Return to Castle Wolfenstein

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Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Return to Castle Wolfenstein Coverart.jpg
Developer(s) Gray Matter Interactive
Nerve Software (multiplayer/Xbox)
Splash Damage (additional multiplayer)
Raster Productions (PlayStation 2)
Distributor(s) Activision
Aspyr Media (Mac OS X)
Director(s) Drew Markham
Producer(s) Greg Goodrich
Designer(s) Mal Blackwell, Richard Farrelly
Programmer(s) Sherman Archibald
Artist(s) Claire Praderie, Corky Lehmkuhl
Writer(s) Steve Goldberg
Composer(s) Bill Brown[1]
Series Wolfenstein
Engine id Tech 3
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Mac OS X
PlayStation 2
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
  • NA: November 19, 2001
  • EU: November 30, 2001
March 16, 2002
Mac OS X
April 2002
  • NA: May 6, 2003
  • EU: May 15, 2003
  • JP: December 25, 2003
PlayStation 2
  • NA: May 27, 2003
  • EU: June 6, 2003
August 4, 2007
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter video game published by Activision and originally released on November 19, 2001 for Microsoft Windows and subsequently for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Linux and Macintosh. The Xbox version is backward compatible with Xbox 360. This single player game was developed by Gray Matter Interactive and Nerve Software developed its multiplayer mode. id Software, the creators of Wolfenstein 3D, oversaw the development and were credited as executive producers. The multiplayer side eventually became the most popular part of the game, and was influential in the genre. Splash Damage, an independently owned game developer in London, created some of the maps for the Game of the Year edition. Splash Damage also developed a downloadable multi-player only sequel called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most popular free downloadable games on the internet.[2] A reboot, titled Wolfenstein, was released on August 18, 2009.


In the year 1943, World War II is in full swing. Assigned to the Office of Secret Actions (OSA) from the military, US Army Ranger B.J. Blazkowicz and British operative Agent One are sent into Egypt to investigate increasing activity of the Nazi SS Paranormal Division. The duo find themselves witness to the SS blundering and releasing an ancient curse around the dig site, resurrecting scores of zombies from their slumber. Pushing through the mummies and Nazis, B.J and Agent One are led to an airfield and a location to follow. As they tail the SS, the two are shot down near Austria and captured by the Nazis. Agent One and Blazkowicz are carted away and imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein, a remote, medieval castle that serves as a stronghold, prison, and research station. During their incarceration, Agent One is tortured for information and dies from electrocution exposure. B.J., however, manages to escape Castle Wolfenstein's dungeon and fights his way out of the castle, using a tram car to leave the area and meet up with Kessler, a member of the German resistance in a nearby village.

Meanwhile, the SS Paranormal Division, under Standartenführerin Helga von Bulow, has long since moved from Egypt and has been excavating the catacombs and crypts of an ancient church within the village itself in search of the resting place of a "Dark Knight". The Division's sloppy precautions have led to the release of an ancient curse and the awakening of hordes of undead creatures, this time including Saxon knights. The majority of the SS finally realize the dangers and seal off the entrance into the catacombs, leaving many soldiers trapped inside. B.J. descends regardless and fights both Nazis and undead until he arrives at the ancient house of worship, the Defiled Church, where Nazi scientist Professor Zemph is conducting a 'life essence extraction' on the corpse of a Dark Knight, which, thanks to some Nazi technology, succeeds. Shortly before B.J.'s arrival, Zemph tries to talk the impatient Helga von Bulow out of retrieving an ancient Thulian artifact, the "Dagger of Warding" from a nearby altar in an isolated area of the church, but she shoots him and proceeds. This final blunder awakens another monster, Olaric, which kills and dismembers her. Blazkowicz, after a heated battle against spirits and demon attacks, defeats Olaric, and then is airlifted out with Zemph's notes and the dagger.

With the lead with Helga seeming to have come to a close, the OSA begins to shift its focus to one of Germany's leading scientific researchers and Head of the SS Special Projects Division, Oberführer Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. Their investigation leads the OSA to realizing that Deathshead is preparing to launch an attack on London. He intends to use a V-2 rocket fitted with an experimental biological warhead, launching it from his base near Katamarunde in the Baltics. Due to the stealthy nature in which the OSA needs to act, Blazkowicz is parachuted some distance from the missile base and separated from his equipment. After collecting his gear, he smuggles himself into a supply truck bound for the base. Once inside, Blazkowicz destroys the V-2 on its launchpad and fights his way out of the facility towards an airbase filled with experimental jet aircraft. There, he commandeers a "Kobra" rocket-plane and flies to safety in Malta.

