|Developer:||id|||||Release Date:||1992|||||Systems:||DOS, SNES, Mac, Jaguar, 3DO, GBA, Apple IIGS, PC-98, Archimedes, etc.|
Today on Super Adventures I have another requested game for you: Wolfenstein 3D, or (Wolfenstein 3-D according to the title screen). And it's got the Nazi Party's theme tune playing right now as its title song, that's just... great.
This of course is the earliest first person shooter ever made, except for all those other ones that came before it. Even if you don't want to count things like 1974's Maze War, 1980's Battlezone, or even 1987's MIDI Maze, you've got id Software's own Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D released a year earlier. Granted they don't have assault rifles, but they're so similar in style and gameplay to Wolfenstein 3D that it's hard for me to look at them and say they're not the same genre.
Either way this is definitely the first of the Wolfenstein series; except it kinda isn’t as it was inspired by a 1981 stealthy action-adventure called Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. When id Software realised the trademark had lapsed and was up for the taking, they took it and made their own series out of it. And I don't blame them, as it's a cool title.
Is it the first World War II themed first person shooter at least? I've no idea, but let's say yes. Medal of Honor, Call of Duty... they're all this game's fault. Anyway, I have played Wolfenstein 3D before, but not recently and not for long. In fact I've never even finished a single episode, so that's what I'm planning to do now.
So chronologically Episode 3 is the final chapter in the original Wolfenstein 3D saga, before The New Order came out and went full-on alternate history with the series. “Die, Fuhrer, Die!” makes it sound like a 'Danger 5' episode title, but as much as I’d like to gun down Mecha-Hitler and end World War II, I think I should start from the beginning. Or Episode 1 at least.
Doom definitely didn't, as it was far too metal for such childishness.
“Bring ‘em on!” is where the gun was pointed to start with so I’ll take it as being normal difficulty and go with that. This is an old school game so I’ve no doubt I’m going to get my ass handed to me, but there’s no way I’m going down to baby bonnet mode in a first person shooter. This is the genre I'm least terrible at, and I'm not letting some mid-difficulty Nazis beat me.
Seems I'm going to have Blazkowicz's face staring at me from Doomguy's spot on the HUD for the whole game, probably functioning as a second health meter. Shame it doesn't work as a rear view mirror too.
Oh, I'm playing as Captain William "B.J." Blazkowicz by the way (pronounced something like Blazz-co-vitch), an American secret agent working for the OSI. Poor Doomguy never got a definite name in all of his games, but Blazkowicz had his identity in place from the very start.
There's no cutscene or intro text to explain the story so far, but I think I can figure out what happened here. Especially as I saw it all before at the start of Return to Castle Wolfenstein a couple of years ago.
|Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC)|
The biggest obvious difference at this point, aside from the crosshair and a decade of graphics tech evolution, is that future Blazkowicz has much more freedom of motion. In Wolfenstein 3D he can't jump, duck, look up and down or even strafe all that well. Side stepping is a toggle in this, so for the most part I'll be playing this with tank controls. Oh, also neither game has iron sights, regenerating health... or an automap.
At least there was only this one guard outside my cell, and he went down surprisingly quick once I got the sights lined up with him. I was worried that my 8 shots wouldn't take me far, but 2 or 3 seem to be enough to get the job done, and with the ammo he dropped plus that blue box of bullets lying over there on this grey void I'm labelling as 'the floor' I should do okay.
Right, those cell doors on the right are painted on, so I'll be turning around and going the other way now.
I don’t have a hunger bar, but food restores my health so I wouldn't say no to a bite of that delicious dungeon chicken. This is a crappy place to be held prisoner for sure, but it's got a good chef.
A COUPLE OF DOORS FURTHER ON.
Plenty of decorations all over the walls in here too, and any one of them could be a clue that it's a sliding panel hiding a room full of treasure. Only one way to find out which though.
|Doom II (MS-DOS)|
Though Doom ceiling textures without Doom ceiling height variation sure leaves the place feeling claustrophobic, which is interesting as this place has actually been scaled up to be double the size of the original Wolf 3D level. I guess now it's canon that B.J. Blazkowicz is twice the height of Doomguy. Also the Doom engine can't do moving panels like Wolfenstein's does, so the secret areas are hidden under rising walls instead.
