Tag Archives: Wolfenstein

I Have Such Sights To Show You: The Hellraiser Game We Never Got

As part of my Halloween/Hellraiser 30th anniversary celebrations, as well as doing a retrospective of every film in the franchise – I’m also taking a look at the unreleased Hellraiser game that never saw the light of day.

Now there is very little known about this game (and trust me, I’ve looked), but other sites have covered it… yet I found some rather large inaccuracies with the story – which I’ll cover later. There are no in game images to show as the game was nowhere near finished when the plug was pulled. The closest thing I found was a supposed title screen…

Hellraiser Title

Please excuse the poor quality, but this was the best I could find. This image is said to be the title screen for the game which was to be released on the NES in 1990 – I have no idea if it is genuine or not, but there it is anyway. And in case you are wondering, the featured image at the very top is just a fan-made/home-brew project, not from the game itself.

Anyway, I guess I’d better cover what the Hellraiser NES game was all about first?

It was going to be a rather ambitious game that used an updated version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine to put the player into a first person viewpoint. You play a character stuck inside the infamous puzzle box, where you could manipulate it from the inside as you tried to solve the box and escape. However, solving the box would not only free you but also the Cenobites inside it. So when outside of the box, you’d then have to solve it again to defeat the Cenobites trapping them back inside.

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It was being developed by a company called Color Dreams – who became quite (in)famous for creating unlicensed Nintendo games on the NES. You see, for a game to be released on a Nintendo console, the developers/publishers had to pay Nintendo a fee so the game could be officially licensed by Nintendo. But some companies didn’t want to pay that fee, so they created unlicensed Nintendo games that bypassed the 10NES lockout chip (or CIC) and released games without Nintendo’s ‘approval’… naughty, naughty.

Supposedly, Dan Lawton (one of the founders of Color Dreams) was a big Hellraiser fan and paid around $50,000 for the Hellraiser game rights. It has been reported that Lawton found that the NES could not handle the improved Wolfenstein 3D engine for the game so he asked engineer, Ron Risley to create a new type of cartridge. This ‘super cartridge’ could hold more RAM than a standard NES cartridge as well as feature a faster Z80 processor and all sorts of other gubbins that pushed its cost much higher than that of a normal NES cartridge. It would’ve been too expensive to manufacture and purchase back in 1990 (estimated around $100 for one game!), coupled with the fact it wouldn’t have been licensed by Nintendo as many retailers refused to stock those games. This is probably why the game never saw the light of day.

Of course it also could be that the game was never being developed at all and all this is just unsubstantiated rumour… But there is a problem with that theory and that problem is that there was a Hellraiser game advertised in gaming magazines of the day. Publications such as Electronic Gaming MonthlyGamePro, and even the mighty Nintendo Power featured ads like this…

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This ad boasts about the previously mentioned ‘super cartridge’ with “our advanced technology that pushed the NES further than ever before”. In fact, if you can make it out – it says something like “16-bit performance on the 8-bit Nintendo system”. It also mentions basic gameplay features such as “opening doorways to the dark-realm”, “solve puzzles of the Lament Configuration” and even the “Cenobites”.

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This ad is a bit more ‘in your face’ and easier to read. “Over one million worlds”, “The largest game yet for Nintendo” and “Over one hundred demons to escape from”. Sounds impressive for a NES game – but also note the mention of the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) and the Atari Lynx too? There was even a number you could’ve called to pre-order the game.

So there was most definitely a Hellraiser game being developed for the NES – but I have serious doubts that it is the game that was mentioned earlier in this very article or the same one other sites have been reporting on. This is where you guys ask “why?”. Well, I said earlier that there are some rather large inaccuracies with the whole thing and here they are.

First, who the hell (no pun intended) would honestly think that the 8-bit NES could handle the Wolfenstein 3D engine in 1990? I don’t care how ‘super’ your cartridge is. I’m no game developer, but even I could tell you that the NES just didn’t have the processing power to do FPS/3D graphics like that in 1990. When Wolfenstein 3D was released, it changed gaming, it was revolutionary and all of that was down to the game engine and just how magically impressive it was. Seriously, go and read up on just how game changing the Wolfenstein 3D engine was for the time – that’s an interesting read in itself.