Eager to know more about Deathshead and his secret projects, the OSA sends Blazkowicz to the bombed-out city of Kugelstadt, where he is assisted by members of the German Kreisau Circle resistance group in breaking into a ruined factory and exfiltrating a defecting scientist. It is there he discovers the blueprints for the Reich's latest weapon, the Venom Gun, an electrically operated hand-held minigun. He also procures the weapon itself. Blazkowicz eventually breaks into Deathshead's underground research complex, the Secret Weapons Facility. There he encounters the horrific fruits of Deathshead's labors: creatures, malformed, and twisted through surgery and mechanical implants. The creatures escape from their containments and go on a rampage. Blazkowicz fights his way through the facility, only to see Deathshead escape the chaos by U-Boat, and learns of his destination by interrogating a captured German officer.

Blazkowicz, with his newly found information, is then parachuted into Norway, close to Deathshead's mysterious "X-Labs". After breaking into the facility, which has been overrun by the twisted creatures he encountered in Kugelstadt (dubbed 'Lopers'), Blazkowicz retrieves Deathshead's journal, its content directly linking Deathshead's research to the rest of the SS Paranormal's occult activity. He then confronts several new prototype creatures called Übersoldaten (super soldiers), towering monstrosities coated in armor, powered by hydraulic legs and carrying powerful weapons. Finally catching up with Deathshead, Blazkowicz comes face to face with a completed and fully armored Übersoldat, and kills the researchers who have developed it. After the Übersoldat is destroyed, Deathshead shouts over the speakers in frustration and astonishment before escaping in a Kobra rocket-plane and disappears for the rest of the game.

After studying the documents captured by Blazkowicz, the OSA has become aware of a scheme codenamed 'Operation: Resurrection', a plan to resurrect Heinrich I, a legendary and powerful Saxon warlock-king from 943 AD. Despite the skepticism of senior Allied commanders, the OSA parachutes Blazkowicz back near Castle Wolfenstein, at the Bramburg Dam, where he fights his way until he arrives at the village town of Paderborn. After assassinating all the senior officers of the SS Paranormal Division present there for the resurrection, Blazkowicz fights his way through Chateau Schufstaffel and into the grounds beyond. After fighting two more Übersoldaten, Blazkowicz enters an excavation site near Castle Wolfenstein.

Inside the excavation site, Blazkowicz fights Nazi guards and prototype Übersoldaten, and makes his way to a boarded-up entrance to Castle Wolfenstein's underground crypts. There, he finds that the ruined and decaying sections of the castle has become infested with undead creatures, which are attacking the castle's desperate garrison. After fighting his way through the underworkings of the castle, Blazkowicz arrives too late at the site of a dark ceremony to prevent the resurrection of Heinrich I. At the ceremony, SS psychic and Oberführerin Marianna Blavatsky conjures up dark spirits, which transform three of Deathshead's Übersoldaten into Dark Knights, Heinrich's lieutenants. She ultimately raises Heinrich I, who "thanks" her by turning her into his undead slave. In a climactic battle, Blazkowicz, after exhausting most of his arsenal, destroys the three Dark Knights, the undead Marianna Blavatsky, and eventually Heinrich I. In the distance, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler watches in horror, remarking afterwards "This American... he has ruined everything" as he leaves for Berlin to face an expectant Hitler.

Back in the OSA, Operation Resurrection is closed and Blazkowicz is off on some "R&R" — shooting Nazis.


Wolfenstein MultiPlayer (MP) is an objective game mode, in which players are split into two teams - Axis and Allies. Each team has a set of objectives to complete, the Allies usually being to destroy some sort of Axis objective, and the Axis objectives being to defend their object(s). These objectives are split into two categories, primary and secondary. Primary objectives are ones which must be completed for victory, generally stealing secret documents or destroying a radar array; however secondary objectives are ones which are optional - they do not have to be completed, but if they are they may aid the appropriate team, such as blowing out a door to allow access into a tunnel which shortens travel time or allows less-noticeable infiltration of the enemy base.

