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Classic Games Resurrected: Wolfenstein 3D
Developer: id Software
Distributor: GT Interactive
Engine: Wolfenstein 3D
Platforms: MS-DOS, Mac, Apple IIGS, Acorn Archimedes, NEC PC-9801, SNES, Jaguar, GBA, 3DO, Xbox
Release date: May 5, 1992
Genre: FPS; First Person Shooter
I got my first ‘real’ PC back in 1996. It was a Pentium 100 MHz, which was supposedly top-of-the-range (probably for about a week). A friend of my dad’s came around one afternoon and set it up for us, and he installed two games on the PC right from the get go- the Shareware versions of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
What is Wolfenstein 3D anyway?
Wolfenstein 3D is often considered to be the granddaddy of FPS games, even though there were others developed beforehand, like Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D. Wolfenstein 3D is credited with kicking off the interest in the genre, with id’s following title, Doom, taking it to all new levels.
Wolfenstein 3D was inspired by a couple of old games from the eighties, named Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, that members of id Software played and liked. These games were developed by Muse Software.
Wolfenstein 3D was originally released as shareware, and there was also a registered version, and extra missions, which all had to be bought unlike the shareware version.
Due to its use of Nazi symbols such as the Swastika and the anthem of the Nazi Party, Horst-Wessel-Lied, as theme music, the PC version of the game was confiscated in Germany in 1994. Code names for Wolfenstein 3D were developed, like ‘Hundefelsen 4C’, to elude suspicion.
Wolfenstein 3D had a prequel-sequel that was released about six months afterwards, called Spear of Destiny, and there were two extra episodes for this game, often referred to as the ‘Lost Episodes’, apparently because very few people know about them (I have them obviously, being a classic games collector and all).
There was a planned continuation of Wolfenstein 3D, called Wolfenstein Part II: Rise of the Triad, which was being developed by Apogee instead of id, but the project was cancelled, and the game continued on, and came out as Rise of the Triad. It used a heavily modified Wolfenstein 3D engine, but a lot of the original artwork had to be taken out and replaced.
Years later, in 2001, Return to Castle Wolfenstein was released, which used the Quake III Arena, or id Tech 3, engine, Quake III Arena being another game by id Software. It started the same way as Wolfenstein 3D, but after the player escaped the Castle, the story took a different turn, perhaps mixing elements from Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny, its two prequels.
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, a spinoff to RTCW, was released in 2003. It is a free full-version multiplayer-only game, featuring elements from RTCW.
There is a fourth game in the series, called Wolfenstein, which uses the id Tech 4 engine, and is due to be released sometime in 2009. This game is meant to be a sequel to RTCW.
Wolfenstein RPG, an RPG continuation of the Wolfenstein franchise, is a full version game for mobile phones releasing in 2009.
You play as Captain William Joseph Blaskowicz, an American spy, who is captured during World War II and taken to Castle Wolfenstein and imprisoned. After overpowering a guard, he escapes and starts his long mission to escape Castle Wolfenstein. This was the shareware episode of the game.
In the registered version, there are two more episodes, ‘Operation Eisenfaust’ and ‘Die, Fuhrer, Die!’, where the player had to take out Dr Schabbs and Hitler respectively.
There were another three episodes for the game, collectively called “The Nocturnal Missions”, which consisted of “A Dark Secret”, “Trail of the Madman”, and “Confrontation”. These missions acted as a prequel to episode three, ‘Die, Fuhrer, Die!’, and involved a chemical warfare plot, and the player had to stop it from taking place.
• The ability to select from four different difficulty modes.
• 10 levels for each episode (9 levels and 1 hidden level), equaling 60 levels all in all.
• Scary boss characters.
• Deathcam mode for bosses!
• You get to face off against Hitler!
• Pushwalls, which later featured heavily in Spear of Destiny and Rise of the Triad.
• Moody music throughout the game.
Due to concerns from Nintendo of America, the Super NES version was modified to not include any swastikas or Nazi references; blood was replaced with sweat to make the game seem less violent, and the attack dogs in the game were replaced by giant mutant rats. In Spear of Destiny, perhaps jokingly, there were dead rats lying on the ground in certain places, although the attack dogs were in the game.
The menu layout had basic options, like controls, a manual that you could also access in-game by pressing F1, and the usual save and load game features, in addition to starting a new game, where you can select from six episodes (in the full version with the The Nocturnal Missions) and four difficulty modes. Load times were pretty quick.
NewWolf is a free unofficial conversion of Wolfenstein 3D.
It uses OpenGL library for rendering and DirectX library for sound and music. NewWolf supports Wolf3D 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4.
NewWolf originally had a zip folder installation method, and you had to extract all the files you wanted to the directory, with high res textures going into the basewgl folder. I discovered a probably little known exe installation file though, which does this all automatically.
You are now able to adjust the screen resolution from the video menu. Load times with the high resolution textures pack has increased a bit.
The graphics were very bright, with very little in the way of darker tones. There was also no variation in lighting in the game with only full brightness in each room. The floors and ceilings looked rather bland, with only one colour and no detail, unlike the walls, which at least had a bit of detail and had a number of variations in colour and design, including the all controversial Nazi symbols like the Swastika. The game featured Pseudo-3D looks, with no ability to move the view up and down; only 360 degrees left and right. The enemies in the game also appeared as very brightly coloured, and in some versions of the game, like the 3DO, were more detailed than the PC version.
I’ve used the NewWolf port with high resolution textures, and the game has been improved a litte. Most of the walls, symbols, and portraits have been replaced with 512x512 resolution textures that have quite a good amount of detail to them. Some of them were even borrowed from JDoom. Some of the in-game objects like tables, lights, pot plants as well as pickups like ammo, health, food, treasure and the like have been given a 3D look. The weapons have also been updated and look far better than they originally did, and in addition, they have been given a more realistic look, with the guns appearing from the side, like later FPS games, instead of the centre of the screen. There are now blood spray effects when you shoot enemies, as well as ricochets and concrete dust when you shoot walls. The enemies have not been updated at all.