One of the most advanced NES games in 1990 was Super Mario Bros. 3 and it looked like this…

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That was cutting edge for the NES in 1990 and Wolfenstein 3D looked like this…

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Yeah, quite a visual difference. And remember, its claimed that the Hellraiser game was using an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine too, so it would’ve looked even better!

Then there is an even bigger problem with this story. The Hellraiser game was said to be released in 1900 using an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine… Wolfenstein 3D wasn’t released until 1992. So how could the 1990 Hellraiser game be using a game engine that simply did not yet exist, never mind a more advanced version of it? Something just does not add up here does it?

There’s got to be some confusion with this whole story. There was a Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams – the magazine ads prove as much, but there is no way it was one using the Wolfenstein 3D engine because it didn’t exist in 1990 when the game was said to be released. Unless developer Color Dreams had access to a time machine – its just not possible.

Now there are various Hellraiser NES roms that can be found on the interwebs and even YouTube videos claiming to be this unreleased NES game, but none of them are genuine and are most probably fan-made efforts and mods. That is because the Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams was not even close to being completed when it was dropped. You see, I found a more accurate quote from Dan Lawton about the game.

“The hardware was done, and the artwork was 20% done, there was no programming. It was a 45 degree down angle view, with a maze of stone and walls and pits”.

There was no programming for the game itself, just some artwork for the graphics (maybe that previous title screen?) and the hardware for the ‘super cartridge’… there was no actual Hellraiser game as there was no programming done. So all the roms you may find and the YouTube videos of the game are not genuine at all. Also note Lawton’s description of the game, particularly the viewpoint? “A 45 degree down angle view” or to  put it more simply, an isometric view… which is something the NES could definitely handle.

If you were to do an interwebs search for ‘unreleased Hellraiser NES game’, you’ll find several articles and even YouTube videos reporting exactly what I stated above. That there was a NES Hellraiser game being developed by Color Dreams for a 1990 release that used an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine. So to finish up, where did this whole Wolfenstein 3D engine powered Hellraiser game for the NES in 1990 come from?

Well I think I can answer that too. You see, developer Color Dreams went through various name changes through the 90s. From being named Color Dreams, they then formed Bunch Games and in 1991, they changed their name to Wisdom Tree and under this name, they developed and published numerous religious/bible based games. They even hold the distinction of making the only unlicensed SNES game to ever be released. And it is this game where I think the rumour of a Wolfenstein 3D engine powered Hellraiser game started…

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Super Noah’s Ark 3D – or Super 3D Noah’s Ark as many places erroneously call it was that unlicensed SNES game I mentioned before and for those not in the know, it was basically a Wolfenstein 3D rip-off given a biblical graphical makeover…

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Just like Wolfenstein 3D, Super Noah’s Ark 3D was also a FPS game, they both had a similar ‘chapter’ level set up, they both have the same/similar HUD design just with different graphics. For all intents and purposes – they are the exact same game just with different graphics and story, they even feature some of the exact same map designs. Oh yeah, and they are both powered by an advanced version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine.

Rumour has it that id Software who developed Wolfenstein 3D were so annoyed at the censorship Nintendo forced on the SNES version of the game that they willingly gave Wisdom Tree the source code for Wolfenstein 3D for them to purposely make an unofficial/unlicensed clone to mock Nintendo. But then I’ve also found articles that state Wisdom Tree simply purchased the license to use the Wolfenstein 3D engine from id Software. I’ll let you chose which of those two you believe.

Anyway, I think what we have here is a case of crossed wires and unsubstantiated rumours. There was a Hellraiser game being developed for the NES in 1990 – but there is no way it was being built around the then non-existent Wolfenstein 3D engine. The Hellraiser game from 1990 was going to be an isometric puzzle game and not a 3D FPS. I also think the whole Hellraiser game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine came from some misinformation given out by a rather famous and popular internet reviewer, who – when they covered Super Noah’s Ark 3D stated that the game started out as a Hellraiser game, then things just escalated from there.

