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Video Game: Wolfenstein 3D

Dying SS soldier

Wolfenstein 3D is a shareware game developed by id Software in just two months, and published by Apogee Software in May, 1992. Often regarded as the first true First-Person Shooter; although very primitive entries in the genre had been available since 1973, it's the Trope Codifier, and pretty much any modern FPS traces its gameplay lineage back to it. (Apogee's Rise of the Triad was an even more direct successor, being built on top of the Wolf 3D codebase.)

The story is simplicity itself: American soldier B.J. Blazkowicz is imprisoned in the Nazi prison Wolfenstein, and must walk through endless corridors, find keys and shoot Nazis until he escapes. Following chapters, which could be mail-ordered, had somewhat more out-there storylines, with Operation: Eisenfaust requiring you to thwart a Nazi doctor performing horrible biological experiments, and Die, Fuhrer, Die! allowing you to take down Adolf Hitler himself. As he attacks you in an armored battle suit with quad-miniguns. There's also a prequel trilogy of episodes, entitled the "Nocturnal Missions", in which B.J. assassinates a Nazi chemical weapons scientist (A Dark Secret), uncovers his plans for a chemical war (Trail of the Madman) and finally kills the general carrying it out (Confrontation).

Wolfenstein 3D was a reimagining of the original Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, 2D Stealth-Based Games released in the 1980s. It was followed by Spear of Destiny in 1992, and in 1994 by "Return To Danger" and "Ultimate Challenge", two further missions for Spear of Destiny.

Wolfenstein 3D was also released for the SNES, created by Wisdom Tree. They also produced an unlicensed Christian-themed modification (Read: level-for-level copy) based on the SNES port, Super 3D Noah's Ark, which changed the guns into a fruit-shooting slingshot and the enemy soldiers into animals. Rumor has it Apogee willingly let them use the engine, being angered at the Wolf 3D's bowdlerization at Nintendo's hands.

Now online to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Get Psyched! (and ruin your productivity...).

Followed canonically with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which revived the franchise in 2001.

Check the character sheet.

Recurring tropes from the Wolfenstein series include:

  • America Wins the War: And even kills Hitler!
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: While not every boss is a High Value Target/commander, every one of them is a boss, even the scientist characters.
  • Bad Boss Fat Bastard: General Fettgesicht (Fat Face) from Episode 6: Confrontation.
  • Elite Mooks: SS Guards and Officers.
  • Gatling Good: Aside of the bosses, the Gatling Gun is the player's ultimate weapon.
  • Ghostapo: The supernatural occurences in Spear of Destiny, what with Blazkowicz facing Satan himself!.
  • Gratuitous German: Someone even compiled a list with all of the instances. This was fixed in the Spear of Destiny's "Lost Episodes" with actual German actors.
    "SCHUTZSTAFFEL!"
    *is shot* "MEIN LEBEN!"
  • 100% Completion: The game scores you on enemies, treasure and secrets found in each level, although getting all 100%/100%/100%s is physically impossible on at least one level (E2M8 due to a lot of mutually exclusive secrets) and technically impossible on a few (E5M5, E5M8, E6M2, E6M7 and E6M8 all have secret walls that, due to an engine bug, push a square too far, either blocking off an area containing treasure or parking on the treasure itself rendering it inaccessible). It is possible to circumvent the bug with some trickery by pausing the game just as the pushback wall moves two spaces; if done correctly it should stop.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: "Can I play, Daddy?", "Don't hurt me!", "Bring 'em on!" and "I am Death incarnate!"
  • Large and in Charge: The bosses are all about 8 feet tall. Even the two scientist characters. The only exception is Hitler himself, and even he is about 7 feet tall once you get him outside of his Power Armor.
  • More Dakka: All three weapons are effectively the same weapon and use the same ammo. The only difference is the firing rate.
  • Nazi Gold: Collect it for scorepoints.
  • No Swastikas: The SNES version had, by Nintendo's request, all swastikas and other Nazi imagery removed, the attack dogs turned into giant rats, and Hitler modified to be just a "generic" dictator (by shaving off his mustache and calling him Staatmeister).
  • One-Man Army: Blazkowicz, duh.
  • Those Wacky Nazis

