Return to Castle Wolfenstein in multiplayer is the best multiplayer I've played in a long time, and bears a little more analysis.
The teams are Axis, sporting grey trenchcoats and helmets and fighting under the Wolfenstein flag (Very wisely the Nerve people made it so you don't have to be a complete Nazi to play for Axis), and the Allies, wearing green pants and a beige flak jacket and sporting a green helmet - I'm a little miffed that there's no in-game option to change the damn flag though, I'd rather have a New Zealand flag than the US one. Of course, the game is all packed into WinZip accesible PK3 file so there is nothing stopping me changing it myself....
There are four classes, each with different abilities. The idea being to support teamwork and prevent "idiot rush" tactics. This does not prevent such rushes (in fact one game mode promotes them) but it makes it possible to simply fend them off with a little strategy. Each class utilises the "power bar" which lets you use certain special abilities.
The Soldier is the base that Nerve used for all the other classes. the idea being that they would give him a good range of weapons to choose from and make him the backbone of the team. He can use all the weapons and comes with four grenades. The Soldier can also discard an empty or useless gun and pick up another from a foe or fallen comrade, making him more dangerous, since he has a wide range of options for killing you on the battlefield. The Soldier only draws from the power bar when he is firing the Panzerfaust.
The Medic is most vital to the game. He can drop health packs (4 if fully charged) and revive fallen players before the go into the reinforcement queue at no cost. Medics also increase the base health of their teammates - when there is a Medic on the team everyone has 10 more health points. A Medic's health also gradually increases up to around 125. Medics pay for their powers though, having only one main weapon (MP40 or Thompson), no reserve ammo for it and only one grenade.
Probably the most over-used class, often for the wrong reasons. The Lieutenant provides ammo to his team, in the same manner that the Medic drops health packs. The Lieutenant can also call in airstrikes by throwing a smoke grenade (using half the power bar), or the slower but long range artillery (whole power bar). Like the Medic the Lieutenant also has one grenade, but then again he has fire support so he does not need more. The weapon range covers only the base machineguns, the MP40, Thompson and the silenced Sten, though he even gets extra ammo on top of being able to drop some for himself. The Lieutenant is lucky enough to be able to drop his gun and take another machinegun should there be one handy, and they also get a nifty pair of binoculars!
The Engineer is a vital class, and most maps need at least two if you have enough players to provide them while filling other roles. Engineers come with either the MP40 or the Thompson and have a whopping 8 grenades. They can also do the vital planting of dynamite, which can blow up objectives thus winning maps. The pliers are used to arm dynamite, fix stationary gun emplacements and most important for the defending team DEFUSE dynamite planted by your enemies, which means a defending engineer is also important.
There are three main play modes, but making it so people have limited lives opens up a whole new strategy level making for another kind of play. first, that game modes.
In this, the standard mode, teams will need to work together to accomplish their objectives, in something akin to those special forces war movies, only with more explosions. The best known is the beach map, where the Allies must breach a bunker, steal some documents and get to the radio room to transmit them. The Axis forces must hold them off until the timer runs out, making for a frantic game.
In this mode the teams are fixed, and the best thing to do if you are defending is to hold out as long as possible, because when the first round ends the map restarts, but the teams have switched - you have to succeed in less time than the other team took to win.
Checkpoint offers a capture the flag style situation with a more strategic twist: You must raise your teams flag on all the flagpoles on the level to win. If no-one wins in the time limit, then it goes off the team with the most flags. IF it's still a draw then the game goes into sudden death overtime - First flag taken wins the round.
Note: There is only one map in the retail release of Return to Castle Wolfenstein that is made for Checkpoint. The other maps can be played this way but they are much, much harder (less satisfying as well) to play, as the main Checkpoint map forces a confrontation, whereas the other maps can be won by people running around madly.
Not a mode of play, but a setting that changes the whole perspective of the game. When you die and go to the reinforcement queue in this mode you lose a life, and when you run out of lives your team no longer benefits from your services. This mode makes it vital to have a couple of good (fast to help) Medics on the team, and keeps people from behaving like lunatics.
In other games you can die, hit space or fire or whatever and start again, fresh and new with no worries. In Wolfenstein it works differently. If you die you're not dead, you are lying on the ground in pain waiting for a medic to revive you. IF no-one comes and you get tired of waiting you can hit space and go to limbo, where you wait to reinforce. This is a wait of 20-40 seconds, depending on the team and the map. This makes for more strategy, and means there are some real benefits to roasting a room full of enemies with the flamethrower. note that if your body is blown to smithereens you will be forced into the reinforcement queue, as there is no way for the Medics to rebuild your body from the remains.
A standard, rather loose spread machinegun with a 32-round clip and average damage. Available to all classes. - Update, 11/4/02: This gun is actually a little more accurate than the Thompson, especially at range. Sustained fire makes the spread VERY loose - you are more likely to get headshots with a tap on the fire button. The gun, while doing less damage than the Thompson in most cases, is reputed to do double damage when you shoot someone in the back. This is possibly to the advantage of the Axis forces when killing enemy Engineers as they arm dynamite.