At least let me put it this way: I have only found slight information that the game was going to be an isometric puzzle game to be released in 1990. Yet I found nothing suggesting that a Hellraiser game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine was ever in development.

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So there you have it, the unreleased/unfinished Hellraiser game. Hopefully, I’ve cleared the air a little over exactly what this game was going to be and what it never was.

If you haven’t already – please check out my Hellraiser movie retrospective as part of my Halloween/Hellraiser 30th anniversary celebrations.

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Wolfenstein: ‘The Grandfather’ Part II.

By now, Wolfenstein 3D had taken the gaming world by storm. We gamers were blown away and eagerly waited for another game in the franchise.

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Wolfenstein 3D and its add-ons were released in 1992, but we wouldn’t see another game for almost a decade. It wasn’t a sequel but a reboot.

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Return to Castle Wolfenstein: This time developed by Gray Matter Interactive (single player) and Nerve Software (multiplayer), published by id Software and released in 2001.

Once again, you play as B.J. Blazkowicz who teams up with a British operative known as Agent One. The two are captured and imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein by the Nazis while they were investigating rumours of a top secret project of Heinrich Himmler regarding the SS Paranormal Division. Agent One is killed during interrogation but Blazkowicz manages to escape and its up to him (you) to unravel the mysteries of ‘Operation Resurrection’ and escape Castle Wolfenstein.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein was a pretty decent game and it managed to update the franchise while still not forgetting its roots as it featured several nods and references to Wolfenstein 3D. Its an action packed shooter like its predecessor only this time it contains more of a story. The supernatural elements of Wolfenstein 3D are also played up much more and offer some depth to the plot.

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Reviews at the time gave the game pretty decent scores as a single player game, but it was the multiplayer element that received the most praise.

There were plans to make a direct sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but things didn’t quite work out…

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Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory: This was released in 2003, developed by Splash Damage and published by id Software. Originally planned to be a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein but there were problems during development, so the single player element was dropped from the game and it was released as a multiplayer only title.

Created to build on the success and popularity of Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s highly praised multiplayer. The game was released completely free to anyone. Originally, the game only contained six maps to play on. But thanks to a great gaming community, hundreds of user created maps were soon added. There are various game modes to play including; Objective Mode, Stopwatch Mode and Last Man Standing coupled with plenty of options to tailor the game’s settings to suit your style of play.

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There are various classes to play as each with their own skill sets, strengths and weaknesses. As you play, you’ll earn experience points which allow you to level up your skills. This was a pretty good multiplayer shooter… but it really had nothing to do with Wolfenstein at all. It was just a good WW II based multiplayer shooter and could have been given any name really.

So what next for Wolfenstein? How about an RPG?

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Wolfenstein RPG: Developed by Fountainhead Entertainment and published by EA Mobile. This oddity was a mobile only game for iOS in 2009 and programmed by id Software co-founder; John Carmack. Yes, an RPG based in the world of Wolfenstein because… why not?

William “B.J.” Blazkowicz is back and is being held by the Nazis. You must escape Castle Wolfenstein (again) and save the world by putting and end to the SS Paranormal Division (again). This game plays like an old school, turn based RPG but looks like Wolfenstein only given a bit of a comedic/cartoon slant. You roam areas, loot for items, kill Nazis, zombies, skeletons and even paintings of Hitler…

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If you have ever played a dungeon crawler style game like Dungeon Master, etc then you’ll know what to expect with this game. Its a slow paced game as its turn based, so no ‘running and gunning’ here and a big departure from previous games. But its also damn good fun and very addictive with a great black humour and an exaggerated comic book art style. The game was well received when released and well worth playing, but sadly its no longer available on Apple’s app store.

Well that was ‘interesting’ but now its time for yet another reboot.

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Wolfenstein: Yep, just plain old Wolfenstein. Developed by Raven Software and released in 2009. This was the second time the series was rebooted, but was it any good?

