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LGR – Wolfenstein 3D – DOS PC Game Review

September 5, 2019


♪♪ [typing] Well, it seems as if the next Wolfenstein game is out. It’s quite new. And orderly. But that’s not quite my style. At least, not for the purposes of this video today. Let’s go ahead and take a look at the Old Order of Wolfenstein. And of course, that is the one and only… Wolfenstein 3D, developed by id Software and published by
Apogee Software in 1992 for MS-DOS PCs. You’ll hear some
pronounce it “Wolfen-STEEN,” but the people behind it stay “Wolfen-STINE,” so that’s what I’m going with. In fact, it was originally going to be an update of sorts to the Castle Wolfenstein games by Muse Software, so the naming goes back a good ways. Anyway, while it was eventually ported to
every capable gaming platform under the sun, Wolfenstein 3D was originally
released as shareware on May 5, 1992. Shareware meant that you could
download the first episode for free and pay $35 for the remaining two
episodes if you liked the first one. If you were REALLY into the game, you could pay $50 and get three
more episodes on top of that, named the “Nocturnal Missions,” which act as prequel episodes to the first three. And although this was Apogee’s first 3D game, this was not the first 3D game by the guys at Id. Prior to blowing the PC gaming
public away with Wolf 3D, the same team released a game for Softdisk Publishing called Hovertank 3D. It was a first-person 3D game
where you controlled a hovering tank, shooting at weird creatures while trying to rescue hostages, and was released for Softdisk’s bimonthly
PC game subscription service, Gamer’s Edge. Hovertank used a very early
version of the same game engine that went on to power Wolfenstein, but even then, there was still
another iteration to come, used in another game they made for Softdisk called Catacomb 3-D. It was important because it not only improved
the tech with texture-mapped walls and such, but it removed the feeling of being inside a vehicle and placed the gamer directly into the action. You played from the perspective of
a wizard with an outstretched hand, running around mazes and totally vulnerable to direct attack by the enemy. Now while these games were important
milestones that pointed towards the future, they only saw limited distribution and recognition. However, with Apogee’s help, and the fact that the game was completely awesome, Wolfenstein 3D was an unprecedented success, with sales surpassing 100,000
by the end of 1993 worldwide. Well, pretty much everywhere except Germany, because this guy just had to go and ruin everything, resulting in prohibited sales
for anything with Nazi imagery. Id wagered they could sell even more
copies if they sold the game in stores, but Apogee didn’t do retail releases. So in 1993, they teamed up with
GT Software and released this version. It contained the latest six-
episode game that Apogee sold, but in a sleek new box with some extra stuff inside: It featured a topless Kurt Russell-
looking man-dude on the front, kicking soldiers in the face while shooting down the sky. And of course, a slew of buzz words
and other marketing jargon on the back to finalize the sale. And if that didn’t grab your attention, they eventually strapped a shareware
version of Doom to the package to tempt you even further. Inside the box, you got the game on two 3½-inch double-density floppy disks, a manual covering the backstory, installation details, control scheme, and way more details on everything
in the game than anyone really needed, and a flyer prodding you to buy
Commander Keen: Goodbye, Galaxy! Obviously, I listened. You also got the official hint manual for all six episodes, which was only previously available
as a $10 extra from Apogee. This is freakin’ awesome, containing not only every map,
secret, and useful tip you could ask for, but tons of trivia about the game’s
development and other assorted quips from the guys at id Software. Start the game up and you’re
greeted with a practically useless, yet undeniably captivating
screen showing your PC specs. Really just geek fodder for showing off
your RAM and sound card capabilities. And after a self-imposed rating
of “Profound Carnage 13,” you get the title screen, featuring an AdLib rendition of the
Horst-Wessel-Lied Nazi party theme, plus the protagonist doing something
you can’t do in the game at all. But who cares? He looks BAMF! A very red main menu is next, featuring all sorts of options that menus mainly feature. And when you try to quit the game, you get the now-classic Id game taunts belittling you into continuing to play the game, as if they were payed by how many