I find the stage to be kind of bastard hard by comparison due to the fact there's like two or three times as many enemies around, they're the type with machine guns, and I'm using up more ammo to kill them than I'm getting back.
Rage. Now there's some real MegaTextures for you, with some fat-ass pixels (though they forgot to darken some of the walls).
Anyway, I've got secret panels to find. I'm getting back to systematically pressing space in front of every suspicious looking wall.
A BIT OF WALL PANEL SEARCHING LATER.
It has different level layouts to the PC game, a couple of new weapons, a lot less blood, an item count for keeping track of treasure, and it looks like ass. It's also got passwords instead of saves, so there's no mid-level 'cheating' to avoid losing a life. Unless you count having an automap and proper strafe buttons cheating, as they are kind of a game changer.
This was actually meant to be ported across by someone else, but when their Super Nintendo publisher complained that it'd been 9 months or so and they lost contact with their contractor, id had to drop everything and get it made themselves in just three weeks. Which was kind of awkward as they were halfway through making Doom at the time.
At least now I'm free to finish off their dog food. No seriously, you can eat dog food in this. Well, except for in the heavily censored SNES version where the dogs were replaced with giant mutant rats, and the dog food with rat food (aka. cheese).
Any one of these could lead to the exit, so I gotta try them all! And once I'm inside I have to press ‘open’ on every bit of every wall looking for secrets. I miss how Doom would often make the wall a slightly different shade or whatever.
The poor guy shouted out “Mein leben!” on the way down, which literally translates to “My life!"; a pretty astute assessment of what I've just taken from him. Shame there’s nothing behind him in the room worth taking. There's nothing in any of these side rooms actually, except a bit of ammo.
It's a nice dining room, but why have all these tables if they leave the plates of food on the floor? Also what’s with the barrels? I don’t have a problem with them being here, it’s a first person shooter so I get how this works, but I don’t understand why they don’t explode when I shoot them!
|Catacomb 3D (MS-DOS)|
One big difference between the games is that Catacomb is stuck with the tiny 16 colour EGA palette, while Wolfenstein uses VGA and can put a full 256 colours on screen on once. Though you perhaps wouldn't think so because of all the EGA-looking cyan doors. Oh, also there's no doors in Catacomb, besides the occasional locked wall. None that I found anyway.
Now I just have to make my way back to the locked door and I… fuck, I have no idea where I left the locked door. I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where it is, all I know is that everything in this game is brick walls and doors. It can't do floors, or ceilings, or angles other than 90 degrees, but brick walls and doors it has covered. Sometimes there’s non-exploding barrels and foodless tables as well, but I can’t remember where they were either.
This is the 3DO version of the game you're looking at here, with its higher resolution artwork and brand new soundtrack. It almost sounds like the Danny Elfman Batman theme right now actually. It's apparently based on the Macintosh port and shares the same graphics, which was apparently based on the SNES port and shares the added strafe keys. For a clone of a clone this actually isn't bad, and it's definitely nice to be able to move from side to side properly. I just wish I didn't have to use the bloody shoulder buttons to do it.
The game was ported across to so many other system that I'd be a fool to list them all, and I'd be even more of a fool to list all the systems that got unofficial ports as well. But I will mention that if you want to play Wolfenstein 3D on a computer, then the ECWolf source port is likely your best option, as it supports widescreen resolutions, current operating systems, and modern control schemes. Oh, plus it has an actual automap!
Oh, that golden chandelier has brought my attention to how weird the lighting is in this game. It’s clever how the floor is defined by patches of light and the occasional shadow, but the walls on the other hand are lit by magic. See how the walls on the sides are bright, but the back wall is dark? That’s what every room in the game is like, even though the light sources are usually near the centre.