Yes, B.J. Blazkowicz is back once more to shoot Nazis in the face. Set in the fictional town of Isenstadt. Blazkowicz steals a strange medallion and unwittingly unleashes its power. He soon learns that the medallion requites crystals called Nachtsonne that are only found in a Nazi occupied town called Isenstadt. Blazkowicz goes to Isenstadt to find these crystals and meets up with a resistance group dedicated to freeing Isenstadt from the Nazis. A bigger emphasis is placed on the supernatural elements as you come into possession of the medallion that grants you certain mystical powers. The game also uses a pseudo-open world styled hub that you could explore at will to find secrets and hidden areas.

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This reboot was quite a departure from the classic Wolfenstein games in the past and didn’t feel quite right. Don’t get me wrong, its a pretty fun game to play… but it just doesn’t feel like Wolfenstein at all. The game met with average reviews at the time and that was about fair to be honest. It was just a very ‘okay’ game that lacked that Wolfenstein style and attitude.

So what next for the series? Well another reboot of course.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order: Developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks, released in 2014. This one was more of a soft reboot for the franchise as its often seen as a sequel to the previous game, but with a new timeline .

The plot here tells a story of an alternate timeline set in the 1960s where the Nazis won the Second World War and have enslaved the world. I don’t want to spoilt the plot here so I’m not going to reveal anymore. Once again taking control of veteran, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as you make your way all over Europe and explore various levels and of course, shoot Nazis in the face with a variety of weapons. Wolfenstein: The New Order brought back the stealth element from the original games as you could sneak around, use cover and kill enemies while trying to no raise any alarms… or you could just blast away with dual shotguns old school style. The game offered a great deal of gameplay mechanics as well as an interesting story and plenty of secrets to find along the way.

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Blazkowicz feels like a genuine character for the first time in the franchise as the story unfolds, he develops. There are decisions to make in the game that affect the plot, customisation for the weapons, alternate routes to find through the levels and even the chance to play maps from the classic Wolfenstein 3D but using the game mechanics from this game. There is a hell of a lot poured into this game as it mixes old style gameplay from previous Wolfenstein games but also adds a lot of new ideas that keeps the game feeling fresh and gets you wanting to try multiple play throughs and search out all those secrets.

Wolfenstein: The New Order met with critical and commercial success and received impressive review scores. A wonderful melding of classic Wolfenstein and modern Wolfenstein to make a successful return for an ageing franchise. I highly recommend playing this one if your’re a fan of the FPS genre and Wolfenstein. The game was followed up with a add on…

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Wolfenstein: The Old Blood: Again, developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda Softworks, released in 2015. This was originally going to be relased as two separate pieces of DLC, but it was decided to combine the two and release it as one whole add on instead.

Not too much to say about this one as its more of the same with it being an add on to Wolfenstein: The New Order and it plays the same. This one is a prequel to the last game and set in 1946 where you playing as Blazkowicz on a mission to once again infiltrate Castle Wolfenstein.

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There are a handful of new weapons to use and customise and one of the biggest is the introduction of a steel pipe. Yeah the steel pipe doesn’t sound very impressive, but the way it is used in the game is quite clever as it can be used to climb walls, pry open doors, break open walls or just to crack people over the head with. This is just more of the same and its just as good as Wolfenstein: The New Order.

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So there you have it, the Wolfenstein franchise in all its glory. From its humble beginnings as an early stealth game to earning a rightful place in gaming history as the ‘Grandfather’ of the FPS genre to riding high today with its modern entries. There have been a few ‘not so great games’ in the series though. But overall, its a great franchise and with rumours that a full sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order is being worked on. The franchise looks like its not disappearing anytime soon. I can’t wait for more Wolfenstein and William “B.J.” Blazkowicz as I do enjoy a bit of B.J.

William ‘B.J’ Blazkowicz:Here’s how this is going to work. I’m gonna ask you one question. You’re gonna answer that question in a way I find satisfactory and if you do not, I’ll saw your head off with this here appliance, you hear me?

You can also read my Wolfenstein 3D gaming overview.

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Wolfenstein: ‘The Grandfather’ Part I.

Wolfenstein 3D from id Software, cited as “the Grandfather” of First Person Shooters (FPS) and also mostly known as the first FPS ever created.

