Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not so much a sequel as a revisit to the original game Wolfenstein 3D heralding back to1992. Using certain themes from that game, the setting is WW2 and the story begins with two agents from a secret British department called the OSA (Operation of Secret Actions) who have been captured by the Germans and imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. One of the agents has been tortured and killed and you assume the role of the other, Blazkowicz. Your first mission is to escape while continuing to gather intel on some highly secret activities headed up by certain top-level German officers. If successful, this intelligence will be passed on to the OSA, which based on the findings will then determine your next mission and its objectives.
Through the information you've gathered, the OSA, learns of a plot to launch a new type of rocket at London, which carries a chemical warhead. One of your missions is to sabotage this, but also to continue investigating a project called the SS Paranormal Division. This project is overseen by someone known as "Deathshead" and its activities seem to include not only biological experiments to create super soldiers, but ultimately to resurrect some ancient Dark Knight from the dead. As fantastic as this seems, the evidence keeps leading you toward the possibility of this very thing, especially as you have seen and fought some of these undead during your escape from Castle Wolfenstein.
The game is divided into mission blocks. As well as the mission objectives, there are secret areas that hold supplies and sometimes treasure in the form of gold or ancient artifacts. When you reach a dead end and cannot progress any further, the level is over. At this point, you will get a screen with your statistics and asking if you want to move forward. Once you choose this, you cannot go back, so don't move forward if you want to collect everything. At mission changes, a cut scene takes place at the headquarters of the OSA where it is decided where you will be sent next. The last level will have you returning to Castle Wolfenstein, thus the name.
Gameplay and weapons are fairly typical of first person shooters. You have everything from a knife to a prototype gun. In fact, you actually have too many weapons if that's possible. Ranging on the keyboard from one through zero, with several types in some slots, cycling them on the mouse wheel is very slow. Using the number buttons proves considerably faster, but requires a lot of memorizing. Several of these weapons are just redundant and really serve no purpose due to ineffectiveness or lack of ammo.
AI difficulty also has a range with regular soldiers often just standing in your sights to the more highly trained special forces that will hide and dodge. Later, the biologically engineered Lopers and Super Soldiers are introduced and provide considerably more difficulty. At such times, a little strategy is required.
The graphics still hold up for the age of this game. Environments are quite detailed and realistic. Older games usually show their age in character rendering, but on the whole, it's still very passable ten years later. In its day, the quality of the details and textures received high praise.
As I'm a fan of not only the FPS genre, but also games with horror themes, I was quite keen to acquire this game, but waited patiently for a rare sale. I'm glad I did wait because it turned out to be rather a disappointment. I was really trying to analyze why I felt that way, but the best I could come up with was that sometimes I was just bored. Although it has all the standard FPS features, it just fails to grab me on any kind of emotional level. When that happens, getting through a game becomes more of a chore than fun. I felt this was a game that somewhat improved as it moved along, but I didn't much enjoy the first few missions. They seemed misplaced. Fighting the undead early on didn't seem to make much sense story-wise and one mission was all stealth, which doesn't float my boat at the best of times. There is a stealth mission later on as well, but it combines with some combat and seems much more in tune with the style of this game.
Ultimately, the most you could say about the single-player portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein is that it's just a standard FPS that doesn't offer anything unique. Although it received great reviews when released, even then it offered nothing new to the genre. However, it does seem that many people are very nostalgic about it. Apparently, in its day, it was one of the best multiplayer experiences going and generated a lot of excitement. That was long before my game playing days and unfortunately its multiplayer component is not much supported any more. That the publisher also seems to be clinging to Wolfenstein's glory days by keeping the price high relative to what it should be ten years later, I wouldn't be in any rush to purchase it. However, at the right price, which means cheap, its single-player campaign is very passable if not greatly exciting.