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The SS is in Big Trouble!

"So, advanced weapons, chemical and biological research, and now, the occult..."
The OSA Director

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a First-Person Shooter game using the Quake III engine, developed by Gray Matter Interactive Studios and published by Activision. It's the Non-Linear Sequel (hard to call it a "remake") to id Software's Wolfenstein 3D and it was released in 2001, twenty years after the release of the very first game in the series, Castle Wolfenstein.

The game is set during World War II, following the story of B.J. Blazkowicz, a soldier sent to investigate a secret/occult Nazi plot. After being captured and escaping Castle Wolfenstein, he finds out the Nazis are resurrecting corpses as well as developing all manner of advanced technology (like a viral V2 missile, rocket planes, Super Soldier cyborgs), all of this fitting into a mysterious plot to revive an evil conqueror from past times.

There's also a free standalone game running in the same engine and with the same thematic, called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Originally, it was going to be a free addon for RTCW, but that changed during the development. Enemy Territory was the last game in the series to be released before the death of Wolfenstein creator Silas S. Warner in 2004, though he had no involvement in the game.

In the QuakeCon 2010, Id announced that the source code of both this game and the multiplayer standalone game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory have been released under the General Public License version 3. (Or GPLv3 if you want)

Followed by Wolfenstein (2009).

Check the character sheet.