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Yeah, one can not deny the importance Wolfenstein 3D has in gaming history. But before I go on, I just want to rectify a couple of things. Wolfenstein 3D was not the first ever FPS, it wasn’t even the first FPS from id Software themselves as they had made Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D both in 1991 before Wolfenstein 3D. Plus there are other notable games from other developers that could easily claim the crown of the first FPS.
Its not even the first Wolfenstein game, there is a subtle clue in the title… Wolfenstein 3D. Its the third game in the series. And that is what this article is going to look at, the Wolfenstein series of games right from the very first title up to the newest entry as well as look a few interesting Wolfenstein tit-bits along the way.

Better crack on with the first Wolfenstein game.

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Castle Wolfenstein: Developed by Muse Software and released in 1981 for the Apple II, DOS, Atari 400/800 and Commodore 64. Castle Wolfenstein is a mix of action/shooting blended with stealth. This game was Metal Gear 6 years before Metal Gear even existed.

Taking place in the titular Castle Wolfenstein you have to find the war plans of the Nazis and escape. You start the game as a Private but go through the ranks up to Field Marshal as you play. You can move from screen to screen of which there are 60 different ones on 5 separate floors and the items and guards for each room are randomly generated at the start of the game, but the rooms themselves are always the same. For such and early game, there is a lot of variation and options open to the player. You can go all guns blazing and shoot all and every guard you see, or you can try to sneak past guards instead and leave little evidence that you are there.

Armed with a gun as well as grenades, but guards will react to the sound they make putting risk on you getting caught. If you take out a guard, you can search them and find helpful items such as extra ammo, keys, grenades and even bullet proof vests. You can even find items in the various chests scattered around the rooms though these are locked but can be opened with a lock-pick or keys. You might also find food and drink and can even get drunk via wine and Schnapps and this affects your aim with the gun. Aside from main walls and stairs, the rooms were destructible and you’ll find yourself having to blow up walls to gain access to other areas.

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If you didn’t want to go in shooting everyone in sight, then you can always sneak up on a guard with your gun drawn and force them to surrender. The game featured digitised voices as the guards would call out “Halt!” and “Kommen Sie!” if they spotted you. It all looks rather primitive by todays standards, but Castle Wolfenstein was very advanced for the time with its many options open to the player and with no one set way to complete the game as how you played was up to you, as well as all the little touches that are now common place in stealth games today. This featured plenty of replay value and I recall spending hours upon hours exploring and trying to find those damn plans from the Nazis. For 1981, this game was a revelation and without knowing it, it set the standard for a genre of gaming that would become massively popular in the 90s, the stealth based game. Hideo Kojima and his Metal Gear series owes a lot to this game.

Castle Wolfenstein was a pretty big hit for developer Muse Software and a sequel was released following its success.

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Beyond Castle Wolfenstein: Released in 1984 also from Muse Software, this sequel to the original game looked and felt pretty much like its predecessor but with a few gameplay tweaks.

The story had changed with you now having to explore and make you way through a secret bunker to find Adolf Hitler and assassinate him via the use of a bomb. The idea was based on the infamous “20 July plot” plot under Operation Valkyrie from 1944. The main gameplay remained pretty much the same as before but also brought with it some new ideas such as guards now asking you for papers and if you had the correct pass for each of the floors then they would let you pass. If you didn’t? Well they would raise and alarm or try to kill you. But you could always try to bribe the guards if you had the money to do so.

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You could also now drag the bodies of guards away to avoid them from being spotted by others. Another addition was being armed with a dagger which you can use to silently kill any guards in your way adding another layer to the stealth mechanic. More speech was also added as well as improved sound effects. But on the whole, this game was more of the same… which was not a bad thing at all as the last game was great as was this one too.

And that was it for the franchise as it lay dormant… until 1992 of course when the ‘Grandfather’ was released.

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Wolfenstein 3D: This was the big one, the game changer, the true ‘birth’ of the FPS genre. id Software came up with the idea of building on their previous FPS games but couldn’t decide on the setting. Then the idea to make a game similar to the first two Wolfenstein games came about as the team were big fans of them, but they knew they couldn’t afford to buy the license to use the name. It was soon discovered that Muse Software had gone bust a few years earlier and the Wolfenstein name was free to use… so they used it.

