Return to Castle Wolfenstein was the classic from Xmas 2001, darker and gorier than EA's bloodless Medal Of Honour Allied Assault, though both were derived from Quake III's Engine code. RTCW's AI was also better. A separate developer was called in to deliver the kind of class-based multiplayer gaming in the Team Fortress mold, but with much better looking graphics. When players could be bothered to work together it was great.
Fast forward 18 months and Id, once again, contracted out the development of a mission pack, Enemy Territory. However, when it didn't make the grade it was canned. The completed multiplayer side, from developers Splash Damage, was given away, and the map editor a month later. So kudos to Id for staying close to their shareware giveaway roots (no need to own either edition of RTCW)- and as long as you have broadband from 128K upwards it's gold dust. If you're on 56K, locking your server to high pings only, or just LAN play, will allow a fair game.
Lack of teamwork would arise in RTCW because the grunt workers- the medics and engineers- were woefully under-equipped in the weapons department. Now the medic starts with two clips for his rifle and neither the Thompson nor the M40 on the Axis side, are the jackhammer drills they were in the original game- not when many of the weapons from the later stages of the RTCW single-player can be bought and used by soldiers. Handguns are doubled, so aside from unique skills everyone has a fighting chance. Lying prone with emplacement weapons gives more accuracy but the gunner's a sitting duck, requiring cover or support. Only the newest character- the Covert Ops Spy, who steals uniforms from dead enemies to sneak in behind enemy lines, has any chance of succeeding alone at any of the sabotage objectives, and that's even if the player manages to avoid the mines that can be planted. Your gunsight will change to a no smoking symbol, but you can still team-kill him. You rack up experience points unlocking other abilities as the level progresses- most helpfully the medic gets a green syringe to not only get a soldier up on his feet, but also give him back full health. On some levels you can have a spawn point for ammunition and health, taking the pressure off the medic. There are other nuances to the other classes, but keeping yourself alive and always being in demand gives the medic a useful role and hardly any flames- as long as you're fast.
ET's one of the few recent games where failure to play as a team means it's no fun for anybody. But the objective-based games remain the most popular out of the handful of maps there are at the moment, involving escorting multiple vehicles which can get shot to bits by the Axis then repaired by you, leading to a tug of war exercise which what's supposed to be mobile cover.
You can win yourself instant kudos by doing some donkey work and being a medic. Keeping people alive is always appreciated. Engineers are needed to build/repair/bomb objectives, so those players will always be on the front line. The Covert spy's there for the fans of those World War 2 films with Hollywood stars playing secret agents. That just leaves the Field Operative and soldier for the wannabe Rambos who just want to rush in and die fast- well the engine is Quake III after all.
If pocket-lint.co.uk had been around say, two years ago, we'd have written a similar sort of review- but about Counter-Strike. Frankly even if you're only on dialup, get into it now. The game's finished- they just want new maps after you tire of the six you start with, so you can make your own if you're into that side of things, practice, check out all the classes and not get blown to smithereens all the time- the new variety of weapons as well as the classes mean that you can't just move from RTCW and 0wn the server- though you'd have a fair head start, players of other FPS games could catch up with a little practice.
Which brings me to my sole criticism- you'd better start playing this game in the morning on a weekend, because once you're into it, it's the FPS equivalent of Championship Manager 4 with some sessions lasting 20 minutes at a time you only play three games per hour. This side of Half-Life 2, it's the godsend needed for a quiet summer's multiplayer gaming- but it'll eat your free time for breakfast.
That aside, Id has given us great compensation for the Doom III delay - we just didn’t think we’d be saying this for the second year running since both blockbuster FPS games were delayed. Download it, and get in on this game, checking the PC Gamer forums for details of their server and additional map links. Being Quake III powered, as powerful a PC as possible are the true system requirements but the truth is, a two year old PC capable of playing RTCW will cope fine and with broadband or 256 to 512MB RAM, you won’t notice much of a difference.