Time for a preliminary “review” of Return to Castle Wolfenstein for the XBox platform. This is all based on a few hours of offline, and a few hours of online, play.

As a single player game, RTCW is a competent FPS. Controls are tight; none of the overly twitchy FPS controls we see too often when PC games are ported to console. A wide range of customizations, too. Dolby 5.1 sound intensifies the action, and the game, for the most part, looks really good. My only gripe is a slight “fisheye” effect (most noticable when you look at nearby walls or something). A solid game, definite worth a rent and possibly worth buying. I haven’t finished solo mode so don’t know how long it is. (But if you finish it, you unlock the original Wolf 3D, which should be a hoot.)

And then there’s MP over XBox Live! And this is where RTCW shines. All modes are team based and there are a separate set of levels for multiplayer. There are lots of settings you can tweak to get just the game experience you want. Each player picks a class to play: Lt, Soldier, Engineer or Medic. Engies blow stuff up (or defuse bombs), medics heal, soldiers are sorta generic, and the LT can call in air strikes and give out ammo. You can switch classes whenever you die, so if your team has no engie and something needs to get blown up, the next guy to die can come back and rectify the situation. As far as pacing goes, RTCW is faster than Ghost Recon, but slower than the mania that is Unreal Championship.

The voice support makes teamwork pretty easy. There’s a ‘blip’ on the rim of your compass when someone talks, so you can find your way to where they are. The map I played most was in a sub pen, and the attacking side had to blow up the sub. When an engineer tried to set the explosives, he was a sitting duck unless his teammates covered him. Good, fun stuff. There is nothing so fun as waiting for a door to be blown from the other side, then tossing a grenade down so the enemy charges through the door only to get blown to bits.

Technically the game works well. Lag wasn’t really an issue and the host can adjust all kinds of settings without dumping everyone. While there’s no lobby per se, if everyone goes into Spectator mode then the game map itself can act as a lobby. The only big drawback is that it can be hard to get into a game with your friends. You can see that they’re online and playing, but you can’t see what server they’re on. The workaround seems to be to start your own server, and send your friend an invite as a way to say “Hey, I’m here!” then exit your server and wait for the friend to invite you into his game. Clumsy, and hopefully this will be spiffed up in a patch.

Bottom line here, if you’re an XBL subscriber, unless you absolutely hate FPS, RTCW is a must-have.