Wait, shit… that’s the entrance! I was wondering why the enemies were all pre-killed in this area. The trail of dead is the only way I can really navigate this place, but sadly I can’t pin any corpses to the doors so I know which ones I’ve searched. The doors eventually shut themselves by the way (I keep hearing creepy metallic slam and lock sounds in the distance), and they don't leave any clue to tell me which rooms I’ve already checked. Then again with 13% health I should probably be checking them all again anyway.
My final playtime for this level when I finally reached the exit was an incredible 13:43 (par time 2:00) and I didn’t find a single secret in all of that. Though to be fair I did get distracted several times and left the game running for a minute or two. Enemies can open doors if they know you’re there, but until their alerted you can stand there in a corridor all you want and you’ll be perfectly safe. Speaking of enemies, I did get at least get all the kills for once, which earned me a nice fat 10,000 point bonus and an EXTRA LIFE!
Rise of the Triad is built from the same engine, but feels much more open somehow. Probably because of all the see-through fences letting you look into other areas, and the fact that ceiling isn't right down on your head all the time.
That’s the first time I’ve got Blazkowicz killed in the game so far, and I haven't even been loading save games along the way to undo stupid costly mistakes (which is why I had 3% life in the first place). I’ll totally be loading one up now though, because I’m not losing one of my 6 lives for this (or starting the level all over again without my beautiful machine gun).
Diablo ambush, and lure enemies through the narrow bottleneck instead of walking outside into their sights. I know how many to expect by the number of “Achtungs” I hear when I get their attention.
It’s a bit of a shame that I can’t wreck the painting like I could in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but being able to shoot up Hitler himself later kind of makes up for that (plus I’ve got the right gun for it now). Not that I’ll be shooting him today, as he turns up in episode 3 and I’ll only be playing to the end of episode 1.
LEVEL 9: THE BOSS FIGHT.
This Gatling gun is basically just another upgrade for the pistol it seems, dealing damage faster but using the same ammo (a lot like the one in Doom in fact). And that's it for the weapons, I've got them all. The ports would add a flamethrower and a rocket launcher, but in the original DOS game it's just three varieties of bullet shooter and a knife.
The episode didn't start with even a hint of a story, but it ended with far more cutscene than Doom ever had. Though what's all this jumping bullshit about? Everyone knows that Blazkowicz didn't learn how to jump until he returned to Castle Wolfenstein in Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
In fact players would have to wait another 22 years until Wolfenstein: The New Order before getting their chance to dual wield machine guns. So I don't know why this is still on when I could be playing that instead.
Or maybe no. Perhaps there's minigame hidden around here for me to play. Catacomb 3D and Commander Keen 4 both include a Pong clone in the game menu, but it seems that id got bored with that by this point. Never mind, I can still entertain myself for a bit by seeing all the quit messages I can get out of it.
FIVE MINUTES LATER.
Wolfenstein 3D is a game about doors. You work your way through maze of doors, investigating all the doors along the way until you reach the locked door at the end of the level. Then you work your way back through all the doors to figure out what doors you didn’t open first time around, find the door key and then return through the doors to get that locked door open. But they are pretty nice doors I have to admit, with a good solid resonant clunking sound. Not sure about the colour though.
There’s only three guns in the game, and they’re all just variations on the same weapon, with the same ammo. The enemies have been just as bad, with only two guys and a dog turning up so far (not counting the boss). They weren't the smartest goons in the Reich either, but they did react to stimuli: investigating loud noises and flinching when I shot them in the gut. They also took a second to react and start firing back at me, which is something I always appreciate in my first person shooters. Overall the combat isn't terrible, but there isn't a whole lot of scope for a player to make choices. I was kind of expecting it to be harder as well, but then I suppose there’s plenty of time left for that with 5 more episodes to play through.
It definitely functions as a game and once I got my head around the controls I found the shooting was actually weirdly entertaining for me considering how basic it is; especially when I tried the ECWolf source port with its proper strafing. But when it comes down to it, it's all about those doors and I found navigating the levels to be utterly soul-crushingly miserable. Even ECWolf can't fix that.
Anyway please feel welcome to leave a comment about Wolfenstein 3D, the Wolfenstein series, first person shooters, my ridiculous website, or anything else along those lines. I've inflicted all these words upon you, now it's your turn.