Return to Castle Wolfenstein provides examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: It's easy to miss, but one Nazi officer in the village can be overheard lamenting how their own men were sealed in the catacombs.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Zig-Zagged. On the one hand, there are numerous German civilians in the levels, and German resistance fighters are essential allies without which the game cannot be won. On the other hand, this is balanced out by portraying Heinrich I as an evil conqueror, dark warlord, Sealed Evil in a Can, and Bigger Bad who presaged the dark machinations of the Third Reich. In reality, he was one of the more effective and benevolent Holy Roman Emperors who ended the Magyar invasions of Europe and helped create the modern German nation. Also, unlike most other World War II shooters, every German soldier encountered by B.J. is specifically noted to belong to the SS, instead of having regular Wehrmacht troops mixed in with them.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: The whole "sexy Nazi dominatrix" thing may seem like the sort of silly, salacious fanservice dreamt up by the same sort of people that made games like Sin, F.A.K.K. 2, or Deathtrap Dungeon, but is actually a classic trope that goes all the way back to the old pulpy World War 2 era men's adventure magazines that the Wolfenstein series draws a lot of inspiration from.
  • Amazon Brigade/Bodyguard Babes: The Elite Guard are an all-female group of bodyguards to a Nazi commander by the name of Helga von Bulow, who is as mean as her name suggests. They are also "reportedly" bound together as part of a witch's coven, which presumably means they can feel you killing their comrades, though this never seems to affect their morale.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The X-Shepherds, which appear only in Tides of War, are fresh dog corpses fused with spare parts from Proto-Soldiers. Basically, they are Deathshead's "hunting dogs".
  • Artistic Licence History:
    • Several German bases have foreign Waffen SS recruitment posters on the walls, somehow.
    • Soldiers (or any other combat troops) wearing red armbands with swastikas in combat. Those were mostly worn by party members when on administrative duties or by soldiers and paramilitary during parades. Sporting that thing in combat would mean painting a target on one's arm.
    • A Waffen SS battalion is stationed in a village, yet their banners on the walls have a Luftwaffe eagle as symbol.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • The American weapons, like the Tommy gun or the night-vision Snooper, do more damage than their Brit or German counterparts, but ammo is much more rare. You are, of course, deep behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany, so...
    • The flamethrower torches regular enemies and lets your hear their screams of agony, but requires you get close and waste a few seconds of setting them on fire, which gets you easily shot in return.
  • Bad Boss: Seems to be the MO of the SS Paranormal Division in general. When a group of SS soldiers find that they Dug Too Deep and are now trapped in a tomb with the walking dead, they run back to the entrance only to find they've been sealed in by their own commanders.
  • Boring, but Practical: Most of the time, you will rely on normal German weapons, such as the MP40.
  • Combat Stilettos: Part of the Elite Guard's Stripperific costumes (see below.)
  • Cyborg: The Lopers, X-Shepherds, Proto-Soldiers and Super-Soldiers. The Lopers and X-Shepherds are particularly dangerous, because they can move fast and deal massive damage.
  • Deadly Doctor: Plenty of them: Deathshead, Doctor Zee and several other pistol-wielding eggheads.
  • Die, Chair! Die!: Certain objects such as chairs can be picked up, thrown, and destroyed.
  • Diesel Punk: In spades. Mixed with a healthy dose of Ghostapo.
  • Distant Prologue: The opening cutscene shows the sealing of Heinrich I in 943 AD. The actual game is set exactly a millennium later, in 1943, with the player attempting to prevent the SS Paranormal Division from reviving Heinrich.
  • Dug Too Deep: The SS Paranormal end up inadvertently unleashing a Sealed Evil in a Can at least twice.
  • Dynamic Entry: You can kick doors down. It only seems to open the door faster, though. And it's an effective way to blow your cover, alerting any nearby mooks to your presence.
  • Elite Mooks: Come in 3 varieties: the female SS Elite Guards who are equipped with silenced submachine guns and dodge and roll around alot, SS Black Guards who carry high-powered rifles, have higher than normal health, and wear headshot-deflecting helmets, and the Flamethrower Troopers/Venom Troopers who carry heavy weapons and have significantly higher than normal health.
  • Embedded Precursor: The Xbox port and PC "Game of the Year Edition" include a remake of the original Wolfenstein 3D.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: The Germans' meddling around with the occult has awakened hordes of undead beings. There are zombies, mummies, ghouls, undead warriors, and even occult priests.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The SS Paranormal Division has many opportunities to learn this lesson. It never quite sinks in and they keep dying gruesomely because of it.
