the multiplayer mode. He can also do one of my favorite things… call in air strikes. The medic drops health packs for injured teammates and can also bring dead players back to life. In the realm of multi player games the character classes round out a well made team in deed. Each player must depend on the others to get the job done to any great effect.

To really be much use in multi player mode, players need to know the maps. When you jump on into a game, your in with out much of a clue on what the objectives are. In order to know what your expected to do you have to bring up the objective screen. Do it fast and get in there soldier!

Now getting in there is all well and good and I know your going to want to go out and get this game, Don’t be surprised when you hit the awful plague that nips at all online players heels sooner or later. Lag…If you have the bad luck to be connected to a bad server the came can suffer from lag. The best bet for players is to do filtering with optimatch to find servers right for you. By the time you read this I expect most of the good servers will far out number the bad ones.

Oh and one last thing the downloadable maps make this game a real keeper. As of this writing the Barn Mission is online to be down loaded. In this Map The Axis Powers have hidden ammunition in an abandoned barn, and it's the Allies' job to find and destroy it. Now I’ve kept you long enough get in there and blast a fellow player!

In the end, Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s single player game is not anything that will be cause for a parade or awards. On the other hand its multiplayer mode is a ton of fun. XBox Live subscribers that spend the time to learn the game's maps will definitely get a lot of enjoyment out of the game's online features.

If you have a rental place near you where you can try the game before you buy it, do so. But I think you will be buying your own copy soon after.

Have fun, play games.

Edwin Millheim

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