RealRTCW 5.0 Review

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It’s been a while since I’ve played the RealRTCW mod for Return to Castle Wolfenstein so when the creator reached out to us requesting we check out v5.0 early, I was eager to jump on it. Before getting into this review, I want to say that not only were we allowed to play v5.0 early but the pre-release branch we were granted access to also comes with some paid DLC for free. We know the mod’s creator by username “WolfETPlayer” and want to thank him and his team for thinking of us and giving us this opportunity. Thank you, friend. Much appreciated.

I remember RealRTCW being a very good overhaul for the single player experience. I also remember it being very challenging at times. It is based on the ioRTCW source port, comes with an expanded arsenal, new HUD and UI elements, improved visuals, overhauled sound work, rebalanced AI, and a lot of other stuff and it is available on Steam. It’s a big mod and a wonderful reason to revisit Return to Castle Wolfenstein and v5.0 brings a lot of new stuff to the table including reanimated weapons, new sounds, a new hub location, and more. RealRTCW does not change the story or turn the game into something radically different. It’s the same Return to Castle Wolfenstein campaign with rebalanced gameplay, improved assets, and new content.

We were made aware of a couple of things before playing. First, we were told not to launch coop or multiplayer since they are unavailable in the pre-release branch, are only slightly changed, and are nothing like the single player overhaul aspect of the mod. Second, we were instructed not to play with the Vanilla Plus DLC because it will break v5.0 since the functions are already built in. And because it’s built in, the DLC will be removed from Steam once v5.0 is publicly released.

I think for its time, Return to Castle Wolfenstein offered a pretty good single player campaign. Playing it now, some aspects have aged better than others. I don’t like one of the forced stealth missions and I find some areas towards the end of the campaign to be a little frustrating depending on the difficulty you select. Overall, it’s a game that looks and plays like a product of its time, an early 2000s first-person shooter. RealRTCW breathes new life into the experience without taking anything away from the original design. The new weapons fit in with the rest of the arsenal, the existing weapons received a visual update and look consistent with the new ones, and the Priest and X-Shepherd enemies from Tides of War are present here. Everything from the weapon models to character models to textures looks better and is accompanied by new sound work. I’m happy to say that the audiovisual updates are I’ll call them “lore friendly” and I felt none of the new stuff takes away from the atmosphere or narrative of the vanilla game. It’s all faithful and fits in perfectly.

I mentioned earlier that I remember previous versions of this mod being more difficult than the vanilla game. Well now RealRTCW can be as challenging or forgiving as you want it to be. You can enable regenerating health which is a game changer. It is completely optional and in my opinion, it makes certain areas less frustrating. I want to say again, it’s completely optional. But there’s more. There’s a checkpoint system in place and in addition to the difficulty levels are bonus modes that change things up and make the experience more challenging. Furthermore, you can enable AI respawns, additional enemy spawns, realistic ballistics and more. I really welcome the new modes and options and feel they allow for more replay value than ever before. I once felt RealRTCW was a gameplay overhaul mod that made things more challenging. Now I would say it’s a gameplay overhaul mod that’s a lot more welcoming. It can be accessible and challenging and this might just be my absolute favorite thing about it.

One big addition is the new hub area. After completing certain missions, you’re brought to a hub area where you freely move around and visit different areas. The objectives are typically to resupply and visit the headquarters. But B.J. can also go to his room, sleep, and enter a dream sequence. This hub area is far from exciting but it does fit in nicely. I can see some players feeling it messes with the pacing of the campaign a little bit but, luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot of time here. The rest of the campaign does remain intact with plenty of secrets and treasure to find and baddies to shoot. If you enable AI respawns and additional enemy spawns, the action ramps up quite a bit and you’ll have to be on your toes at all times. Things can get quite intense.

As mentioned before, RealRTCW overhauls not only the gameplay but also the audiovisual presentation. It features new weapons and high quality models for all. The reload animations look great as do the improved texture and character models. Thanks to the new visual and sound work, I feel the existing weapons have better feedback and that coupled with the improved blood splatter helps enhance the gunplay. Even with all the new additions and updated assets, it still looks and feels like Return to Castle Wolfenstein. It’s all faithful. On the technical side, the game ran smooth but did crash on me once and it was when exiting the new hub area.

RealRTCW is one hell of a modification. In fact, I would say it is the definitive way to experience Return to Castle Wolfenstein. It’s that good. I also say you should play the original as well just so you can appreciate the mod that much more. It overhauls the single player experience, modernizing it in some ways while remaining faithful to the original. I had played a previous version several years ago and I have to say, I was blown away by all the new stuff and really appreciate that it’s become more accessible. I always thought it was good but felt it was designed to make the experience more challenging. Well the challenge remains but now the player can make the experience as tough or as forgiving as they want. With all the difficulty levels, bonus modes, and options that can be tweaked, there’s something here for everyone and plenty of reasons to come back. The new stuff is all welcome and faithful (lore friendly if you will) and I really don’t take issue with anything in this mod. I can see the new hub area messing with the pacing a little, depending on how you look at it, but I easily got passed it. I would also argue it adds to the immersion.

There are some things about Return to Castle Wolfenstein that I’m not a huge fan of or feel haven’t aged well and while the mod alleviates some of those things, it doesn’t really remedy or eliminate those aspects entirely but that’s not its purpose so I’m not holding that against the mod. RealRTCW is designed to update and overhaul the campaign while remaining faithful at the same time. It’s still Return to Castle Wolfenstein, warts and all, but looks, feels, and sounds better and comes with new content. It breathes new life into the experience and feels refreshing.

I absolutely recommend RealRTCW and I want to congratulate the team behind it for a job well done. If you enjoy the vanilla game or if its been a while since you’ve played it, RealRTCW is a great reason to return and you may never go back. It really is that good. At least I think so. From what I remember of the older versions I played years ago, so much has been added and changed that it has become the definitive way to experience the game. And if you get it on Steam, it comes with achievements and Steam Workshop integration. Yes, mods for mods. What a time to be alive. Definitely check it out.

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