Get Psyched!:

  • Advancing Boss of Doom: Most of the game's bosses are fought in standard arenas with plenty of room to manuever around them.
  • Blatant Item Placement: With ammo and food found on the floor.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The Hitler Ghosts in the last level of episode 3. They have boss-like health (about 33% the health of a normal boss), which is probably meant to fool you into thinking the first one is really the final boss.
  • Boss-Only Level: The only opponent in Level 9 of episode 1 is the boss, Hans Grosse.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The Episode 3 secret level is pretty brutal, but brilliant fun too, while the Episode 4 secret level is practically a death trap unless you know the exact route to the exit (or are just plain crazy!). Episode 6's secret level is fairly easy if you just want to exit quickly, but if you are seeking 100% completion, it is arguably the hardest map in the entire game.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Guards can open locked doors at will. Normally this could be justified by the guards carrying the keys, except that you rarely find one that drops a key upon death.
  • Chest Blaster: The mutants in episode 2 have guns implanted in their chests, meaning they can fire at you instantly while other enemies need to take a half-second or so to aim first.
  • Critical Hit
    • On occasion, if you manage to shoot a Nazi before it is alerted, you can kill him in 1-2 shots. This is especially noticeable with SS Guards who normally require several hits to die as they have about twice the Hit Points of most guard types. Whether this is pure luck or not is ultimately found in the source code for the game.
    • This works both ways unfortunately. If an enemy gets the drop on you and shoots you at point-blank range, you will almost certainly lose over half your health. The Mutants are the most infamous for doing this because of their unreal reaction time.
  • Continuing Without Save Scumming Is Painful: Aside from losing a life, dying also removes all your weapons and ammo except for a pistol and 8 bullets. Good luck fighting your way to the nearest machine gun.
  • Cut and Paste Environments
  • Doing in the Wizard : The mutants, while undead-looking, are a result of scientific rather than supernatural experimentation, and the flying, fireball-shooting Hitler Ghosts are, according to the Return to Castle Wolfenstein manual, decoys hung from the ceiling by wires.
  • Dog Food Diet: You can eat dog food for health.
  • Dummied Out:
    • "Call Apogee, Say Aardwolf!" It's still there (E2M8), if you know how to get to it.
    • In the PS3 version of Wolfenstein 3D, the Pac-Man ghosts are removed from E3M10, possibly due to copyright reasons, and replaced with Hitler Ghosts, taking out the fun quirk that makes the secret level famous.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The easiest level, "Can I play, Daddy?", is symbolized by an icon of Blazkowicz in a baby bonnet.
  • Every Forty Thousand Points
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Die, Fuhrer, Die! chapter has a souped up Hitler as the boss.
  • Expansion Pack: The "Lost Episodes" of Spear of Destiny, which consist of two new 21-level episodes with most of the graphics and sounds replaced (and a rather thin plot consisting of "the Nazis stole the Spear back; go get it again"). None of the "new" weapons or enemies actually behave any differently due to that data being hard-coded into the executable, however, and the second expansion inexplicably features the same bosses as the first.
  • Fake Difficulty:
    • Unfortunately, the game engine can only support a certain number of sprites on screen at any one time before it stops drawing them. Certain levels, notably E4M10, suffer from Fake Difficulty when the enemies turn invisible.
    • A large part of the challenge of playing the game on the PC is the inability to strafe sideways like in a modern FPS, even when using mouselook (you have to hold down a seperate key to strafe, which also prevents you from looking left and right); this is corrected on the modern console ports of the game, as well as the unofficial Open GL port.
  • Foreboding Architecture: The Original blueprints were leaked from Apogee and now everybody's doing it.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Enemies cannot hit each other, and their shots will go straight to you even if blocked.
  • Game Engine: Used in Rise of the Triad.
  • Game Mod: There's a mod community for the game; while not as expansive or well-known as that of Doom, they still have created a lot of mapsets and entire new games (thanks to the code being released, most mods modify the game code in extensive ways.)