Each team has access to a slightly different set of weapons, matching those used by each side in World War II. Players can choose from four different classes: Soldier, Medic, Lieutenant and Engineer. Soldiers can carry heavy weapons such as the Panzerfaust or Venom Cannon or Flamethrower which are not available to other classes, Medics can health other teammates, Engineers can breach obstacles, and Lieutenants can supply ammo to teammates.

Each class specializes in a certain aspect of the game, and an effective team will balance players out using all four classes, such as a soldier for blasting through enemy defences, a medic for supporting the team and keeping them alive (Soldier making up for the lack of firepower with medics, medics making up for the lack of health), a Lieutenant to resupply teammates with ammo (especially soldiers) and engineers to complete the objective, having their way cleared by the soldier which is then supported by the Lieutenant.

Gameplay modes[edit]

There are three different modes of play in Wolf MP, each allowing for a different experience - objective, stopwatch, and checkpoint. Stopwatch calls for the Allied side to complete a set of objectives within a predefined time limit. The opposing team then become the Allies and have to complete the objectives in a shorter time than the now Axis. Checkpoint gamemode is a mode in which teams capture flags. It may be more commonly known as Capture the Flag (CTF). Whichever team is first to control all the flags at once, wins. The team-based networked multiplayer features different character classes that must work together in order to win. There are four classes — lieutenant, medic, engineer, and soldier — the soldier can be one of several subclasses depending upon the special/heavy weapon that he selects. The multiplayer demo includes a beachhead assault map similar to Omaha Beach.

Online Servers[edit]

As of 2016, there are still online servers available to play Wolf MP. These mainly now reside in Europe and Asia. However, these servers usually contain only "Bots", computer controlled and scripted players and not real human players. To the untrained eye they can appear to be very realistic, even speaking in scripted chat dialogs.


Return to Castle Wolfenstein (RTCW) is a reboot of the early first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D. It includes a story-based single player campaign (which uses certain themes from the original game), as well as a team-based networked multiplayer mode. The Xbox version of the game features the original Wolfenstein 3D game as a bonus.

In the campaign, Allied agents from the fictional "Office of Secret Actions" (OSA) are sent to investigate rumors surrounding one of Heinrich Himmler's personal projects, the SS Paranormal Division (also see Ahnenerbe). The agents are, however, captured before completing their mission and are imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. Taking the role of Blazkowicz, the player must escape the castle. The player soon investigates the activities of the SS Paranormal Division, which include research on resurrecting corpses and biotechnology, while also sabotaging weapons of mass destruction such as V-2 rockets and biological warheads. During the game the player battles Waffen SS soldiers, elite Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) known as Black Guards, undead creatures, and Übersoldaten (supersoldiers) formed from a blend of surgery and chemical engineering conducted by Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. The end boss is an undead Saxon warrior-prince named Heinrich I.

The cable car in the castle is based on the 1968 movie Where Eagles Dare, where a U.S. Army Brigadier General is captured and taken prisoner to the Schloß Adler, a fortress high in the Alps above the town of Werfen, reachable only by cable car, and the headquarters of the German Secret Service in southern Bavaria.[3][4] The supernatural element is based on the story of Castle Wewelsburg, a 17th-century castle occupied by the Germans under Heinrich Himmler's control, and used for occult rituals and practices.[5][6]

One of the multiplayer maps (also released individually as the multiplayer demo) depicts Omaha Beach in Operation Overlord, and is reportedly inspired by the introduction of Saving Private Ryan. This put RTCW in competition with another Quake III: Team Arena-powered World War II-themed first person shooter, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault which also features its own take on Omaha Beach.

In the German version of the game, it avoids making direct reference to Nazi Party and the "Third Reich", in order to comply with strict laws in Germany. The player is not battling Nazis but a secret sect called the "Wolves" led by Heinrich Höller, whose name is a pun of the original character Himmler (Himmler roughly translates as "Heavener", Höller as "Heller"). The Nazi swastika is also not present, the German forces use a Wolfenstein logo which is a combination of a stylized double-headed eagle prominent in most Nazi symbolism, a "W" (standing for Wolfenstein), and the Quake III: Team Arena "QIII" logo (the game engine and network code that RTCW is based upon). The "W" eagle logo is prominently seen on the cover art for the American version (above).