The music in the game was composed by Bobby Prince, who has worked on numerous games since then. The tracks played in episode 1 correspond with those played in episode 4, 2 with 5 and three with six, with a few variations when it comes to secret levels and boss levels.
Famous tunes like the anthem of the Nazi Party, Horst-Wessel-Lied, appeared as theme music, and in- game although slightly altered and darker sounding. Other tracks include “God Save the King”, as well as a track with a bonus message hidden in it.
The sound effects in game mostly included those of gun shots, both from the player’s weapons and those of the enemy, as well doors opening, secret walls being pushed, and other sounds when pickups were collected. There was little to no atmospheric or ambient sound present.
The enemies shouted things at the player in German when spotted, and what was said depended on what enemy type it was. They also had some very amusing death shrieks.
There’s little change in the sound, except for the ricochet sounds when bullets hit doors in the NewWolf port.
Mark McWane has taken to recreating tracks from old games into mp3 and OGG formats. He has, to date, made an mp3 titled Wondering About My Loved Ones or just Wondering, the theme song for Wolf 3D’s menu section.
NewWolf with High Res TexturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
While the game was still in early development stages, there were more complex features in the game, like dragging dead bodies, swapping uniforms with fallen guards and silent attacks. These ideas were dropped however, since they drastically slowed the game down (gameplay and probably framerate wise too) and made the controls complicated.
After selecting the episode you wish to play, and the difficulty mode, you are placed at the beginning of the first level. You start off with a pistol resembling a Luger, with eight bullets. Your objective is to reach the exit of the level and go up to the next via elevator. Along the way you will find pickups like ammunition for your weapons, a machinegun, and a chaingun. There are also health kits, food, dog food, and in severe cases, pools of blood that serve to replenish your health.
The player can find secret areas which are accessed by push walls, where he will usually find treasure, which will increase his score, which achieves two things. First it can give you extra lives when you reach a certain amount, and when you finish the episode, your ultimate score goes on the hall of fame high score board. Other things that can lead to bonus scores and extra lives are 100% kills, 100% treasure, and 100% secrets, when you reach your level stats screen.
You also have to find silver and gold keys that open special doors.
In the player’s way through all of this are guards, officers, attack dogs, and SS sentries, as well as the boss character at the end of each episode. You obviously have to kill them.
You can play with the keyboard, mouse or a joystick. Player movements include moving forwards, backwards, turning left and right, and strafing. The player can also sprint. There is no jumping or crouching. Keys also include an attack button. Wolfenstein 3D is the only id game, besides Spear of Destiny, which didn’t feature any head bobbing or movement swaying.
NewWolf features an automap, similar to what you would find in Duke Nukem 3D or Shadow Warrior. This makes it easier to find secret areas and to find your way out of mazes and into the elevator at the end of the floor.
All in all, there are six episodes for Wolfenstein 3D which equals 60 levels. There is no multiplayer option.
There are only four weapons, and only a few enemy types. The gameplay is quite repetitive, with level design while interesting in some cases, kind of bland after a while. There are a few challenging yet frustrating maze like levels that might take a while longer to complete. The only reason you’d want to play it through again is to perhaps try to find all the secret areas.
One thing to do with Wolfenstein is speedruns, which I was doing before I had even heard of the term. I would try and get through episode 3 in the quickest time.
Wolfenstein has a mission pack called "Wolfenstein 3D Super Upgrades". It can be downloaded as a zip file from the 3D Realms website. It contains Wolf Creator, a random map generator; MapEdit, a level editor/creator; and replacement gamefiles for the original game. It comprises at least 800 new levels.
Observations and other comments
On two Wolfenstein 3D covers, you’ll see that after being kicked by B.J., one of the Germans drops what looks like an M16 assault rifle or derivative thereof. This is a chronological error, as WW II took place from 1939 to 1945, and M16s weren’t used until the 1960s by the Americans, much less the Germans.
In the NewWolf source port, there are a few things I’ve noticed. The spelling of “Achtung” is incorrect. The machinegun has been remodeled to look more like an MP 40, and the pistol to look more like a Luger, two authentic German weapons used in WW II. One of the portraits, the eagle, looks like it has been drawn by a child.
In the original game, the L+I+M cheat reset your score to nil. In NewWolf, you are given a list of available cheat codes, one of them being ‘goobers’, the equivalent to L+I+M, meaning it gives you all keys, full health, guns and ammo, but it doesn’t reset the score.
Bugs and other issues
In the NewWolf port, there are a few issues such as clipping, and bad textures.
With NewWolf still being in beta, the episodes don’t end like they did in the original. After killing a boss or running towards the exit, there is no end cinematic or exit to the victory screen in most cases. You will just have to exit the episode and start a new episode that way.
What I think of Wolfenstein 3D now
I have always been a fan of World War II and I am fascinated with the history of it. This was the first WW II based game I ever played, and replaying it was a joy, as it brought back many memories.
The levels are all familiar though and so they were easy to navigate, since I played them so many times in the past.
There are a number of ports out there for the game, and it still seems to have quite a following. NewWolf is my favourite seeing as it supports high res textures and shows great potential.
Other notable Wolfenstein 3D-inspired fan projects
There is a mod for Doom 3, aiming to recreate Wolf 3D in the Doom 3, or id Tech 4, engine. The project has been ‘put on ice’ according to the person behind it.
What do you think of Wolfenstein 3D?
© 2009 ANDR01D