Get psyched, because Activision recently uploaded one of the earliest first-person shooters to the Xbox Live Arcade download service. While not the very first FPS game, Wolfenstein 3D paved the way for everything from Doom to Halo to Call of Duty. But 17 years later it's hard to go back and enjoy this dated classic. Thanks to all of the advances in the genre, playing Id's World War II-themed shooter is a frustrating and mostly disappointing experience.
Going in I already knew most of the game's limitations. I knew that all of the levels would be flat. I knew that the game would reuse the same graphics, often making it difficult to gauge where you are and where you're supposed to go next. And I knew that I would essentially be dealing with a series of mazes that only seem to get more cruel and detailed as you go along. These were all things that I expected going in. I didn't want to get my hopes up too high, but at the same time I was curious to see how these archaic trappings would affect my opinion of the game.
What I wasn't prepared for was my almost immediate negative reaction. Don't get me wrong, I've played through Wolfenstein 3D before, but it's certainly been a few years since playing the entire campaign from start to finish. From the get-go I found that the idea of running around an elaborate maze to be rather maddening, to the point where shooting Nazis ceased being fun. Could it be that Id's classic shooter is too dated to be fully enjoyed?
In case you're one of the very few gamers who missed Wolfenstein 3D the first time around, you play the ridiculously named William "B.J." Blazkowicz. As the game starts you have just killed a guard and are trying to escape what appears to be a Nazi prison. To do this you will need to navigate through dozens of levels, killing hundreds of guards, collecting tons of stolen treasure and taking out some truly impressive bosses (including the Fuhrer himself). Back in 1992 this was a kid's dream come true, your own 3D playground full of evil Nazis and the most evil man to ever walk the planet.
Wolfenstein 3D was not only a hugely successful shareware PC game, but also a game that managed to help birth the popular first-person shooter genre. Because of this 1992 classic, games like Doom and Call of Duty exist. In fact, this game was so successful that Activision has gone on to release several other installments in the series, including the upcoming PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 game simply known as Wolfenstein.
This is one of the most important titles in video game history, a release that just about everybody should play at once point in their life. It's with that context in mind that I have such a hard time admitting that this 17 year old shooter hasn't held up especially well. There are elements that are definitely still fun, but too many of the game's archaic design decisions get in the way here. For example, it takes far too long for B.J. Blazkowicz to turn around. While this may not be a problem when you're out exploring the maze-like environments you're stuck in, it's a deal breaker when you are being attacked from behind and need to turn around quickly.
While it's easy to call Wolfenstein 3D a classic game that helped birth the first-person shooter genre, it's not as easy to recommend this Xbox Live Arcade port. The game remains the same, but 17 years later that's not exactly a compliment. The sad thing is, with one simple change to the controls, Wolfenstein 3D would have been a must-own classic for everybody that loves Call of Duty or Halo!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!