Wolfenstein 3D (DOS) Review

Click here to view the Wolfenstein 3D description page for screenshots and more information.

Review by The Every Gamer (August 2017)

Score: D-

   So, are you ready for the Granddaddy of First-Person Shooters? Well let’s take a look at the previous games despite never having played them and I probably never will, but I can’t pretend they never existed. The Wolfenstein series kind of speaks for itself when you simplify the series as ‘Man Vs. Nazis’. The series started with Castle Wolfenstein in 1981, then Beyond Castle Wolfenstein was released in 1984, both games were created by Silas Warner who was working with Muse Software. The games were stealth games in which you had to find the secret plans of the Nazis and simply escape the castle (or a bunker in the sequel). In the games, you kill and/or sneak past the guards as well as dress up as one of the incapacitated soldiers to also sneak around that way. Or even in the sequel where you may need to use a pass to enter to a new area…or bribing is optional too.

   These games aren’t really that remembered unless you were really big on the Apple II computer or you’re a hardcore fan of the series. So why am I not reviewing these games? Well, I don’t have an Apple II and even for someone who adores retro games like me, this is prehistoric, though it doesn’t mean I do not appreciate the games or even hate them, it just doesn’t interest me. With that said, the next game is one I have played and will review.

   Wolfenstein 3D, developed by id Software and published by Apogee Software, was first released in May 1992 for MS-DOS before getting ported to other systems over the years. I’ll be playing it on good ol’ Steam, because PC gaming. Keep in mind that this is a re-imagining of the first two Wolfenstein games, but that’s OK.

   Oh, before I forget, why not talk about Germany, the former home of Nazis. After World War II, Germany would become so ashamed of the Nazi regime that Hitler grew (and was fortunately defeated by the Brits, Yanks, and others) to the point where they became very touchy about Nazi imagery in media. For everyone else in the world, we’re not so touchy about it, simply because in the media, we cheer for the heroes as they gun down, punch and/or blow those Nazi scum to kingdom come. So of course, Wolfenstein 3D, a game full of Nazi imagery, was banned in Germany, and sort of is to this day…well you can still play it, but do not advertise it. Germany is known for heavily censoring games (which probably annoys German gamers and developers) to appease their odd rules. Just look at the European version of Contra or Half-Life, where the scientists were replaced with robots. Nowadays, the censoring is sort of relaxed, not as free but close, in fact later Wolfenstein games would be released in Germany, though any Nazi imagery would have to be altered.

   So you are William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an American spy with a hint of Polish (I mean, it is in his surname), he is simply tasked to find some information about the Nazi Regime. But he’s captured and sent to Castle Wolfenstein, so like the original games, he has to find some Nazi plans and unlike the original game, gun down all the soldiers…nothing more, nothing less.

   The game is a First-Person Shooter, in which you gun down soldiers and dogs, whilst walking in maze-like levels in the process. You can collect treasure for points, food and medipacks for health and ammo for your guns…wait, points? In a First-Person Shooter? I’m too young for this shit. In addition to your default knife and pistol, you can also collect a machine gun and much later in the game, a glorious chain-gun for extra damage, especially for much bigger enemies. Heck, you can even find many secrets if you’re of the curious sort, though some can be very cryptic.

   There are six episodes in this game, each having nine levels, but the Shareware version probably had the one. You see, back in the day, if you were a PC gamer in the 80’s and 90’s, way before Steam, you got a Shareware game from a store or a network service, where you play a few levels and afterwards, you’d get some information to get the full game and it would be delivered to you. This process has not been done in years and PC gamers these days just stick to Steam or GOG for games and in terms of PC games, I like this evolution…I don’t collect PC games…I mean, there are way too many, that’s what Lazy Game Review is there for.

   So the game is simple…I’m sorry, but I don’t like this game. OK, I don’t hate it because it’s old, I mean I like the first few levels, but then suddenly, the game becomes this huge maze, mostly because the level design looks the same. And this is almost to the point where you can easily get lost. You can tell that this game hasn’t aged well at all. And I know what you’re saying, “Doom is like Wolfenstein 3D, so why do you hate this game?” Well because whilst Doom gave you tons of weapons and enemies and the level design is dynamic, Wolfenstein 3D has repetitive, blocky level design and uninteresting combat.

   If you’re a younger gamer, you are NOT going to like this, and it’s sad that I didn’t have a great time with this, but please understand that this game was released before Doom changed everything, so what was once innovative and brilliant has now withered and looks a bit messy, it’s the Granddaddy of First-Person Shooters for a reason, but that doesn’t always mean it’s an entirely bad thing.

   The graphics are ok but, it hasn’t aged that well, though it was a First-Person game and it looked fantastic for the time. The level design is memorable and makes you feel like you’re in the fight of your life, trying to escape from this Nazi prison. But everything feels the same to the point where you can’t tell each level apart from each other.

    The music is OK, it’s gloomy and matches the atmosphere, though there are some tracks that really don’t fit the experience, some feel a bit upbeat, which is weird. It’s not my favourite soundtrack, but it’s decent nonetheless. The controls on PC are OK, as long as you change to suit you, but the controls are awful in the Xbox 360 port, because you move so slowly and you can’t change speeds, it’s a slog to play.

    Overall, Wolfenstein 3D will be nostalgic for some gamers, but dated for the rest. But it should be deemed a classic, because it was an action hero defeating Nazis in a fun shoot out…and it was an innovative First-Person Shooter for its time. It’s funny that back in the day, if you wanted to make an action war…something, Nazis would be the villain of the day. Nowadays, it’s…well, in terms of the political climate, I’ll stop now before I piss off everybody.

   Wolfenstein 3D is the reason why we have Doom, Duke Nukem, GoldenEye, Call of Duty, Halo and other shooters. Despite not aging well in my opinion, I can’t complain about the legacy Wolfenstein 3D has left in the gaming industry, you don’t have to like a game to appreciate it, never forget that. So, this should only be for those who grew up with this game or still get a kick out of trying classic DOS games.

   Oh, there was an expansion pack for Wolfenstein 3D, a prequel called Spear of Destiny, also released in September 1992, four months after the release of the original game.

   So the much-hated Adolf Hitler has taken the Spear of Destiny to master occult powers and to be unstoppable in his plan for world domination. It’s up to B.J. to retrieve it before Hitler uses it. The game remains the same, but with different level design in terms of atmosphere, this is supposed to be a prequel…which is weird considering what happens at the end. My viewpoint remains the same as the original, but still decent and something to try out if you somehow thought the original game was tolerable.

William “B.J.” Blazkowicz: The American/Jewish Hero!

You can get Wolfenstien 3D on MS-DOS, Mac OS, Amiga 1200, AmigaOS 4, Apple IIGS, Acorn Archimedes, NEC PC-9801, SNES, Jaguar, GBA, 3DO, Windows Mobile, iOS, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You can also play the game for free online.

Thanks for reading our Wolfenstein 3D (DOS) review, check out The Every Gamer’s blog for more great reviews!

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