  • Genre Shift: The first two Castle Wolfenstein games are top-down stealth games, while the games from 3D onward are First Person Shooters.
  • Giant Mook: In terms of attack pattern, damage output, and health, the bosses are pretty much equivalent to a modern FPS Giant Mook.
  • Glass Cannon: The player. You can die very easily in Wolfenstein 3D, especially at close range, but your enemies are even more fragile. If you're quick you can mow down droves of Nazis with the chaingun before they get the chance to react.
  • Gorn: Some of the boss deaths are surprisingly graphic and over-the-top (complete with a "Let's see that again!" replay.)
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: The quotes when you try the exit the game, which Doom also copied.
    "For guns and glory, press N. For work and worry, press Y."
  • Hit Scan: Given its primitive status, almost all weapons (with the exception of the projectile weapons wielded by some bosses and the Fake Hitlers' fireballs) are done like this.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Just a quick glance at the list of potential titles id Software had considered before choosing the Wolfenstein name reveals several groaners, including Luger's Run, Luger Me Now, Tank You Very Much and Castle Hasselhoff.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Food restores health.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Just barely counts as an example. The knife, Luger, and MP40 are all things you could reasonably expect someone to carry. The Chaingun? Not so much.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: If your health is in the single digits, you can drink human blood for an extremely small (only a couple points) health boost.
  • Joke Level: E3M10, a Pac-Man stage also known as "Wolf Pack".
  • Kaizo Trap
    • Some of the exit elevators have Elite Mooks waiting in them, or are outright fake, so don't let down your guard.
    • Most episodes end once you kill the boss. At most, the boss drops a key that opens the door to the end of the level. The main exception is Episode 5. After you beat Gretel Grosse, the key she drops leads to a room where an entire platoon of Elite Mooks is waiting for you. This can be quite a nasty surprise if you were expecting a clear run to the exit.
  • Loading Screen:
    GET PSYCHED!
  • Luck-Based Mission: Not only is the damage done by enemies random, the variation is huge; a basic pistol shot can take off anything from 3% of your health to almost half of your total health. Shots from longer range generally do less damage, but a close-range shot can still just wing you, and a long distance shot can seriously hurt you. The damage of your own bullets is random as well.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Uber-Mutant from Spear of Destiny (and his Lost Episodes palette-swapped counterpart, Hans "The Axe" von Schlieffen), is even tougher than a regular boss and moves faster than any other enemy in the game other than the attack dogs.
  • The Maze: Quite a few of the levels have mazes, but the most extreme example is the Aardwolf maze in E2M8.
    • E3M7 has a very large one you need to clear to find the secret exit. The entrance to it is also hidden, as there is no key to the locked door that leads to it (there's a pushwall just to the left of the door). Even with a map you'll still probably get lost a few times.
  • Meaningless Lives: Dying puts you back at the beginning of the level with only a pistol and 8 rounds, and you have the ability to save anywhere, so...
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Spear of Destiny, technically a Mission Pack Prequel.
  • Nintendo Hard: A classic example. This is an old school game with an old school difficulty level. Enemies can kill you in just 3 or 4 shots at full health, are all equipped with Hit Scan weapons, and health and ammo is a lot more scarce than in Doom or Quake. Charging blindly into a room guns blazing like in Doom is a good path to "Nazi bullet bumrape". Instead more methodical room-clearing is encouraged, especially on the higher difficulties.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: While it doesn't end your game, if Dr. Schabbs, the boss of episode 2, kills you with his syringes, then instead of your head being all caved in and dead (see Shows Damage below), it turns gray and zombie-like (the stuff in the syringes turns you into a mutant).
  • No Fair Cheating: cheating for full ammo will deny you the chance to get a high score.
  • No-Gear Level: Sort of. The game starts with a prison break, but the player quickly obtains 2 of the 3 guns in the game.
  • Path of Greatest Resistance: If a room is filled with bodies, you've already been there.
  • Patriotic Fervor: One of the boss themes mixes in bits of Yankee Doodle and Star-Spangled Banner with the main Wolfenstein theme.
