Video Game / Wolfenstein 3D
— Dying SS soldier
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 stronghold of Castle 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
. 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
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
A company called Wisdom Tree created an unlicensednote Christian-themed modification
based on the SNES port. Titled Super 3D Noah's Ark
, it changed the guns into a fruit-shooting slingshot and the enemy soldiers into animals.
Console ports include the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, Jaguar, 3DO, Xbox 360 and PS3 (as a downloadable title on the latter two platforms). It is also included as a Game Within a Game
in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
, but with a Perspective Flip
twist: titled "Wolfstone 3D", players assume the role of Elite Hans fighting rebels in order to kill "Terror Billy".It's even available online!
Get Psyched! (and ruin your productivity...)
Followed canonically with Return to Castle Wolfenstein
, which revived
the franchise in 2001.
Check the character sheet
- Actionized Sequel: The first two games in the series, Castle Wolfenstein and especially Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, focused heavily on stealth, and combat was sparse and easily avoidable if the player was skilled (or lucky) enough. Wolfenstein 3D tossed the stealth elements out the window and replaced it with fast-paced action. This decision ultimately helped put the First-Person Shooter genre on the map.
- Advancing Boss of Doom: Most of the game's bosses are fought in standard arenas with plenty of room to maneuver around them as well as pillars or walls to use as cover. The Uber Mutant in Spear of Destiny is the notable exception; the boss fight with him takes place in a series of long, narrow corridors with no place to take cover, so you need to be constantly retreating from him to avoid his attacks.
- Alternate History: The third episode is all about killing Adolf Hitler.
- America Won World War II: And even kills Hitler!
- Authority Equals Asskicking: While not every boss is a High Value Target/commander, every one of them is a huge, hulking badass, even the scientist characters.
- Artificial Brilliance: For its time, Wolfenstein 3D was amazingly realistic and immersive. Enemies would pursue you outside of their room, opening doors in their way and doing anything they can to chase you to the ends of the map. They'll react realistically to your presence (shouting something in digitized German) and will even feel pain when shot. They also hear your gunshots, even if you're not in the same room. At the time of its release, nothing was scarier than shooting a guard in one room and hearing a squad of SS troopers alerted in the next. Enemies also zig-zag and circle instead of charging directly at you in the shortest possible straight line; while most of the time their movement is still predictable, in the right room layouts this movement pattern can allow them to flank you if they get lucky.
- Artificial Stupidity: The AI is rather simplistic for all enemies. Enemies will either stand still or patrol slowly along a given route before encountering you. If one spots you, they'll shout something in German (save the Mutant enemies; part of their danger is that they are silent) and start running toward you, pausing to raise their gun and shoot every so often. If they are hit mid-aim, they cancel that aiming. That's pretty much the entire extent of the AI, and most difficult rooms can be cleared through simply standing at an angle to a door and letting the enemies walk one by one through the door into your weapons. One of the best ways to skip large parts of a level is to alert an enemy on the other side of a locked door, watch him open it, and then shoot him down as he is crossing through. The door will be blocked open by his dead body and you can skip having to find the key.
- Bad Boss Fat Bastard: General Fettgesicht (Fat Face) from Episode 6: Confrontation.
- Big Labyrinthine Building: The entire game takes place within a single, gargantuan multi-level building.
- Big "YES!": The only line spoken by B.J. Blazkowicz is a loud, triumpant "YEAH!" at the end of episodes 1 and 5.
- 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.
- Episode 4, level 10; no matter what the difficulty setting you choose, the entire level is swarming with upwards of 50-70+ Officers, that once you fire your gun (even using your knife [remember that this was made in 1992 and there is no such stealth feature to speak of in this game]), all of them will be alerted to your presence, and they will converge on your position if you stay in one place. Fortunately, there is a secret area that lies directly west from your starting point and takes only a little stroll to get there. This area contains an abundance of ammunition to replenish your guns when you're dealing with those officers. Unfortunately, the entire level is devoid of any health pickups, making this an absolute struggle for survival. Even worse, a limitation in the game engine causes the officers to temporarily turn invisible, making it hard for you to know where they will come from until you hear their gunshots as well as losing your health in the process, and the only way to solve this is to keep blindly firing until you hear their death cries; this gives this level a really bad case of Fake Difficulty Syndrome. And the exit to this level is far from your starting point, unless you know exactly the right path to get to it.