The game was not only hugely influenced by the original Wolfenstein games, but also by the classic Gauntlet from 1985. While this shared the Wolfenstein name, its gameplay was vastly different. Gone is the stealth mechanic of the previous games as the action is amped up in its place. With the focus being more action orientated for a faster moving game though the setting remained the same of Castle Wolfenstein. You now play as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an American spy of Polish descent… so he doesn’t much like Nazis. The game is split into three different episodes with each episode having its own story inspired by the original Wolfenstein games.

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Episode 1: “Escape from Castle Wolfenstein” has you, wait for it… being captured and having to escape Castle Wolfenstein. Episode 2: “Operation: Eisenfaust” in which you discover plans the Nazis have to create an army of undead mutants and Episode 3: “Die, Führer, Die!” you have to infiltrate a underground bunker and kill Adolf Hitler… who is in a robotic suit equipped with mini-guns. Each of the three episodes feature multiple levels for you to make your way through. The gameplay is very similar to that of Gauntlet as you have to make your way through various levels, killing enemies and collecting keys to make it to the exit, but the view point is now that of a first person. The levels themselves are full of secret areas for you to discover where you can find treasure to add to your score as well as ammo and weapons.

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It was a simple enough game and definitely ‘dumbed down’ over the originals by removing all the stealth gameplay… but that was not a bad thing at all as Wolfenstein 3D was a fast placed, bloody/gory, gun filled extravaganza. Again, not the first ever FPS but this was the game that cemented and popularised the genre. You know how you kids are playing the latest Call of Duty game? Well that exists because of Wolfenstein 3D.

But the fun didn’t end when you completed Wolfenstein 3D as two prequels were released as add-ons. First was; The Nocturnal Missions and like the main game, it too was split into three episodes. Episode 1: “A Dark Secret” where you pursue a weapons research scientist. Episode 2: “Trail of the Madman” and here, Blazkowicz has to find the maps and plans for a chemical war. Episode 3: “Confrontation” has you confronting the Nazi general in charge of the chemical warfare initiative. Then finally there was the other add-on; Spear of Destiny and its episodes that included; “Return to Danger” and “Ultimate Challenge”.

Wolfenstein 3D changed gaming forever and put id Software on the map. The game was a revelation and you really had to be there to understand the impact it had on the industry. It reinvented the FPS genre and its influence can still be found in modern games today. id Software went on to (again) change the face of the FPS genre with another franchise about some space marine and some demons from hell, but that will have to wait for another time as I have a lot more Wolfenstein games to cover. But before we move on to all of that, how about some Wolfenstein trivia?

One of id Software’s earlier games was a called; Commander Keen and he starred in four games; Invasion of the Vorticons, Keen Dreams, Goodbye Galaxy and Aliens Ate My Babysitter.

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They were quite popular platform/action games. But what does this have to do with Wolfenstein? Well a fourth game was planned at the time and it was originally going to be a 3D version of Commander Keen but that became Wolfenstein 3D. Also the star of Wolfenstein, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, is said to be a direct descendant to Commander Keen.

Nintendo asked id Software to work on a port of Wolfenstein 3D for their SNES console which they did do. However, Nintendo censored the game in a HUGE way removing all the blood, Nazi imagery and even replacing the dogs in the game with rats. This censorship angered id Software, so they gave the game’s source code to another company (Wisdom Tree) so they could make an unofficial Nintendo game…

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Super 3D Noah’s Ark was released in 1994 for the SNES and it was Wolfenstein 3D with a graphical change and a religious theme.

In Episode 3, floor 10 and Episode 6, floor 10, there are secret areas that reveal an homage to some very specific famous, classic game characters…

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Yes, the Pac-Man ghosts are in Wolfenstein 3D.

There was even a direct sequel planned for Wolfenstein 3D from id Software and it was quite far in development before they turned their attention to another project (DOOM). But that sequel was eventually released, just not as a Wolfenstein game.

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The game was reworked and released as; Rise of the Triad in 1994. The game even still has a Nazi theme as the plot tells a story of the fall of Hitler (which would have carried over from Wolfenstein 3D).

I’ll end part I here, but in part II Wolfenstein gets rebooted for the first time, but not the last.

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