Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: June 12, 2003
With Halo: Combat Evolved being such a huge success, one would expect other companies to try and capitalize on the genre’s popularity with Xbox-exclusive shooters. However, as it is, owners of Microsoft’s black box must be content with PC and PlayStation 2 ports. From Red Faction to Medal of Honor to Ghost Recon, all of the system’s showcase shooters have already been released on other platforms. Activision is the latest to test the waters of the Xbox market, with id Software’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War. While it helps that the PC version was a solid game, even the greatest titles don’t always make the transition smoothly. Nerve Software, entrusted with the task of porting the game, hopes Xbox Live compatibility will be enough to temporarily halt untold online sessions of Ghost Recon and MechAssault.
The opening cinematic introduces the player to an ancient battle between good and evil, between a heroic monk and a maniacal prince hell-bent on creating an independent German state. Even with an army of undead warriors at his command, an unknown hero battled Heinrich and his forces of darkness. Knowing that Heinrich could never be destroyed, the hero decided to forever seal the evil knight within a tomb atop a high mountain peak. Precisely 1,000 years later, in 1943, we find the Nazi Paranormal Division conducting an excavation of a familiar set of ruins. Himmler (Hitler’s right-hand man), convinced that he can resurrect the fallen prince, is apparently devoting untold time and resources to finding Heinrich’s grave. Unfortunately, he’s inching closer to achieving his twisted dream.
Fans of Wolfenstein 3D should already be familiar with the series’ main character, Captain William J. Blazkowicz. As an American spy, you must infiltrate various Nazi-controlled sites in an effort to stop Himmler before he can unleash the undead upon Allied forces. Kicking off in a different manner than its PC cousin, Nerve Software has added several new prologue levels to the game’s beginning. This gives the player a better understanding of the back story, the experience of new locals outside of Castle Wolfenstein and even the chance to interact with Agent One.
Multiplayer matches are broken down into co-op, system link and Xbox Live games. Co-op simply allows two players to complete the primary campaign as a team, while the other two focus on head-to-head competition. From there, matches are further split into four unique types. As one would expect, there’s team deathmatch as well as Domination, in which two factions struggle to control a set number of checkpoints. There’s also an objective-based mode in which the Axis and Allies battle to finish a set of tasks before the opposition completes their mission. The twist is that teams switch sides once the objective has been achieved.