  • Puzzle Boss: The secret level in Episode 4 looks like a run, shoot and hope job. It's actually a maze - there's a path from start to finish that goes past the backs of the guards without any of them seeing you. (Follow the blood spatters on the walls.)
  • Secret Level: Once an Episode.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • Guards can open locked doors at will, and if you're clever (or lucky), you can use this to your advantage by killing them in the doorway, leaving it wedged open, thus allowing you to progress without the necessary key. In fact, one level (E4M7) is designed with this in mind.
    • Other levels have secrets that bypass a good portion of the level; for example, in E3M6, a secret allows you to obtain the silver key without having to face the room of Elite Mooks right before it.
  • Shareware
  • Shout-Out:
    • E3M10. Wakka wakka.
    • A couple to id's previous game, Commander Keen. The hint sheet for the game gives a brief biography of B.J. Blazkowicz, including revealing that he's Keen's grandfather. Also, try inputting the cheat code from episodes 4-6 and you'll get a message saying "Commander Keen is also available from Apogee but then, you already know that - right Cheatmeister?!" It even still works in versions not sold by Apogee. See a pic of the box here.
  • Shows Damage: As you soak up damage, the face in the status bar becomes more beaten and bloodied.
  • Sigil Spam: Well, the real Nazis emblazoned swastikas onto everything too, although we're pretty sure they didn't actually create whole levels shaped like them (E6M3).
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Each soldier uses a different Gratuitous German phrase, except for the Apple Macintosh port (Where they all share the same pool of phrases) and the SNES port. (Where, due to being Bowdlerised, they don't even speak German. Like the Mac port, they all use the same generic sound pool, but with the thoughtful addition of having different human enemies will speak with different voice-pitches).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Surprisingly, the Pac-Man music on E3M10 is quite sharply contrasted with you running for your life!
  • Third Is 3D: With easy Sequel Displacement.
  • Turns Red: Once you smash his Powered Armor, Hitler runs out to fight you. He's noticeably faster on foot, and is in fact faster than any of the other bosses in the original 6 episodes. He has somewhat less health, though.
  • Universal Ammunition: The three original guns all share the same pool of ammunition, though in the case of the first two it's justified (the Luger and MP40 do both fire 9mm bullets). The Mac, 3DO and SNES ports added a flamethrower and rocket launcher which had their own ammo pools.
  • Unwinnable by Design
    • Whatever you do, in the pushback mazes of E2M8, E4M2 and E6M10, don't box yourself in! If you do, let's hope you saved at the start of the level, otherwise you have to start the episode all over again.
    • You can do something similar in E2M9 and trap yourself in the health room if you push the three secret walls in a particular way.
    • E4M7: This level is unique in that the locked doors are purposefully designed to be opened by enemies that are alerted to your gunshots. If you fail to keep the first door wedged open with a soldier's body, or are seeking 100% completion, you can easily get locked out unless you find its key - wouldn't be a problem, except it is behind a small pushwall puzzle that, if you mess up, leaves you trapped and unable to progress. Worse, the one pushwall that prevents you from getting the key has an eagle glyph on it, enticing you to press it, while the correct ones are unmarked.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: The ending of episodes 1 and 5.

Wacky WheelsCreator/Apogee SoftwareWord Rescue
WolfensteinCreator/id SoftwareReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
Wolfenstein (2009)Mature RatingXCOM: Enemy Unknown
Wild GunsSuper Nintendo Entertainment SystemWonder Project J
Castle WolfensteinDiesel PunkReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
Theme ParkAtari JaguarWorms
WitchavenIBM Personal ComputerWord Rescue
UninvitedUsefulNotes/Apple ][Zaxxon
WolfensteinFirst-Person ShooterReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
Castle WolfensteinVideoGame/WolfensteinReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
Castle WolfensteinWorks Set in World War IIReturn to Castle Wolfenstein
Wing CommanderVideo Games of the 1990sWonder Project J
With Friendsi OS GamesZaccaria Pinball
Wonder Boy In Monster WorldSteamWolfenstein
Drill MoleImageSource/Video GamesFirst-Person Shooter
WizardryUsefulNotes/Apple MacintoshWorms

alternative title(s): Wolfenstein 3 D
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