Based on an old Apple II title, Wolfenstein 3D can be considered as one of the most influential games ever released. A title that kicked off one of the most popular genres.
Anyone who owned a PC in the early 90’s might’ve come across an executable file named ‘wolf3d.exe‘. I clearly remember receiving a disk in late ’92, just a couple of month after I got my first PC, a 386-SX running at 25 MHz, with 2 MB of RAM, 1 MB video card and a whooping 40 MB hard drive.
But back to that disk. It was simply labeled Wolf 3D and I had absolutely no clue what to make of it. The first thing that came to my mind was some educational 3D software about wolves. “Oh c’mon, I wanna play games, like shooting stuff, y’know.” Then the title screen appeared and revealed the full name, Wolfenstein 3D, by a company I’ve never heard of before called id Software. “Ah, I know that one, played it years ago on my C64, must be just some remake then” I thought. How right I was… and wrong.
Screenshots (click to enlarge)
You are William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an Allied spy imprisoned in a castle somewhere in Germany during World War 2. Now, one can argue that having “BJ” as your nickname nowadays can be a bit unfortunate, but the game is set during the 1940’s, so let’s just skip over it. Your goal is to
acquire a new nickname make your way to the top floor and escape. Along your way you’ll find keys to open locked doors, new weapons and the occasional secret area… oh, and guards, of course (it’s a shooter after all).
The game itself is based on an old title called Castle Wolfenstein, released in the early 80’s by Muse Software. But unlike the original, where it was more about keeping a low profile, here you basically blast your way through the levels to reach the elevator. And this time around the game puts you in a first person perspective.
Below a list of enemies you will encounter in Wolfenstein 3D (excluding bosses and the secret level Pac-Man ghosts).
Guard: The standard enemy. Slow moving and armed with a weak pistol, these enemies don’t pose too much of a threat.
SS Guard: Armed with a submachine gun and dressed entirely in blue, those fellas take a lot of hits. You will empty quite some clips shooting those guys.
Officer: Fast moving and highly accurate with his pistol. Encounter a couple of them hiding behind a corner and you’re in trouble, son.
Mutant: Perhaps the most annoying of the bunch. Unlike the rest, he won’t make a noise when detecting you and likes to sneak up on clueless players.
Dog: Don’t let that picture fool you. If you’re low on ammo while a dozen dogs charging towards you, run away!
The game was released as shareware in ’92, which meant that the first episode was fully playable, while the rest (a total of six) were locked. And after excessively playing the first episode, up to the point where I started to have dreams of me running through the castle, I just had to have the full game.
Wolfenstein 3D created quite a stir on release. While not truly the first FPS, its fast and smooth graphics, along with the relatively low system requirements, made it an instant talking point among gamers and helped establishing a new genre. That, and the fact you were running through the levels in first person view and shooting at Nazis, I assume. The same year id Software released Spear of Destiny, a spin-off using the same engine with minor modifications, but just one year later they really hit the jackpot with another First-Person shooter, this time with a brand new engine. Yes, that would be Doom, a game that will sooner or later be featured on this humble site, too.
It’s interesting that I’m still able to enjoy Wolfenstein 3D the way I did 22 years ago. Talk about longevity!
Addendum: There’s a huge collection of total conversions at The Wolfenstein 3D Dome. Ever wanted to play a Batman or Doom-themed game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine? Or heavily modified conversions based on the vanilla game? You’ll find it there. The majority are standalone total conversions and don’t require the original game.
And for people who, for whatever reason, don’t like DOSBox there is ECWolf, an advanced source port for modern systems.