It seems like only yesterday when the games industry went Wolfenstein crazy. Nazis were our cannon fodder of choice, and a whole new way to explore corridors and shoot anything that moves was born.
Now it’s happening all over again, and it seems as though the great gaming escape is just as vital as it was the first time around. John Carmack has been quite altruistic about the development of this surprise addition to the App Store, giving away all his 3D code on the id Software site as well as releasing it on the iPhone.
This kind of suggests that Wolfenstein 3D Classic is an unfinished product, and that Carmack intended it to be taken up and completed by the homebrew community. In fact, his adaptation of the retro grandfather of the FPS genre is very much complete, and has received just enough of a technical update to make it thoroughly playable all over again.
You are OSA super agent B.J. Blazkowicz, though your super humanity obviously slipped a bit because you begin the game captured and locked deep within the dungeons of the Nazis' Castle Wolfenstein. Escape is the only option.
Each floor of the castle is represented by a maze of fairly simplistic 3D rooms and corridors, and your only task is to find the exit alive. The place is occupied by patrolling soldiers, so it’s very much a case of shooting first and not even bothering to ask questions later.
The controls are essential to Wolfenstein 3D Classic’s revival, and id Software has catered for every preference. We have a D-pad in one corner and a fire button in the other: nice and simple. But, this being a 3D game, a simple crosshair doesn’t provide enough movement options.
So the rotate and strafe controls can be separated, with one in each corner and the fire button bumped up to the top right. These basic controls can then be shuffled to suit your own preferences (playing left handed, for instance), or the accelerometer can be brought in to compensate.
Using the tilt controls for either rotation or strafing makes movement through Castle Wolfenstein a doddle - a mouse and keyboard couldn’t have done a better job.
The castle is riddled with secret rooms, which aren’t a requirement to find but do provide a secondary objective for any achievement junkies. At the end of each level, a few statistics demonstrate how much of a super agent you turned out to be, so Wolfenstein 3D Classic really does offer incentive to play well.
A quick glance at the screenshots might raise concerns, as the graphics have clearly gone through some clever upscaling filter that makes them rather blocky, yet at the same time blurry.
But worry not: in play this is barely noticeable, since the game moves as smooth as glass and the enemies never stand still nor remain in front of you long enough to cause concerns over dated graphics.
So, all in all this is a superb reintroduction to the id Software classic, as well as providing a first rate example of the iPhone’s FPS capability. It sounds obvious, but Wolfenstein 3D Classic is probably the most essential iPhone game for any long time fans of Wolfenstein or the early FPS pioneers.
If Wolfenstein is new to you, or retro gaming holds no appeal, then it’ll still surprise you with its easy arcade action, though it’s not going to get you as foamy around the mouth as it does the aging technophiles among us.
But no one should overlook this vital piece of gaming history, brought back to life on the most important games platform of the current generation. It has a lot to offer all kinds of gamers.
Now bring us Doom, Carmack.