Return to Castle Wolfenstein

I’ve played a lot of video games in my day. I still do. Just not as much. The game I keep coming back to, no matter how amped up my system gets, is Return to Castle Wolfenstein. As part of my Monday Mayhem series, I’d like to share my experience I had with the game and how it changed my attitude toward zombies.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Released on November 19, 2001, Return to Castle Wolfenstein became an instant Platinum hit. Billed as a first-person shooter, the game features a single player component and various multiplayer modes. For this post, however, my focus will be on the single player mode.

The story of the game is simple. You are B.J. Blazkowicz, an American agent investigating paranormal activities in World War II Germany. You have escaped from Castle Wolfenstein’s dungeon and you proceed to eliminate anyone who gets in your way.

That pretty much sums up the game in its most basic form.

Part of the gameplay involves enemies who shoot, electrocute and/or bomb the player with their assortment of weapons. In one tough level, the player comes across a Panzer tank and some Gatling gun taunting soldiers protecting a building. The player has to eliminate the tank and soldiers before penetrating the building. One evening I’d completed the level straight through without dying. I’ll never forget the sense of achievement I felt. That night I could have taken over the world.

Wolfenstein Zombies
Wolfenstein Zombies

But the brilliance of the game comes when the player becomes trapped in a dark, brick-laden room, void of life and filled to the knees with a thick fog. The player has to cross the room to a door on the other side.

I remember it was two in the morning. I had my headphones on and the lights were dim. I was playing this part of the level for the very first time. Fear hit my stomach, clenching, rattling it like a steel trap. A step at a time, I kept turning my head not wanting anything to sneak up on me. All my senses tingled as I moved forward. When I reached halfway, I felt some relief. I’m still alive, I whispered to myself. I’m still alive. Shh. One more step. Keep going, one more step.

And then, the moan.

I jumped from my desk throwing the headphones on the keyboard. I almost screamed, waking everyone in the house. I backed away from the monitor with a dead stare. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding. It wanted to rip from my chest. The cold sweat drenched my shirt. All I remembered was the moan to the right behind me that wouldn’t stop. Regaining my courage, I edged closer to the monitor and peered into the fog. I could barely make them out. Hands? Hands. They appeared from the fog. Then I saw the arms and finally their heads. Their gruesome heads lifting from their graves.

Zombies.

In that moment. In that instant. I’d gained a respect for zombies I never had, which has remained with me to this day.

True story.

Are you part of the old school gaming league? Have you played Return to Castle Wolfenstein? What did you think of the zombies in the game?

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9 thoughts on “Return to Castle Wolfenstein

  1. I remember this game well, it was a lot of fun and very atmospheric, and genuinely quite creepy in places. I loved the humour in it too (like the silly notes and letters you could read and the conversations between soldiers), as well as the countless movie references (eg Raiders of the Lost Ark). They made a sequel, but it didn’t look that good so I gave it a miss.

  2. I remember playing this game, as a teenager, and entering a crypt full of Nazis and zombies. What a mixture! That was probably the first time a game scared me. The atmosphere was just right.

  3. Other than “Altered Beast”, i can’t say i’ve played old school Castle Wolfenstien. Sounds interesting, like Black Ops.
    My first frightening experience with zombies in video games would be “Resident Evil”. I never felt more enmeshed into a video as i was the first time i played that. I was so excited to play the game that i rented a PS1 and the game from the video store. Set it up in my basement, hit the lights, and cranked the volume.
    The moans and the dragging of feet, the munching noises, the vibration of the controller as i was attacked.
    I thought i had died and gone to zombie heaven.

  4. What a great story! I don’t play video games–my last experience with them was Super Mario Bros and Frogger (I kept getting run over).

    But Castle Wolfenstein sounds exactly like what I used to play running around the farm in the early 70’s, hiding from the Nazis and climbing trees. (Not sure why, as a ten year old girl in Iowa in 1971 Nazis were an issue, but I suspect it had to to with Steve McQueen.)

    • I think the movie you’re thinking about is The Great Escape (aka Hogan’s Heroes without the corny jokes). I loved that movie as I loved Steve McQueen in it. He had a way about him that made me always want more. So sad he passed away so early in life, though.

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