  • Foreshadowing: Wilhelm Strasse, aka "Deathshead", is introduced as a secondary antagonist in this game. As the head of the ambiguously-named SS "Special Projects" unit, his role in the occult operations being investigated by the B.J. is initially unclear, but from the start he is deemed as "probably the single most dangerous figure in the entire Third Reich". Twelve Real Life years and two games later we find out precisely how dangerous the man is.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Venom Troopers and Flamethrower Troopers.
  • Gatling Good: The Venom Gun. It has a high rate of fire, but overheats at some point.
  • Ghostapo: Half of the game runs on Nazi occultism and Nazis searching for deadly black magic artifacts, both taken Up to Eleven (Rule of Cool applies, naturally). There are also some references to genuine historical Nazi occultism along the way.
    • The SS Paranormal Division's "Operation Resurrection" aims at raising a powerful warlord and necromancer named Heinrich I from the dead. They Dug Too Deep, and woke up hordes of incontrollable undead doing so.
    • As for the historical references:
      • Nazi archeology. In Real Life, it was handled by the Ahnenerbe, and did not aim at unearthing magical secrets. It dabbled in occultism however, due to Himmler's influence and obsessions.
      • Speaking of Heinrich Himmler, Heinrich I is based on King Henry the Fowler. Himmler believed he was the reincarnation of this king, hence the presence of both in the game.
      • Paderborn is not a village but rather a city, and it did have a center of Nazi occultism in a château in its vicinity (in the Landkreis of Paderborn, more precisely). That château's name was not "Schufstaffel" (which is obviously a name derived from the SS' full name, Schutzstaffel) but Wewelsburg.
      • Several symbols of the Thule Society show up in the game, the broken sun cross ("round swastika") in particular. In short, the Thule Society (Thule-Gesellschaft) was a German occultist and racist group founded in Munich right after World War I, named after a mythical Northern country and its equally mythical race. The society sponsored and influenced a little workers party that would grow and become the NSDAP (Nazi Party). Several members of the Thule Society became members of the party, although it should be noted Adolf Hitler himself was not a Thule Society member as it is often believed. In fact, Hitler moved to sever the party's links to the society, which disbanded in the 1920s, well before he came to power. It is likely that the society still exists in 1943 in the game, according to the Wolfenstein wiki.
      • Mariana Blavatsky's name is a reference to Helena Blavatsky, a 19th century Russian occultist. To simplify, she was the founder of Theosophy. According to The Other Wiki, Blavatsky's published theosophical ideas, particularly those regarding "Root Races", have been cited as an influence on Ariosophy, the esoteric movement established in late 19th and early 20th century Germany and Austria by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. The Thule Society derived some of its ideas from Ariosophy, and had itself a major influence on the nascent Nazi party. Nevertheless, some historians have asserted that Blavatsky should not be held accountable to any of the antisemitic and racist ideas that the Ariosophists promoted, commenting that were she alive to witness the development of Ariosophy she probably would have denounced its ideas regarding race.
  • Giant Mook: The Protosoldats are a cross between this and straight out mini-bosses.
  • Guns Akimbo: On a few occasions the player is allowed to do this with the Colt .45 pistols.
  • Heal Thyself: Medical backpacks are present in levels every now and then. The player can also heal himself by eating food.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In both Stupid Jetpack Hitler and Ghostapo varieties.
    • The Lopers, failed products of Deathshead's Ubersoldaten project, have a thing for getting loose and killing everything nearby. The accidents involved in the SS Paranormal Division's digs at Holstein and Paderborn end up similarly.
    • Some Panzerfaust-equipped soldiers or Proto-Soldiers can manage to detonate said weapon on nearby corners or objects right in front of them, i.e. blowing them up in their face and the face of the soldiers that are close to them, although this occurs pretty rarely.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Olaric. An undead monstrosity covered with faces, filled to the brim with countless souls (which he will also use to attack you with) and has a Throat Light to boot.
  • 100% Completion: At the end of every level, the game shows you your level stats: how many secrets and treasures you found, and the time it took you to complete the level. Not really useful, except for Bragging Rights Reward.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Health can be restored by eating food, cold meals restore less health than hot meals though.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: "Can I play, Daddy?", "Don't hurt me!", "Bring 'em on!" and "I am Death incarnate!", although the first of these is present only in the console ports.
  • Ignored Expert: Professor Zemph, the scientist responsible for the Dark Knight extraction process, had also laid out a process for their safe retrieval. Too bad Helga was too impatient to care. Reading his journal is telling:
    "Very upset with how things are progressing. The work is getting sloppy. Everyone is too much of a rush. Ignoring precautions. Certain corners just cannot be cut. Those old mystics were far too clever for that. Helga is the worst offender of all. And she is supposed to be overseeing us!"
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The standard Nazi soldiers all suffer from this. As it turns out, this is mostly the fault of their weapon, the MP40. When you use it yourself, it's ridiculously inaccurate after the first couple of shots for you as well. The American Thompson, in contrast, does not suffer from similar inaccuracy during full-auto fire, but ammo for it is so uncommon you'll almost never use it.
  • Infernal Retaliation: The Undead levels sometimes feature fire undead who can spit fire streams to his attackers.
  • Interface Screw:
    • The crosshairs (Basically a circle and a dot) turn red while over an enemy. While aiming at a friendly character, the crosshairs turn into a forbidden circle. Guess what color the circle with a line through it is.
    • Anytime BJ is set on fire, either by fire statues, fire undead or flamethrower soldiers, flames cover most of the screen.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: The Paratrooper Rifle. Doesn't fire as fast as a sub machine gun, but hits a lot harder. Doesn't hit as hard as a regular rifle, but fires a lot faster. The scope only has a small magnification, but it doesn't sway at all.
  • Karma Houdini: Strasse manages to get away unscathed.
  • King Mook: The fire zombies have miniboss-level health and a really annoying fire-breathing attack. Fortunately, there are only about 3 of them in the entire game.
  • Large and in Charge: Helga von Bulow, until her death at Olaric's hands. And also Heinrich I.
  • Ludicrous Gibs:
    • Can be triggered by explosives, high powered weapons, and having a body wedged IN A DOOR!
    • You have to gib some enemies to make them stay dead. Of course, they're fragile enough to be gibbed with bullets, but it's still annoying.
    • It's also possible to gib unsuspecting targets by knifing and throwing a chair at them at the same time.
  • Magic Versus Science: There's a hint of this sort of conflict amongst the Nazis involved in Operation Resurrection: Deathsheads journals indicate he feels the Paranormal Division is filled with crazy people obsessed with things that will not help the war effort, and he's really not happy that they're hijacking some of his own work for their own ends.
  • Man on Fire: It's sadistically satisfying to use the Flamethrower on Nazis and hear them suffering. Especially the Elite Guard. Our special tonight will be Nazi flambado.
  • Mle Trois: A few levels feature 3-way battles between the player, the Nazis, and the undead. For some reason, the Nazis never consider an Enemy Mine truce with fellow human B.J.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The above picture is a reference to the title screen of Wolf 3D.
    • The ending, which features B.J bursting out of a brick wall and mowing down Nazis, is a reference to the ending screen of Spear Of Destiny, which shows pretty much the same thing (except B.J. is using chainguns and isn't wearing a shirt).
    • The first mission is called "Castle Wolfenstein". The game plays with this in several missions involving infiltration in levels full of alarm switches.
  • More Dakka: Starting with the MP40 and ending with the Venom Gun, though this time is matized with many non-conventional weaponry.
  • Nazi Gold: Some gold ingots can be found as bonus treasures B.J. can find. They have eagle+swastika symbols on them.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The Dark Knight ritual in the final level turns three Ubersoldats, which could've been more than a challenge to the American intruder planning to disrupt said ritual, into significantly weaker undead warriors that have neither the weapons nor the armor they had before they were transformed.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Heinrich's army had these, and they are still active centuries later—much to the dismay of the SS Paranormal Division.
  • Nintendo Hard: This game is noticeably more difficult than most of its contemporaries. Health pickups are quite a bit rarer than in other games, and Armor pickups are especially uncommon (for most of the game you'll usually have less than 30% to 50% of your total Armor). This is combined with the fact that enemies, especially Elite Mooks, can mow you down very quickly too. This is especially noticeably in the last few levels.
  • No-Gear Level: The game starts with B.J. escaping from the titular castle, armed only with the knife and pistol (and all of 12 bullets) he took from a guard. Being B.J. Blazkowicz, however, this problem is rectified quickly.
    • Using the /spdevmap codes to get to levels that are not mission-starting levels results in B.J. having no weapons whatsoever, and no armor either, necessitating some more codes to get weapons, unless the player feels like doing it really hardcore.
  • No Swastikas: The German version replaces them with two eagles resembling the Quake III: Arena logo, and also scrapped other Nazi references, such as the Horst Wessel Lied song, which was the Nazi Party's anthem (its use is forbidden in Germany nowadays).
  • One-Man Army: B.J.
  • Overheating:
