This week brought us the announcement of Wolfenstein’s return and as a single-player only game to boot. Of course, I’m glad to see a developer put more emphasis on the single-player side of their product than just tacking on a multiplayer mode, especially after the lackluster package that was 2009’s Wolfenstein, but it reminded me of the early 2000′s when Wolfenstein was the game that all of my friends were playing in the computer lab when the librarian wasn’t watching (for some reason, all of the teachers though that if there wasn’t a shortcut on the desktop a program didn’t exist). Not Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but its multiplayer/pseudo-expansion: Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Fast forward to today when I remembered something very special about Enemy Territory: it’s completely free.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, developed by Splash Damage, was originally supposed to be a commercially released expansion for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which had come out less than two years prior. However, the game’s single-player aspect had problems, so the multiplayer was released instead as a standalone freeware game and became one of the most popular multiplayer shooters of its time, with a community that still supports it and plenty of servers keeping the game going. On August 12th, 2010, on the first day of Quakecon, the source code was released, giving modders free reign. The game is available on Splash Damage’s website for Mac, Linux, and PC.
So, what is it about the game that makes it so popular that people are still playing it today? After all, it was actually fairly short on modes, and the modes it did have were all just iterations of the same mode. The graphics, while good for the time, were quickly obsolete as new games came out (Half-Life 2 came out the year after), and the vehicles it had followed preset paths. The game was class-based, but that had been done for some time (the original Team Fortress came out in 1996). Well the answer’s simple: gameplay, gameplay, gameplay.
While Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory hasn’t aged well in some aspects, it still has some great gameplay. The main mode, campaign, has two teams, representing the axis powers and allies of WW II, engaging in battles through multiple maps performing objectives and trying to sabotage the other side. The battles have lots of different objectives that need to be completed, such as fixing water pumps to drain a cave or defending a tank as it makes its way across a bridge, and the different classes give you a number of ways to go about them (using the engineer to keep things repaired, using soldiers to mortar targets, or using covert ops to sneak behind enemy lines and ruin the other team’s ambitions, just to name a few). The maps are expansive affairs and even when they’re booked to capacity (32 players), it’s easy to find yourself traveling alone (though a full firefight is a thing of beauty).
The game also has an XP system which lets you level up abilities without giving you too much of an advantage. While all classes can level up light weapons, and battle sense by playing the game and getting kills, there are also class skills (healing team members as a medic, for example). Leveling gives you additional benefits such as adding adrenaline boosts to a medics healing abilities or being able to dual wield pistols. While the advantages of leveling are huge, they still can be outdone by a skilled player and servers usually have good rules for keeping things fair (everyone’s XP reverts to 0 at the end of a campaign or all abilities are unlocked at the start).
Speaking of servers, you have a pretty good selection and the communities I encountered were pretty friendly. Admittedly, a lot of the time you’ll be playing with bots, but the AI is quite friendly and you’ll want to get some practice in to hone your skills before you take on players. Personally, I recommend the “noobcity” server as it has a very low ping and, as its name suggests, it’s friendly to players of all skill levels. You also don’t have to worry about cheaters for the most part as the download below includes Punkbuster, which helps ward off most gamers who are employing hacks (just make sure you turn it on as most servers require it).
Overall, I think Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory holds up. Its gameplay is solid, its maps are expansive, there are plenty of fresh maps to include in a campaign, and it has a good online community. If you want to play a good military shooter made in the days before military shooters meant regenerating health, give the game a try.
The game can be found HERE (PC, Mac, and Linux).
Note: If you’re running Windows 7 64-bit, you’ll have to run the program as an administrator to connect to servers.
I know it was a short one this week, but next time we’ll have something a little special: a game I’ve been meaning to cover for some time.
Freeware Friday is a (usually) weekly column by Gabriel B. that highlights the excellent freeware and abandonware that you can play on your PC.