Friday, May 5, 2017

Wolfenstein 3D (DOS) Review

Quick warning before reading this for anyone in Germany. The blog may have sensitive material that may not be readable in that country. I apologize if you can't read this in that country. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Impressions go a very long way. With their big publisher in Apogee for support in distribution, Id Software unleashed Wolfenstein 3D to the masses on May 5, 1992. While not the first first person game, it is the first person shooter to get people interested in a genre that would grow to mass popularity within two years. Does the game hold up after 25 years, though? I say it does, but it definitely has some rough edges.

Wolfenstein was actually a series made in the early 80s by Muse Software. The two titles that preceded 3D were a lot different in that you had to sneak your way past guards through disguises and passes, kind of like some levels of Medal of Honor. Muse would shut down in 1987 and Id was able to get the copyright for Wolfenstein.

You are B.J. Blazkowicz, He is one of the allies top spies in World War II. Some of his adventures include stopping chemical war to escaping a castle to figure out what Hitler's planning with whatever crazy schemes he was cooking up. One thing I'll say with Id is that they are not the best when it comes to making stories. That being said, it was decent enough back in 92.

With the engine John Carmack had, Wolfenstein 3D shows the amount of progress made going back to Hovertank. More detail was put into the enemy sprites, though they are 2D. The bosses are pretty big. The walls have decent detail and color while plastered with Nazi swastikas and Hitler pictures. Like the other 3D efforts, there isn't any walls or ceilings, but that's a given. It overall looks fantastic.

While not the first time they did a soundtrack, Robert Prince's music for Wolfenstein 3D is excellent. There is that sense of action with certain themes and others with that dreary and suspenseful sense. It really fits with some of the levels. Sound effects are minimal but acceptable. It's mostly doors opening, enemies shouting German phrases and guns firing. This game doesn't use audio like successors such as Doom and Quake, which I'll explain in a little bit. Nevertheless, it's amazing what Id could do with DOS hardware.

Id followed a formula that stood out in the 90s and what others tried to make better or worse. For Wolfenstein 3D, the formula is basic enough. As Blazkowicz, you are looking for keys to get access to locked doors. That's where exits are in most of the game. Alone, there hundreds upon hundreds of Nazis awaiting to put you in the afterlife. From Guards to dogs, they will damage you pretty bad up close to where gunshots can net almost all your health.

The game is pretty similar to platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog and even Id's Commander Keen. Unlike succeeding first person shooters, you kill enemies, you earn points. Scattered throughout levels are treasure which grants you even more points. Getting 40 thousand nets you an extra life, which will seem very strange if you play this for the first time in today's age. Lose all your lives or finish an episode, you can potentially put your name on the high score list.

There are 60 levels with six episodes. For each one, there are nine regular levels and a secret one. They start off small, but as you gradually get through the levels and game, they get bigger and bigger with quite a bit of complexity. Secrets are a plenty in Wolfenstein. Getting all kills, secrets and treasure get you bonus points, as well as beating the par time if you are quick enough in some levels. Each episode ends with a boss, which provide you quite a bit of ammo and health.

Only four weapons are in the game, with a knife and pistol as your only firepower. You can upgrade to a machine gun and chaingun with ammo up to 99 rounds. My only complaint is losing a life resulting in only having a pistol and eight rounds. Health pickups are common. From dog food to medkits, you can healed pretty well. Extra lives are useful, and double as treasure.

As far as options go, there isn't too much. You can load and save games anytime. Due to this being on Windows 3.1 at the time, screen size can be changed due to operating systems not always being the strongest. Sound effects can be changed from digital to PC Speaker ones or off. There is a read this section that explains the game a little bit like the manual, but also how to order the game in certain countries, what Id is, and quotes from some of the people making the game at the time. Quitting to the DOS line will result in messages trying to persuade players to get back to playing it.

Wolfenstein 3D is a great game, but there are only a few things I would complain about. Without a map, some levels are next to impossible due to either complexity or reusing the same walls and textures. It's easy to get lost sometimes The getting killed part as mentioned earlier is frustrating sometimes. Audio is more of a very minor nitpick in that you won't know where certain enemies are and it will scare you hear a gunshot from someone behind you and you lose a good chunk of your health. Other than that, it's a very solid game.

The difficulty is good to a little hard. You're going to get 8 to 12 hours of play or more. Value is there in replaying certain levels and trying to get a better score. Check out Wolfenstein 3D. Unless you get it for Steam, it isn't too common or cheap. Let's celebrate 25 years of one of the great titles to kick off a genre that would get better as the decade went on.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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