    • The Sten, in addition to the reload needs, has this as another cap towards almost deadly shots.
    • The Venom minigun also overheats when continuously fired.
  • Oh, Crap!: When you first meet the super soldier"
    "Well Agent Blazkowicz, is it? You are a most impressive specimen. It would be my pleasure to dissect you piece by piece. Let me introduce you to someone. Do not confuse him with the mere prototypes you've encountered. This is the pinnacle of all my research. Das Über-Soldat. The Super Soldier. It will be my pleasure to watch it destroy you." -Dr. Wilhelm Strauss
  • The Nazis in the Catacombs who discover the ladder has been destroyed and they're trapped in the catacombs.
  • In several zombie levels there are Nazis who flee from the Undead and end up running out of ammo and react like this.
  • Prequel: Operation: Resurrection has a small campaign taking place before the first level of the PC game.
  • Press X to Die:
    • There is a set of buttons in the third level of the second mission of Operation: Resurrection which reveal a secret if pushed the right way. They're boarded up, complete with a red sign with skulls on it. One bad press, and it's the end.
    • The PC version has a Cyanide Pill you can kill yourself with.
  • Shock and Awe: The Tesla gun. Lopers use the same technology as well.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Lots of this going around.
  • Shoot the Medic First: A valuable strategy in both the Multiplayer portion of RTCW and Enemy Territory.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Marianna Blavatsky's name is a reference to Russian 19th century occultist Helena Blavatsky.
    • An occultist named Dr. Merkwürdigliebe appears as a hidden enemy in the village assassination level near the end of the game.
    • The Doomguy's pain sounds can be briefly heard in the intro cutscene.
    • In the opening cinematic, Simon the Wanderer uses a magic staff with a large yellow jewel on the tip, just like Corvus.
  • Shown Their Work: Most of the weapons you can wield were real WW2 weapons that behaved more-or-less as shown in the game. Even the Venom, which you might take as part of the sci-fi aspect of the game, is actually based on the real-life Leimberger gatling gun; the M3 "Snooper" Rifle's scope gives black-and-white imagery and not the (inaccurate) red or greenish tint usually seen in media.note 
  • Spiritual Successor: Obviously it's got certain ties to Id's own Wolfenstein 3D, but the stealth-based aspects of the gameplay harken all the way back to the original Apple ][ game Castle Wolfenstein.
  • Spoiler Opening: It shows Heinrich I. The player only gets a hint of his apparition in the last levels.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Two of them: One of infiltration, and one of assassination. These can be rather difficult to start with, as one of the objectives in both missions is to ensure that no alarms are sounded.
  • Stripperific: Try not to get distracted fighting off the Elite Guards. There is also a lingerie-clad prostitute who is getting ready to service Major Hochstedder in Paderborn before you rudely interrupt them and put two in the Major's head.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Experimental germ warhead, mutants, Übersoldat, big fancy jet planes, electrically-powered miniguns, rocket planes, Tesla guns, you name it. This trope is the very basis of the franchise, even before Ghostapo.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The console ports add more cutscenes that give B.J. Blazkowicz actual spoken dialogue for the first time in the series.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Not B.J. himself, but the Nazis mooks who fall in water. They don't know how to swim and drown. Particularly funny to attempt in the "Baseout" level, which has a water pond in which the player can trick some nearby mooks to jump in to follow him.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The franchise runs on this trope, after all.
    • Cultured variant: The generals of the Resurrection project in the second infiltration mission.
    • Torture master variant: The Mad Scientist torturing Agent One at the beginning.
    • Officer with a conscience: The defecting doctor in the SWF missions.
  • Title Drop: The next-to-last mission is called "Return To Castle Wolfenstein". It's also spoken aloud twice, once in the intro cinematic by a Nazi excavator ordering a subordinate to contact Himmler, and again towards the end when B.J. is ordered back to the Castle for the final confrontation.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: Helpful advice: don't manually save on either of the two stealth levels. If you happen to save in a moment right before being spotted (and thus, ending the mission), you will respawn right before the mission ends again instead of at the last checkpoint. The only way to advance is to restart the mission from scratch.
  • Variable Mix
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: Shooting/stabbing/kicking German civilians (such as the unarmed women or members of the Kreisau Circle) results in an immediate Game Over. Even a single foot kick is enough kill them, whereas several kicks are needed to kill basic Nazi mooks.
  • Wire Dilemma: Let's just say that those silly Nazis really should have read the manual.

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