hours you spent playing or something. You also get an interactive story book of sorts where it’s revealed that you’re
Captain William J. “B.J.” Blazkowicz. World War II is at its peak, and you’ve just escaped from a cell in a Nazi dungeon. You were on a recon mission nearby, but it turns out you sucked at it, got captured by the enemy, and thrown into the prison of a
massive fortress known as Wolfenstein. It’s up to you to stop suckin’, kill some Nazis and escape with the plans for something
important that really doesn’t matter because this is an FPS from 1992. Start a new game and choose
from any one of these six episodes, keeping in mind that 4 through 6 are
prequels to the main prison break story. Really doesn’t matter, though, except for a
screen or two at the end of each episode, so just choose your level of wimpiness and GET PSYCHED! [“Get Them!” MIDI drumbeat] [steel door opens] “Achtung!” (Alert!) [gunshots] In Wolfestein 3D, you run around and shoot dudes until you find a door that lets you exit the level. the end. Okay, so the basic gameplay is absurdly simple and could be called clichéd nowadays, but there’s a reason for that. This is often referred to as the
granddaddy of first-person shooters, because this is where that clichéd gameplay and all those first-person
shooter conventions started. And while the core structure of
what makes a typical FPS nowadays was refined and set in stone
with the later game Doom, Wolfenstein 3D set up all
the notable core framework. You’re a badass alpha male character, starting off with basically nothing. Just a pistol with a bit of
ammo and your melee attack, in this case a knife. Wander around opening doors and collecting anything useful while shooting anything that moves in the meantime. You can walk, run, strafe, shoot and interact, but there’s no need to jump because, there is no
height variance in the levels. And even though this stuff was
done due to technical limitations, come to think of it, it’s not very different
from the campaigns of many modern shooters. Except for one big difference, and that is that the levels
here are straight up mazes. No corridor shooting in sight. Each level is seemingly more
complex and sprawling than the last. Honestly, it’s my biggest complaint about the game, because it’s just so darned easy to get lost because of the lack of texture variety, and the fact that everything is
built from tiles at a 90-degree angle! It leads to a crapload of backtracking, if you’ve not yet memorized the layout, and get insanely tedious way before the game’s sixty levels are through. While you can finish an entire
episode in five to ten minutes if you’ve played it endlessly
and just memorized everything, it often takes that long just to finish a
single level the first few times around. And seeing as the exact same formula applies to just about every level in the game, this gets old fast. Granted, as a kid, I didn’t care at all. Because that’s because I was a kid and this whole concept of first-person
action and exploration was new. Going back and playing it now,
it really shows its age and I rarely play more than a
handful of levels at a time. Then again, maybe it was just designed for this mastery through
memorization and repetition. Seeing as it features a
scoring and lives system just like an arcade game. Plus, it’s often brutally difficult and even completely unforgiving
on the higher difficulties. Nazi soldiers, attack dogs, SS officers and even mutants
will pop out from behind corners and chase you don’t if they
so much as hear a peep from your general direction. And thankfully,
killing is constantly satisfying. Seriously, you just get into a trance-like state of mind, mowing down dude after dude, anticipating their hiding spots, outrunning their aim and taking them down with increasing firepower. You may start off with a pistol, but if you look in the right
places, you’ll soon find an automatic machine gun and one freakin’ powerful chain gun, both of which are deeply
satisfying dealers of death. They’re all hitscan guns, though, meaning that they deal
damage as soon as they shoot, so it does feel a bit cheap when an enemy locks onto you and takes
you down from the opposite side of the map, making your face bleed all over
the place for no good reason. But, man, it feels good when the tables are turned and you’re making THEM scream for their life instead. [gunshots]
[SS] (My life!) There are craploads of secrets to discover as well, with most of them lying
behind pushable walls, hiding away things like
guns, ammo and Nazi gold that makes oddly cheery sound
