Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wolfenstein 3D Review, Resources, and DOS vs GBA Comparison

Holy crap look at that dude kick the shit out of those Nazis. He doesn't even need the goddamned machine gun. He's just firing it because he's angry.

Released in 1992, Apogee's (Commander Keen and Jill of the Jungle, later they would become ID software) Wolfenstein 3D was the first first person shooter worth playing. Some early examples like Battlezone might prove to be exceptions, but Wolfenstein 3D and Doom really set the standards of quality for the genre. The music is subtle yet tense, the graphics are realistic for the time, and all the sprites and artwork feel polished, even if enjoyably dated.

Wolfenstein 3D was banned in Germany, and subsequently developed a large cult following among German teenagers because of its restricted status. It's a little harder (impossible) for countries to ban old software for censorship reasons now.

Anyone who grew up in the 90s probably knows this game; it was everywhere. Everyone had this game on PC. Your friend probably gave you a copy on 4 (holy hell) floppies.

Despite the marketable title, it's technically not 3D, but uses a 2D map and "ray-casting" to create a 3D environment similar to the old Windows Maze screensaver. It doesn't get much better than this (unless, of course, you happen to be playing DOOM, but I'll save that review for later).

Originally released as Shareware, the first 10 levels were free, but the next 50 would cost you. Despite this, the game was heavily circulated on BBSes and the early internet. The source code was released in 1995, like many of ID's other games.

You play William Joseph Blazkowicz and you're captured in a Nazi castle. It's going to be a serious pain in the ass to escape. You'll have to defeat zombies, ghosts, nazis, giant Germans, and Hitler himself to escape.

This game is brutally difficult on the default setting. The mazes are disorienting, the damage is hefty, and enemies abound. You'll need to develop your mental mapping skills because you won't have access to any sort of map. Even using an online map will prove somewhat confusing.

The flaws only increase the appeal of the game. The environments are repetitive, but so what? Isn't everything to some degree? Wolfenstein 3D provides a legitimately tense adrenaline rush, and that's just not something you can get from most FPSs these days.

Each level is pretty long, taking an experienced player around 7 minutes to clear, and around 15 (or longer) for a first timer. You can save your game, but you are only provided with a limited number of lives in the beginning. The game is, as mentioned, divided in 6 episodes of 10 levels each, which adds up to hours actions.

Like a lot of things discusses here, you'll of course need DOSBox, a DOS emulator for Windows and Linux. Mac users don't despair, a Macintosh port exists, as well as a PS3, Apple IIGS, Acorn Archimedes, Super NES, Atari Jaguar, Amiga 1200, Game Boy Advance, iPhone, 3DO, Nintendo Wii, and Steam versions. Many versions are censored or altered, so research a version before purchasing.

I have, however, played the GBA version and it is excellent. Wolfenstein 3D fits perfectly on the system, even if the people are somewhat pixelated the controls are smooth and if you find this game cheap, consider it a steal. You could, naturally, take the less-legit route and play the game in VBACE (the only GBA emulator I can recommend, it's light years faster than regular VBA). And google search to coolroms or emuparidise or something for the rom.

You can download the full version of Wolfenstein 3D here. This link'll do for now, I'll upload it to the Postmodern Software download page soon-ish so there can be a permanent link on the page.

One final important consideration: the controls for the windows version are terrible. If you have a gamepad for your PC (why don't you! You can buy a PS1/PS2 to USB for 7 bucks on eBay!) you can use the fantastic, free Joy2Key application to easily map the controls onto ANY gamepad.

If you even hope to make it through the game these days, you'll probably want to start decoding the maps. I'm not sure I understand how to read them, but it should be pretty easy. I just didn't see a map key anywhere but maybe I'm overlooking it. Even if there isn't a key, printing out the first level and decoding it myself would clearly be possible.

If you only print out 10 pages a day no one will notice at work. You can have a really nice Wolfenstein 3D strategy guide. Color printers are a huge plus. If you could get color copies for 15 cents a piece (I doubt it), creating a guide at FedEx would cost $9.00. GameFAQs, of course, has a collection of Wolfenstein 3D guides if you want to be confused by the level AND someone else.

Finally, Wolfenstein 3D serves as a major inspiration on the less-revolutionary, yet-still-more-fun 8bit Killer, a free indie game created by Locomalito. I reviewd the game a long time ago, and a download link has been in the sidebar for years, so you've probably already heard all about it. If you haven't yet played Wolfenstein 3D, you'll immediately notice similarities between level 1-1 and 1-2 and the free-roaming levels in 8bit Killer.

Screenshots from the DOS version. For GBA comparison squint eyes.


X_Legend said...

I could never beat this game. Ever. No matter how hard I tried. Even on easy.

It's like being in a giant lab-maze. Something sick about this game.

mrjordak said...

I wish I was born in the 80s so I could appreciate old FPS games. I look at Wolfenstein 3D, and Doom and just think they look and play horribly.

I mean, this game came out the year I was born.

And the Mega Drive really didn't have enough decent FPS games.

mrjordak said...

Also, what's so different about VBACE? 'cause I currently have VBA and VBA Link, but I use VBA and it seems fine.

8bitcity said...

I can understand Wolf3D, but DOOM looks and plays horribly? Man DOOM has the best FPS graphics ever.

So fucking scary for no reason. It's just a game, but the lights start flickering. The player starts tp panic and then 5 Big Bastards pop out of nowhere and paint the floor with what used to be your body.

You mentioned the play control being bad. You do have to edit the config file to get the mouse to be sensitive enough. I guess people couldn't use mice well in 1992.

Just started playing DOOM again, finally remembered how to get it to work in DOSBox (increase CPU cycles :P) I want to do a Let's Play of one... I'll probably do DOOM, who am I kidding?

8bitcity said...

Oh and X_Legend: I agree completely, nicely said!

thegeniusking said...

I walked into Gamestop today to kill time while my girlfriend was at Old Navy and asked about their game boy advance games, which are no longer on display; I was provided with a printed out list of games. Nothing great on the list (The Mario World's still fetch 20 bucks), but I saw Wolfenstein 3D for $4.99. Having a ball with it.

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