Let’s travel back to May 5, 1992, when Wolfenstein 3D was officially released and began making history. Wolfenstein 3D is an episodic first-person shooter and a follow-up to the top-down infiltration game Castle Wolfenstein. The game puts the player in the boots of B.J. Blazkowicz, an allied spy.
History of Wolfenstein 3D
id Software had already made a mark before Wolfenstein. They developed games like Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3-D, which had somewhat “inferior” or rather primitive graphics and gameplay. Both games were less refined overall and didn’t utilize as many “modern” technologies.
The breakthrough came with Wolfenstein 3D, which not only ran like clockwork but also offered more impressive visuals and a captivating storyline. However, you can sense that the creators were venturing into uncharted waters and had to restrain themselves in certain aspects.
The game was a modern reboot of the 1981 title Castle Wolfenstein, and the developers initially faced challenges in acquiring the rights. However, the original trademark expired, paving the way for the creation of Wolfenstein 3D. Its clear goal was to be a faster and more action-packed variation of its 2D predecessor.
Originally, the game was supposed to allow players to search corpses, but the developers decided against it, fearing that it would disrupt the fast-paced gameplay they aimed for. Wolfenstein 3D was already a departure from the strategic genres dominating the game market at the time, establishing its own rhythm in the FPS genre.
The success of Wolfenstein 3D paved the way for the development of iconic FPS games such as Doom and Quake.
Prior to the game’s release, the publisher FormGen expressed concerns that the game appeared too violent and resembled World War II too closely. However, the developers responded by amplifying those elements, even adding skeletons and more blood.
Wolfenstein 3D – A Game that Made FPS History
It’s interesting to compare the exploration in the game, without specific measurements or specifications, with some modern games. You navigate through complex levels, and the presence or absence of corpses or unlooted objects helps you determine whether you’ve been there before.
If there are soldiers lying on the ground, you’ve likely been there, but if there’s nothing around or there’s something you can pick up, you’re in uncharted territory. Alternatively, you may belong to the group of players who leave “markers” to remember where they’ve been and where they haven’t.
The maze-like structure of the levels in Wolfenstein 3D is both a key concept and a challenge. This led many players to frustration as they wandered in circles for hours. However, this fact also gave rise to the formation of the first gaming communities. These communities would help and devise the best routes through levels through phone calls, letters, photos, and images.
As the game humorously noted, “More time is spent getting lost than shooting,” and it was true. It was even more painful when you found the door to another level but didn’t have the key.
Developers with a Sense of Humor: The First Easter Eggs in Games
It’s widely known that developers drew inspiration from wherever they could. Surprisingly, one of these inspirations was the game Pac-Man, which is directly referenced in one of the secret levels in Wolfenstein 3D. The game also includes developers’ inside jokes, referring to other games or iconic characters. Nowadays, these things are called Easter eggs.
The final mission (Die, Führer, Die!) has a simple goal: infiltrate the bunker under the Reichstag, and terminate Hitler (in a robotic suit) himself.
To discover these secret rooms, you had to “bang on the walls.” In other words, you would walk along the walls and continuously press a button, hoping to find a hidden room. These rooms could contain additional ammunition, armor, or the aforementioned Easter eggs.
The developers’ sense of humor was particularly evident in one level where you found yourself in a room with nothing. No visible doors or hints of where to go. To exit the room, you had to walk along the walls and try to open a secret door by pressing a button.
Gameplay That Wouldn’t Pass Today
At first glance, when you overlook the outdated graphics, the lack of a crosshair immediately catches your eye. Forget about aiming with sights; Wolfenstein 3D doesn’t offer that luxury. Shooting from the side is the game’s unique perspective, and the invisible chessboard-style gameplay works quite well. Even when you move however you want, the shooting is precisely defined.
Aiming and overall control is limited to the keyboard and mouse.
One surprising aspect for its time is the relatively intelligent AI. The enemies’ artificial intelligence not only assists them but also reacts to the sound of gunfire and often goes searching around corners. However, the AI also has its flaws. It’s often enough to cleverly position yourself behind a corner and fire once.
The enemy soldiers will peek from behind the corner, allowing you to elegantly sit, wait, and shoot.
There are instances where the soldiers split up, with each coming from a different direction. In such cases, you kill one, and the other sneaks up behind you.
Graphics and Sound
Even at first glance, the game shows its age. The graphics are truly outdated, and the sound design is quite repetitive. However, at the time, it was something new, and people marveled at the fact that such graphics could even be created.
The biggest shortcoming was the overall simplicity of the game’s concept. You start with a knife and then have three weapons that are practically the same, differing only in rate of fire. The same principle applies to the enemies, except for the dogs, which could be quite troublesome.
The enemy soldiers shoot projectiles that almost instantly hit you, resulting in battles lacking the dynamism we expect in modern games.
Developers learned from this and, just a year later, released Doom, which offered a diverse arsenal of different weapons and a wide variety of enemies. This resulted in Doom being better in terms of action, dynamics, and entertainment.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that Wolfenstein 3D was a pioneer and, in a way, a teacher of modern FPS games.
Play Wolfenstein 3D online
You can play Wolfenstein 3D for free, online on freebie.games website.