effects when you pick them up. [1-up dinging] Other times, they’ll take you
to an entirely secret level, where things are a lot more purple and other times,
they’re a lot more Pac-Man. Not kidding. There’s a Pac-Man
level in the original game. Perhaps a reference to
the maze-like level design. Or maybe Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde were actually Nazis, and in that case, Pac-Man just
took on a whole new meaning? Then there was the infamous “Aardwolf” sign hidden in the eighth floor of Episode 2. The sign was originally meant for a contest Apogee had planned, but due to people hacking the game
early on and finding all the secrets, they decided it wasn’t a very fair contest. Nevertheless, the sign was left in the game and they ended up receiving
“Aardwolf” phone calls for years. Once you’ve reached the end of an episode, you’re… promptly killed off by a boss. So make sure you save your game beforehand because you lose all your weapons when you die. Ugh, these guys are a huge pain, especially because of that
whole hitscan weapons thing. But of course, there’s some
kind of pattern to figure out as far as when they
attack and how often, so just keep track of
that and move quickly in and out of cover and
you’ll get ’em eventually. Hans Grosse, Dr. Schabbs
and Otto Giftmacher are no match for a
well-timed BJ attack. Even freakin’ Adolf Hitler
tries to kill you by the end. Uh, make that Mecha-Hitler, complete with robo-suit and
overpowered machine gun arms because this game is marvelously ridiculous. [foot stomping] [BJ] Yeah! Now as for which version is best to play, that depends on what you’re looking for. The original game is really where you should start, so either the DOS PC version or the more recent console ports are great starting points. There are also source ports, like ECWolf, which enhances the PC
game with higher resolutions and additional custom control schemes, the latter of which makes it easier to
strafe with a mouse and keyboard or a gamepad on the PC, and makes the game far
more playable in my book. And there are some notable classic ports, like the one for the Apple Macintosh, which featured enhanced graphics,
new music and sound effects, more levels and weapons,
and a slightly smug attitude from thinking different. Finally, there are conversions
with other fascinating things going on, like the Super Nintendo version which features different level designs, an in-game overhead map, new weapons and censorship of things, like blood, gore, dogs
replaced with giant rats and removal of religious and Nazi themes, because Nintendo. And even MORE finally, there’s the
sequel/prequel Spear of Destiny, developed by Id and published by
FormGen in September of 1992. This was only released in stores,
foregoing the shareware model, and was meant to be a retail
companion to Wolfenstein 3D, before GT Software started
selling it in stores the following year. While it doesn’t feature nearly as many levels, it does feature a little bit new
in just about every notable area, other than gameplay,
which is exactly the same. It also received two mission packs which added even more to experience. So, yeah, if you really like
the Wolfenstein formula, there is no shortage of games
to choose from out there. But whichever version you choose to seek out, just keep in mind its repetitious nature and the fact that it’s from the early ’90s, and it could still be fun to go and
mow down some pixelated Nazis. Yeah, it hasn’t aged well, and personally, I’d rather play
Doom any day of the week, but Wolfenstein 3D is a landmark game and it’s worth playing at least once just to see where this all began. In fact, I’d say the historical aspect is
the single-biggest reason to check it out. So if you haven’t in a while,
or somehow never have, it’s time to pay some respect
to your gaming elders and play some Wolf 3D! [“Wondering About My Loved Ones” MIDI music] And if you got some enjoyment out of watching
me talk about killing Nazis in virtual form, you might enjoy watching me
talk about other games in video form. I do more of them every week, so subscribing is not only
appreciated and a bit of an ego boost, but it’s also useful to you if you want
to get notified of when I do more junk. And you can always follow me on Twitter,
Facebook and do Patreon things on Patreon. Also, a big thanks to Dosgamert on YouTube for hooking me up with some late game footage when mine completely crapped out
and would have ruined everything! Check his channel out in the description. And as always, thank you for watching.

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