A better machinegun, offering only a 30 round clip, which supposedly makes it balanced because the gun has more accuracy and more damage - Two bullets do not mean much. - Update, 11/4/02: The Thompson seems to be tighter for sustained fire, but can't handle long range bursts as well as the MP40. It still does more damage in all cases aside from the back shot.
If you liked the silenced Sten in single player, you will get a kick out of this. The reload time is the same, and it still takes 30 rounds. This gun is only available to the Lieutenant and the Soldier, and though is supposed to be more accurate than the other two machineguns the fact that you cannot get more than a handful of bullets into someone before the gun overheats makes it dangerous to yourself to use.
The Mauser is the sniper rifle for Wolfenstein multiplayer, and is one hell of a fun gun to use. You can zoom it in, fire it merrily and watch people die. the big bang doesn't usually give you away in a big open map, it more likely serves to scare the enemy into cover. It takes ten rounds in and comes with ten spare, and unlike the single player version you have some degree of movement with it when zoomed. Only a Soldier can select or pick up a Mauser.
The Panzerfaust is a lovely tool to use, for flushing out snipers, clearing bunkers, wiping out people sneaking up behind cover or generally laughing yor head off over the huge mess it makes. When you select the Panzerfaust you get four of them, and they take a little over a second to prime before firing. The blast radius is considerably higher than in single player, but you run much slower when carrying it. Firing uses the whole power bar, and so you must wait a while to fire another - It is best to have backup. Only soldiers may use the Panzerfaust.
The Venom was one of the coolest things in the single player game (like a Vulcan Machine Gun for personal use), and the one in multiplayer is also nasty. It overheats much quicker, and only comes with 500 rounds. Of the heavy weapons this baby slows you down the most when using it, so you have to get some range to make good use. Again, only the Soldier can use it.
The Flamethrower still looks beautiful, and still incinerates everything it touches. When a Soldier selects the Flamethrower it comes with a full tank of gas, so there is little need to call for ammo. It slows you down, and does not work at range so it is best in tight places. Soldiers only, once more.
One for Medics and Lieutenants, Four for Soldiers and Eight for Engineers, these are great. Allies get a lovely pineapple, Axis get the distinctive potato masher stick grenade. They both work the same, a five second fuse and a big bang. Lovely.
Everyone gets a pistol, with an 8 round clip and 24 spare rounds. Axis get the seriously loud Luger and Allies get the Colt. There doesn't seem to be any real difference, and frankly, if you have to use it start to pray.
Well, the pistols look good now. Out of ammo, nothing left to defend yourself, desperate.... So duck behind something and stab anyone who gets close! Of course I have used it for stealth kills on a couple of rare occasions, sneaking up on someone and saving myself some ammo, so it's not a total loss.
- Volunteer to be the Medic if there are not many. You need Medics, especially in a Max Lives game
- As a Lieutenant don't throw out airstrikes for nothing. They are not long range, and use up all your power. Artillery can cover a whole map, and either way you must be careful for teammates
- For the love of god, if you are a Soldier use something other than a standard machinegun! Your only special skill is to use those heavy weapons!
- If you really, really want to be a Soldier and use a standard machinegun go as an Engineer - Those grenades make you more lethal
- If you use the Flamethrower then get in front - and if not then let people with them in front!
- Learn to use the voice chats. The default key is V, and then you hit numbers to pick the type of message and the specific one, making the game much faster.
- Axis Lieutenants! It is fun to take the higher damage Thompson or the Sten, but think of your Engineers and Medics! If you die and drop your gun they can pick it up if it's an MP40. If you use the Thompson then the Allied forces get ammo off your corpse!
It's really great. I payed $NZ100 for the game and think the multiplayer was worth the price alone, far above the single player. There are, however, problems with the balance of gameplay I have seen (18/12/01).
The teams are imbalanced, with Axis having a hard time on most of the maps, as it comes down to getting your team to block choke points. Axis is on defense more often, so why not make the game always work in stopwatch mode? It would be fair that way.
All the servers I play on give the Axis Engineers and Medics the MP40, but their Ally counterparts seem to always have the superior Thompson - If this is a game related thing it would have been better fixing the default weapon to the same gun for both of these classes.
Another irritating feature is that the option to force people into joining the team with the least players is not on by default. It seems everyone joins servers and goes to the team with the most people, something that is not local, as I have heard that the Allied team is favoured in England (Other way around in Germany perhaps?). Some people here have been downright nasty when people ask, repeatedly, for the teams to be evened up, no matter if it is two to one, and this is not one of those games where 2-1 odds are viable for the outnumbered side unless the larger side is seriously stupid.
The in game server browser does not let you filter out servers with ping results higher than a user specified value, and having to wait for 700-odd servers that I ping at 200+ for the few ones I can play on is not good because....
....The favourites menu dumps my favourites no matter how many times I enter them. This is combatted by sticking the IP of my favourite server on my monitor with a post-it note, so it's not much of an issue.
All that said, it is still the best multiplayer game I have played in three years, giving a great feeling when teamwork pays off, and some exciting moments, as well as some good laughs (Like firing the Panzerfaust into hole to kill one enemy, and seeing six names scroll up dead, YEAH!) so what are you waiting for?
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