Music pieces such as Moonlight sonata and Für Elise are used in the single player campaign.

The game is powered by a heavily modified version of the Quake III: Team Arena engine, with changes made to support large outdoor areas. The Return to Castle Wolfenstein engine was subsequently used as the foundation for Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (Splash Damage/Activision), "Trinity" (Gray Matter Interactive/Activision) (shown at E3 in 2004, but canceled shortly after) and Call of Duty (Infinity Ward/Activision).

There are many different releases of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The original release, version 1.0, came in a game box featuring a book-like flap. A Collector's Edition, packaged in a metal case, was released at the same time. The contents of the Collector's Edition changed depending on when it was purchased and could include a poster and fabric patch, a poster and a bonus CD, or just the bonus CD. The Game of the Year Edition (2002 - v.1.33) came with the original Wolfenstein 3D, game demos, and seven new multiplayer maps (Trenchtoast, Tram Siege, Ice, Chateau, Keep, The Damned, and Rocket.) The Platinum Edition (2004 - v.1.41) included Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, a stand-alone multiplayer expansion, and Wolfenstein 3D. Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War also came with the original Wolfenstein 3D as an unlockable after beating the campaign, and included some enhancements like surround sound.[7]


The game was released for the Linux and Macintosh platforms in 2002, with the Linux port done internally by Timothee Besset and the Mac port done by Aspyr Media. In 2003, the game was ported to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox video game consoles and subtitled as Operation Resurrection and Tides of War, respectively. Since the official source code release, the game has also been ported to Android under the name RTCW4A[8] (the data files from the original game are required to play).

Console version differences[edit]

Both console versions include an additional single player prequel mission, set in the fictional town of Ras El-Hadid in Egypt. The latter half of the level features an extensive underground burial site with many undead enemies, as does the original first mission. This prequel level is likely closer to the developers' true intentions for the story, as indicated by the distinctly Egyptian design of the burial site, including the presence of sand, traps, mummies and hieroglyphs on the walls in some areas (in the original storyline, this site is found in the middle of a German village during the second mission). By contrast, the single player storyline in the Windows version starts at Castle Wolfenstein.

The PS2 version has a bonus feature which allows players to purchase items at the end of each level by finding secrets. In the Xbox version a Secret Bonus is awarded after every level when all the secret areas for that level have been found. It also has several new equipable items and weapons as well as new enemies. The two player co-op mode is exclusive to Xbox and allows the second player to play as Agent One, altering the game in which he was never killed and played out the missions to the end. This allows for the story to support that Agent One either survived up to the events of Wolfenstein the Old Blood and was finally named Wesley or have been killed and replaced by someone named Wesley. Xbox version also has downloadable content, system link play and had online multiplayer via Xbox Live before Live play was disabled for original Xbox games. A Platinum Hits edition of the game was also released for the Xbox. The PlayStation 2 version does not support online multiplayer.

Source code release[edit]

The source code for Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Enemy Territory was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) on August 12, 2010.[9] The ioquake3 developers at announced the start of respective engine projects soon after.[10]


A Return to Castle Wolfenstein film was announced in 2002 with Rob Cohen attached to direct. Little information has been available since, however, with the exception of a July 20, 2005 IGN interview. The interview discussed the Return to Castle Wolfenstein film with id employees.[11] In the interview, Todd Hollenshead indicated that the movie was in the works, though still in the early stages.

On August 3, 2007, Variety confirmed Return to Castle Wolfenstein, to be written and directed by Roger Avary and produced by Samuel Hadida.[12] On November 2, 2012, Roger Avary has signed on to write and direct the film. The film is being described as a mix of Inglourious Basterds and Captain America.[13]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PC) 86.75%[14]
(XBOX) 84.78%[15]
(PS2) 69.81%[16]
Metacritic (PC) 88/100[17]
(XBOX) 84/100[18]
(PS2) 66/100[19]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 8[20]
Game Revolution B[21]
GameSpot 9.2[23]
IGN 9[22]

