Originally released on May 5, 1992 for DOS and later on released-ported to almost any computer format available. Wolfenstein 3D was certainly not the first first-person-shooter. However, it was the fastest, and the most accessible. Previous first person attempts relied on wireframe graphics or monochrome polygons, which required a little more work on the part of the player to figure out what was a valid area they could walk to versus what was meant to be a solid wall. Wolf brought easily defined rooms with varying textures. Paired with code that drew only what the player could see, it displayed levels at a speed that showed no signs of chop on a moderately decent computer.
Further, there was Apogee’s brilliant strategy of releasing the first episode for free (as shareware), ensuring anyone who wanted to try the game was able to. Simply put, Wolfenstein 3D was a graphical powerhouse for its time. It ran like a demon on a Ducati and it proved without a doubt that wandering freely inside virtual spaces was possible on the existing hardware of the day. Granted, everything was stuck on a flat, level plane, and maps were entirely designed around a grid, but it still gave computer owners an experience than no video game console had ever done up to that point. The AI of Wolfenstein 3D is by no means advanced, but they can still surprise you if you’re expecting nothing more than simple paper cutouts. Enemies react to sound, and will try to move toward the location of the last gunshot they heard. If you’re shooting up one room, the guards in the two rooms nearby may pop out of their doors.
Further, they will not file through the same door if the architecture allows, often splitting up and ending up flanking you. Some guards have patrol routes, and can surprise you through a door even if you haven’t been causing a ruckus. the levels are so massive that they start to overstay their welcome. This is accentuated by the lack of an in-game map. Repeated areas and textures make it even easier to get lost. Though the levels are small enough that this isn’t a serious issue, there will still be periods of wandering around and backtracking. Fortunately, all corpses stay behind and can indicate where you’ve been like bloody breadcrumbs. Wolfenstein 3D presented an adrenaline-fueled concept and a marker for technology all in one package, but left later games to offer more realistic-looking engines or more exciting gameplay gimmicks. And its hard to believe, but technology was moving so fast that Doom was released just a year later and would go on to be the real poster child for the genre.
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