With Return to Castle Wolfenstein, think evolution, not revolution.
The new title from Activision is essentially a retooled version of the early 1990s classic Castle Wolfenstein 3D, which almost single-handedly invented the first-person shooter genre in video games.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein has everything: gorgeous graphics, chilling sound effects and an excellent multiplayer experience.
It's every bit as fun as the original, though without the originality.
The single-player mode puts you in the role of B.J. Blazkowicz, an American soldier who must infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein and uncover a Nazi plot to use paranormal powers to create an army of uebersoldiers.
Despite the morbid subject material, it's an oddly fun, escapist romp through a fictional world of genetically enhanced German soldiers, secret underground fortresses and ancient catacombs. At times, it's downright scary.
Some levels favor stealth; with others victory is attained only with guns blazing. You'll have a limited supply of grenades, rifles and other more powerful weapons to help you.
Use the single-player levels to hone your skills, then get to the real meat of the game, multiplayer mode. It's like getting two games in one.
An easy-to-use browser connects you with dozens of human opponents via the Internet, where you can choose to play for the Allies or the Axis.
The multiplayer game forces teamwork: each of the four player types -- soldier, lieutenant, medic, engineer -- have unique skills, all of which are needed to win.
If you get shot one or two times, even by players on your own team, you're mostly likely dead. Such realism can be a source of frustration, because many players either don't seem to want to cooperate or just aren't accustomed to team tactics.
Thankfully, friendly fire can be turned off and you can vote to have repeat teammate killers kicked out of the game.
Sound effects really complemented the gritty nature of the $49.99 game. You'll hear the clatter of machine guns in the distance, and artillery shells whizzing overhead will blast into sand dunes, sending a spray of dirt showering to the ground.
At a minimum, you'll need a Windows computer with a 400 megahertz processor, 128 megabytes of RAM and a graphics card with at least 16 megabytes of video memory.
My 1.5 gigahertz Pentium 4 Dell handled the game with ease, even with the graphic settings maxed.
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