Return to Castle Wolfenstein received favorable reviews from critics. At Metacritic, it scores 88/100 (based on 32 reviews),[17] and on GameRankings it scores 86.75% (based on 50 reviews).[14] Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell called Return to Castle Wolfenstein "a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot 'em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element."[20]


In March 2008, the United States Department of State published a report to Congress, "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism", that described Return to Castle Wolfenstein as an "anti-Semitic video game" with no qualifications.[24] The report picked up on an article originally written in 2002 by Jonathan Kay of the New York Times regarding the recent introduction of "Nazi protagonists" in the online gaming market (referring specifically to Day of Defeat and Wolfenstein).[25] The article was published just 19 days before Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was released which shares many similar features, and the Nazi protagonists in multiplayer.

Todd Hollenshead, chief executive of id Software at the time of the original article stated:

"The trend you're seeing with new games is, to some extent, a reflection of what's going in the culture ... For instance, you've now got games with terrorists and counterterrorists. And World War II games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Day of Defeat reflect what you see in popular movies... I don't doubt there are going to be people that go out and distort what the multiplayer gaming experience is and say, 'Oh, I can't believe you guys did this.' There are a lot of critics of the game industry, and they look for things to criticize."[25]


The game was nominated at 2002 Game Developers Choice Awards in the "Excellence in Programming" category (Sherman Archibald, John Carmack, and Ryan Feltrin).


A multiplayer-only spinoff of the series, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, was originally planned as a full-fledged expansion pack for Return to Castle Wolfenstein developed by Splash Damage. The single player component of the game was never completed and thus was removed entirely. The developers at that point decided the multiplayer part would be released as a free, downloadable standalone game. Enemy Territory is a team-based networked multiplayer game which involves completing objectives through teamwork using various character classes. As of late 2011, Enemy Territory remains a popular game.

This gameplay was also later reutilized in a full-fledged commercial game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars set in id Software's Quake universe. A reboot called Wolfenstein was developed by Raven Software and id Software and published by Activision,[26] and released on August 18, 2009. A sequel titled Wolfenstein The New Order and an expansion titled Wolfenstein The Old Blood has also been released in 2014 and 2015.


  1. ^ "COPYING.txt". August 13, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2010. 
  2. ^ First-Person Shooters for Windows CNet. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Behind Enemy Lines: The Making of 'Return to Castle Wolfenstein' documentary
  4. ^ history of wolfenstein (Dutch) Google translated
  5. ^ Russell, Stuart (2007). La fortezza di Heinrich Himmler — Il centro ideologico di Weltanschauung delle SS — Cronaca per immagini della scuola-SS Haus Wewelsburg 1934-1945 [Heinrich Himmlers Burg — Das Weltanschauliche Zentrum Der SS — Bildchronick der SS-Schule Haus Wewelsburg 1934-1945]. Roma: Editrice Thule Italia. ISBN 978-88-902781-0-5.
  6. ^ Mikel Reparaz (March 13, 2009). "The secret history of Wolfenstein". Gamesradar. Retrieved July 5, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War". Game FAQs. 
  8. ^ RTCW4A - Android Apps on Google Play
  9. ^
  10. ^ Larabel, Michael (June 13, 2010). "id Software Open-Sources ET, RTCW". Phoronix. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Comic-Con 2005: IGN Interviews id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead" from IGN
  12. ^ Marc Graser, August 2, 2007,"Hadida storms 'Castle' rights" from Variety.
  13. ^ 'Pulp Fiction' writer will direct 'Castle Wolfenstein' movie
  14. ^ a b "Return to Castle Wolfenstein for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War". GameRankings. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection". GameRankings. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Return to Castle Wolfenstein for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War". Metacritic. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection". Metacritic. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b Bramwell, Tom (21 December 2001). "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". Eurogamer. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  21. ^ B., Johnny (December 1, 2001). "Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Return to Castle Wolfenstein". IGN. November 30, 2001. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  23. ^ Wolpaw, Erik (November 27, 2001). "Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on December 14, 2001. Retrieved October 26, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism: p58" from United States Department of State (PDF).
  25. ^ a b "Defying a Taboo, Nazi Protagonists Invade Video Games" from the New York Times
  26. ^ E3 2008: Wolfenstein, Singularity unveiled at Activision Blizzard event

External links[edit]