- Episode 6, level 10; especially on Death Incarnate if you're challenging yourself to get close to 100% Completion. The mutants from Episode 2 are back only for this level, and mix it up with Officers, SS Guards, and three copies of Hans Grosse. It can be good fun to clear out all four quadrants of this map, but get ready for the pain your first time through.
- 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. Still, it's very exploitable for Sequence Breaking.
- 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.
- Climax Boss: Adolf Hitler at the end of Episode 3, exactly halfway through the full game.
- 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 open-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 total lack of an "aiming" state (in other words, they'll immediately skip to shooting instead of having to raise and look down the sights of their weapon). They're also good at getting said drop on you owing to their utter silence.
- Continuing Is Painful: Aside from losing a life, dying also removes all your weapons and ammo except for what you started the episode with - a knife, a pistol, and 8 bullets. Good luck fighting your way to the nearest machine gun.
- Covers Always Lie: This◊ was used as the cover for a shareware release of Spear of Destiny, as featured by Lazy Game Reviews here.
- Cut-and-Paste Environments: Including at least one map that is almost entirely made up of a ton of swastika-shaped rooms layered along each other.
- Dark Reprise: A softer, creepier rendition of "Horst Wessel Lied" greets you at the start of E2M1, perfect for setting up your first encounter with the Mutants.
- 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.
- The GBA port has music in the ROM itself, but it does not normally play. It is possible to get the music working on emulators, but not with a standard cartridge on real hardware; even then, it does not play properly as the music player code was left unfinished for whatever reason.
- Early Installment Weirdness: For the FPS genre as a whole. Unusual elements include the following:
- A score counter.
- Items that do nothing but increase said score.
- Finite lives, although you can get around this by reloading a previous save.
- Warp Zones.
- Abstract, maze-like level design.
- All enemies always face the player when shooting (though not when running or patrolling, save in the Mac versions) and exclusively use Hitscan attacks; consequently, enemies' shots will always hit the player if they are given the chance to fire.
- Weapons that don't differ except for rate of fire. Accordingly, weapons are arranged in a strict hierarchy, going, from weakest to strongest: knife, pistol, machine gun, and chain gun. There is never any benefit to switching to a weaker weapon, unless you need to save ammo by using the SMG.
- All weapons use a single ammo pool; if you have 50 bullets, you have 50 bullets regardless of which gun you have out.
- All levels are flat and consist entirely of 90-degree angles.
- No lighting effects.
- The jarringly cheerful sound effects when getting a pick-up.
- No map, radar, or any kind of in-game guiding system. The player must navigate through each level with nothing but their own sense of direction, memorization of landmarks, and the corpses of slain enemies.
- While Wolfenstein is one of the earliest 3D games to feature mouse controls, they work differently than in later games, owing to the game's complete lack of verticality; while the mouse's X-axis swivels the player around (as would become standard in later FPS games), the mouse's Y-axis is used to move the player forward and backward. This means the game can be played without ever touching the keyboard, although the mouse must be often lifted and repositioned in order to keep moving forward. The options allow the Y-axis to be disabled, bringing the controls very close to the now-familiar keyboard & mouse FPS control scheme.
- In the original version of the game, it is impossible to strafe without holding down an additional key. However, modern single-key strafing is included in practically all modern ports.
- There are no environmental hazards of any kind; enemy fire is the only thing that can harm the player.
- Easy-Mode Mockery: The easiest level, "Can I play, Daddy?", is symbolized by an icon of Blazkowicz in a baby bonnet.
