Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection
We can’t remember a time when the act of killing a Nazi was ever dull. Maybe it’s just because 20th century history has given them such a bad press, we don’t know. But give us a machine gun, a full clip and a Nazi and we’ll give you a smile. Wolfenstein has Nazis. Wolfenstein has an army of the undead and Nazis. And that’s just the basis for why we’re grinning because, not only does Wolfenstein give us two of our most favourite things to kill, it wraps them all up in a game that can be regarded as one of the finest examples of the genre that the PS2 has ever seen. Simply put, this is everything we want from a first-person shooter that has a playful attention to historical facts and allows you to shoot demons and Nazi witch covens. If Frontline aped Saving Private Ryan then this is The Dirty Dozen meets Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The instant you start playing you know that you’re in for a treat. The control interface is incredibly intuitive, which may not seem such a remarkable feat in itself until you remember Medal Of Honor and its rather finicky aiming system. Here you can access all your weapons easily with the D-pad, reload with R3, look and move with the analogues while the shoulders govern shooting, ducking, jumping and kicking. They’re perfectly placed and balanced to the point that makes us wonder why other games of this ilk haven’t managed to give you the same level of domination over your on-screen actions. If you’ve played an FPS before then prepare to feel welcomed. Those of you who’ve played the original Wolfenstein games will remember that they all take place within the confines of the titular castle. That’s all very well and good for a game that doesn’t even attempt at giving you a story any fuller than “you’ve been captured, escape the castle and kill lots of Nazis.” Not anymore since this time B.J Blazkowics not only looks like a more rounded character, the world he fights through is more rounded too. You only hear of Castle Wolfenstein once you taken part in a mission set in Egypt and there are plenty of levels that take place in locations that couldn’t be less like a castle if they tried while looking exactly like airfields, radar installations and villages. Wolfenstein now exists in a brilliantly realised world where WWII is raging and demons exist rather than one so narrowly focused on simply giving you an excuse to shoot stuff in confined hallways. Recent times have brought with them new fads that seem to be forced everywhere and this game is no exception. Where the original was a simple shoot-’em-up, we now have the addition of intelligent enemies as well as stealth. This doesn’t mean that Wolfenstein has completely whitewashed over the ideas that made it such a great game all those years ago, it’s enhanced them with a sense of playful realism that unarguably make for an infinitely more satisfying gaming experience than the one available to you on your PC in 1992. The kick attack, for example, is still here and does look slightly amusing due to the odd size of your foot when compared to your surroundings. This time, however, you can not only open a door quietly in the hope of catching a soldier off guard, you can boot the door open which instantly gets their attention while you storm in and fill the room with lead. Because the enemy are intelligent, they respond to both sight and sound and you can use this against them. By all means kick the door open with your slightly dwarfed foot, but don’t go in, instead pull back. The enemy will investigate, by the time you’ve heard them walk over to the door and open it you’ve already reloaded and are ready on the trigger. Similarly, once you’ve discovered that shooting at an entire platoon from a window will draw their fire while some of them actually bother to enter your building and get to your position, you can be ready for them. The use of stereo has never been better since you can track their movements as they stomp over wooden floorboards, up stairs and along to the door that you’re currently covering with an HP-40 9mm sub machinegun. And, unlike other games (Red Faction 2), they don’t wear more body armour than a gundam unit, so you don’t have to shoot them for an unreasonable time. Rake them with fire then pull back to safety and you’ll hear them drop after a period of time which we’re finding hard not to describe as “horribly erotic”. Back to the control interface (yes, this is important) and, more specifically, the gun sight. First-person shooters were given birth on a PC’s system of keyboard and mouse. This made targeting as simple as moving a cursor, but when you convert the same style of game to the more cumbersome PS2 pad then you’ve got a right nightmare on your hands, especially when your trying to move left or right while maintaining a bead on a target. In Wolfenstein, once you’ve aimed at a target, the gun sight has turned red and you’ve opened fire, you can move left or right while automatically keeping the aim locked. Far from ruining any sense of involvement, this actually makes for much more satisfying play as you can run sideways from covered position to covered position while slaughtering the enemy in a way you know would be easily possible in a real-world scenario, but usually gets let down by a duff interface that would rather see you spraying thin air than having fun while looking good. We’ve mentioned that Wolfenstein doesn’t just take place in a castle and it would be easy to imagine that any external locations would be simply a series of long corridors and rooms that are painted to look like houses and walls. This is usually the case. But again, this beauty not only gives you the narrow walkways of towns to fight through, it has outdoor settings that actually do feel as if they genuinely take place outdoors. This sensation is demonstrated brilliantly when you find yourself hiding atop a hill while looking down into an enemy camp. From this vantage point you can check out sentry patrols, see whose where and what they’re armed with and you can do it through the scope of your sniper rife. Now, these guys are smart, so should a soldier see another mysteriously fall to the ground as blood pains the ground behind him, he’ll be on alert and possibly sound an alarm. If he spots you he’ll shoot back. He’ll shoot back, that is, if he too has a Mauser rifle with a telescopic sight and he’ll shoot back with all the accuracy you’d expect of a someone who has had their target optically magnified. Otherwise he won’t see a thing and just start to act confused before you blow his brains out from a thousand yards with zero crosswinds. Now, all this talk of sniper rifles, Nazis and realistic outdoor locations has made us forget the central premise that makes Wolfenstein not simply a matter of sniper rifles, Nazis and realistic outdoor locations. Nazi occultists (that you can, incidentally, kill with a sniper rifle – at range) have attempted to resurrect the power of evil that had laid dormant since the dark ages and in so doing have gone and done themselves a right cropper. Undead knights have been raised and they’re exceedingly pissed off and they want to kill everything they see – and that means you as well as German national socialists. This could have made for some particularly ridiculous situations since you’ve been happy killing people à la Frontline then suddenly find yourself confronted by bogey men. Nazis exist, we’ll take a bet that undead demon knights don’t, so say goodbye to any level of believability. Well, no. Wolfenstein’s genius is in the perfect blending of the believable and the fantastical – the mixture works and the contrast between fighting humans and demons is totally acceptable without feeling kitsch. Even when you’ve emptied a full clip into a zombie and they’ve exploded in a burst of dust and bone. These new enemies are truly nasty and although they have limited ranged attacks (some sort of swirling evil magic) they are deadly should you let them get close with their rusty axes. There’s nothing funny about these ghouls, though it has to be said that given the choice between putting a hot one in the living dead, or gunning down a storm trooper, we’d take the swastika every time. After all, shooting Nazis just never gets dull. Now comes the bit where we point out that the PS2 has many first-person shooters, most notably MOH: Frontline and TimeSplitters2. Yes it does, and now it has another worthy title that really does deserve to be savoured on a similar standing; id Software made Doom and Quake, they invented this whole FPS thing in the first place yet we’re still amazed how good this is. Sure, some of the textures could do with being of a higher resolution, there’s no multiplayer option and… nope, that’s pretty much all that’s wrong here.