Retro Game Wednesday #13 – Wolfenstein 3D

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam. — Title:  Wolfenstein 3D Genre:  FPS/Nazi Murderin’ Simulator Developer: Apogee/iD Software Release Date: 5 May, 1992 Price (at time […]

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.

Title:  Wolfenstein 3D
Genre:  FPS/Nazi Murderin’ Simulator
Developer: Apogee/iD Software
Release Date: 5 May, 1992
Price (at time of review): $4.99

In an age where violence in video games becomes more and more controversial every time somebody who doesn’t play video games forms an opinion about them, it’s important to identify acceptable targets for wholesale digital murder. For example, no one feels particularly controversial about blowing away hordes of zombies in games like Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor, while the same premise involving wide-eyed orphans was rather less well received when I pitched it to Valve. To quote Gabe Newell on the subject, ‘Security!’.

The distinction seems to be somewhere in the perceived humanity of the digital thing you are being asked to violently dismember. Nobody minds killing zombies because hey, they’re zombies, not people. You’re MEANT to kill them in the bloodiest ways you can think of. It’s the same with stormtroopers – you can’t see their faces, you’re just dismembering ambulatory suits of armour. Suits of armour that scream.

But there’s one way around this rule. There’s one group of people nobody feels bad about killing en masse, one subset of human beings that are an acceptable target for our digital bullets. 9/10 action heroes agree, you can cut a swath through them with a chaingun completely guiltlessly, whether you can see their faces or not.

I’m talking about Nazis. Everybody loves killing Nazis, except Hitler, and you don’t want to be like Hitler.

Do you?!


The Nazis decided to screw with you, despite the fact that your name is B.J. Blazkowicz. Demonstrate to them why this was unwise. I mean, honestly, look at that Nazi up there. Does this whole situation look like it’s gonna end well for him? No. His day is about to be ruined, and so is everyone else in Germany. They really didn’t think this through. Just like that whole Ark of the Covenant thing.


  • Crawl through six episodes of Nazi villainy, taking both their Nazi lives and their Nazi gold.
  • Secret walls are everywhere, and a staggering four different weapons are available to be found.
  • Enemies include Nazis, more Nazis, big Nazis, Nazi dogs, Nazi zombies, and Hitler, agreed by most experts to be the Boss Nazi.
  • Also, he drives a mech with four chainguns.
  • I mean, I consider that a selling point, don’t you?


  • The extent of level complexity is ‘confusing mazes’ and ‘rooms full of lots of dudes’.
  • This can get very samey if you’re looking to go through all six episodes.
  • It’s not even really ‘3d’ in the modern sense – all the rooms are the same height and nothing can actually be on top of anything else.
  • The ‘extra lives’ feature is hilariously pointless, as you can save at any time.


I’m not gonna say it’s perfect. I’m not even gonna say it holds up well. But it costs five bucks, it’s a decent coffee break kind of game, and you get to shoot at Hitler. And deep down, don’t we all want to shoot at Hitler? 5/10


If Doom is the granddaddy of first person shooters, this is the great grand-daddy, or maybe the grandma, I don’t know, I really didn’t think this metaphor all the way through.

Anyway, the point is they look similar and there’s a reason for that. This is the really old one – it laid down all the foundations that Doom would later build on, featuring much of the same production team as well. But even though it’s only a year older, it’s much more primitive, both visibly and in feeling.

Because of that, it’s easy to overlook a lot of the features in this game that were groundbreaking or at least very interesting at the time. Enemies weren’t always aware of your presence, for one, and they could only be alerted if they saw you or had a direct chain of open doors to actually hear gunfire through – part of a small nod to the stealth gameplay of the original Castle Wolfenstein. What’s more, to add actual depth to this primitive ‘stealth’ feature, this was one of the first games that had multidirectional enemy sprites. To rephrase that in language normal people understand, the enemies were not always facing you, and could in fact face and move in eight different directions. The exception to this is the bosses – they face in only one direction and can always shoot at you, to make them harder to fight.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, especially compared to Doom, released only a year and a half later. But the sound was a different matter, again, pushing the envelope of what was possible at the time – the game contained digitized voice samples for every enemy – adding, in a small but vital way, to what little immersion was then possible with the technology.

As for the level design, it’s not much, really. It consists of increasingly complex mazes and rooms full of increasingly dangerous enemies. This isn’t a game you want to run through like a marathon – I prefer to suggest you take it in fifteen minute spurts for a coffee break. It’s not the kind of game you’ll get lost in, but it’s still fun enough to eat up a few minutes before you get your butler to make you another martini and go back to work on your next video game article.

Plus you get to shoot Hitler. I mentioned that, right?


This baby comes off Steam pre-configured to run through DOSBox, and it did so flawlessly for me. If it doesn’t work for you, I guess I could point and laugh at you if it makes you feel better but I can’t see why it would.


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