- Elite Mooks: SS Guards and Officers.
- Endless Corridor: While not endless per se, the visual effect is invoked in most of the levels.
- Every 10,000 Points: Forty-thousand in this game's case.
- 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 this 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 separate 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: Was originally to be 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).
- Gatling Good: Aside of the bosses, the Gatling Gun is the player's ultimate weapon.
- Genre Shift: The first two Castle Wolfenstein games are top-down stealth games, while the games from 3D onward are First Person Shooters.
- Ghostapo: The supernatural occurrences in Spear of Destiny, what with Blazkowicz facing Satan himself. Subverted in the vanilla episodes, where the ghostly fire-shooting copies of Hitler are stated to be elaborate decoys with mounted flamethrowers.
- 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.)
- 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.
* is shot* "MEIN LEBEN!"
- Guide Dang It!: Most of the secret areas in the game.
- 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."
- Hitscan: 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.
- 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.
- 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 all at once. The Chaingun? Not so much.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: "Can I play, Daddy?", "Don't hurt me!", "Bring 'em on!" and "I am Death incarnate!"
- I'm a Humanitarian: If your health is in the single digits, you can drink human blood for an extremely small (only one point) health boost.
- Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat: Other than first-aid kits, all health-replenishing items in Wolfenstein 3D are food, and all of them are just lying around on the floor, sometimes even sitting in hidden passageways (though at least they're left on plates and bowls.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Limited Wardrobe: B.J. wears the same shabby gray outfit in all six episodes of Wolfenstein 3D, and all of Spear of Destiny and its mission packs.
- Loading Screen:
- 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, which also received two Mission Pack Sequels of its own, Return to Danger and The Ultimate Challenge.
- 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 points.
- 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 Hitscan 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.
- 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. However, the start of every episode after that still leaves you with only a pistol and 8 bullets, even though you'd expect to have access to better weapons before you arrived.
- Non-Standard 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). Can see it here.
- No Swastikas: The SNES version was, by Nintendo's request, subject to this trope. The Nazi banners were edited into blank red curtains and Hitler was edited into a generic clean-shaven dictator with the title of "Staatmeister". On an unrelated note, the attack dogs were edited into giant rats.
- Oh, Crap!: Hitler himself exclaims "Scheisse"note after you destroy his Mecha Suit and thus becomes more vulnerable.
- One-Man Army: Blazkowicz, duh.
- 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.)
- Rocket-Tag Gameplay: The mooks don't take many shots to go down, and die even faster to the gatling gun, but the player can get easily killed within a few shots. Getting the initiative as well as finding cover or choke points is thus imperative.
- 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.
- E3M10. Wakka wakka.
- A couple to id's previous game, CommanderKeen. 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. The two Expansion Packs also feature a Robot Boss in the place of the Death Knight that is similar to the Robots from Episode 1 of Commander Keen.
- One of the quit messages is a reference to Zork and the rest of the Infocom text adventure games.as seen 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 an entire floor of a castle shaped like them (E6M3).
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Each soldier uses a different Gratuitous German phrase, except for the AppleMacintosh 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 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.
- Those Wacky Nazis
- 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.
- Unbroken First-Person Perspective: This game pre-dates the tendency to switch camera perspectives in gameplay or to feature cutscenes, so the entire game is from BJ's perspective, aside from a closing "cutscene" depicting him triumphantly jumping into the air.
- Unbuilt Trope: This game is in many way more realistic than later FPS franchises, averting many Acceptable Breaks from Reality typical to the genre. The ammo is extremely limited, the player character is nearly as easily killed as in Real Life, and there is no automatic Regenerating Health or Level-Map Display.
- 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 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, the only way out is though a hidden maze of secret passages that is itself very easy to make unwinnable.
- "YEAH!" Shot: The ending of episodes 1 and 5.
- Your Head A-Splode: Inverted. Adolf Hitler's death animation has everything except his head reduced to mincemeat.