The Nazis have been a popular enemy in video games. Easy to vilify with no need for character development, they’ve blown apart many times over. Wolfenstein 3-D has a lot of history, as recently discussed in an article looking back at first-person shooters. It was a visceral video game that saw you battling Nazi forces back in the early ‘90s. The game was tough and became a must have title on the PC. The title that started it all, and id Software’s career, has been ported to the iPhone.
Locked up in a dungeon, you play as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, a soldier captured by the enemy whilst on a secret mission. Imprisoned and left for dead – or life threatening interrogation – Blazkowicz makes an escape from the prison, fending off guard dogs and eating scraps of food from plates left in other cells. Taking down the first guard, he finds a holstered pistol and bullets. It’s time to make the great escape and take down the most famous Nazi of all – Hitler.
As soon as the game boots up it’s clear that the visuals have been touched up. Pixels have been smoothed out but not overly so. It looks better than it ever has. All the weapons have been updated graphically. These aren’t brand new 3D weapons, but more realistic and animated sprites built in the original engine. It runs very smoothly and the HUD has been altered to allow space for the touch controls.
There are quite a few FPS ports to the iPhone, many suffering from poor controls. I’ve discussed this before and analogue controls shouldn’t be forced on the touchscreen with no further thought. Luckily, some thought has been had about the controls here. Slightly customisable, your two thumbs are used to interact with the two movement dials. These dials are surprisingly responsive; it helps to keep everything running smoothly.
Tapping the weapon icon will fire the currently equipped weapon, and weapons are changed by pressing on the characters portrait. Some alterations have been made with the port. Red marks on the side of Blazkowicz’s face indicate the direction enemy fire is coming from. There is no longer a lives system; the orbs that would grant additional lives now provide a boost of health. Apple’s policies on adult content means that the death sequences have disappeared, and a lack of dedicated memory means you only have one save slot.
Wolf 3-D does feel old, the wrinkles set deep into its face. With so many other iPhone titles offering quick blasts of gameplay, built to suit the context in which they’ll be played, Wolf 3-D offers stretches of the same aesthetic. Unexpectedly, on a smaller screen the labyrinths and wall tiles look more repetitive. The lack of open space is increasingly claustrophobic and makes the game feel very dated, even with the visual improvements. And while it controls well for a FPS on the iPhone, small turns and more precise strokes still aren’t 100% accurate.
With loads of content – all original chapters and Spears of Destiny – there’s plenty to play through and a horde of Nazis to annihilate. However, it feels dull and it’s aging now; the touchscreen doesn’t allow for the speed running required to get any thrill from the endless looping textures. How long you’ll continue playing will rest upon your love for old FPS’. In truth, you’ll already know if you’ll be picking this up, as newcomers would be better off adding Doom to their download list, while those that were there for the original launch may have played so many varying ports of the game that this is simply another bi-yearly nostalgia trip. It’s a solid port of an elderly game.