By Sam Coles:
The Wolfenstein franchise is the game that is notable for creating the First Person Shooter, but however it's been going on longer than most of us think the series goes further than 1992, so let me take you on a historic journey about the Castle Wolfenstein series in celebration of Wolfenstein The Old Blood expansion that is out next month.
Castle Wolfenstein (1981):
Castle Wolfenstein was originally created by a small independent company called Muse Software which established in 1978, this company was founded by Silas Warner who was a coder for a long time and was known as the gentle giant. They worked on other projects such as The Voice which for the first time with computers you could record your voice and have the computer it say back to you which was a revolution back the early 80's. Warner wanted to make a top down game in the same vein as Berserk, but at the time he said the whole science fiction genre was over saturated and wasn't until he watched the classic war movie "Guns of Navorone" one night that he got the idea to set in World War II. Castle Wolfenstein is a top down stealth game and this game is considered as the spear head of the stealth genre 6 years before Metal Gear did it. You start out with a pistol with limited ammo from your dead cell mate and must escape the dungeon, by silently killing guards and utilising disguises to get past checkpoints, it was a revolution and a breath of fresh air for those who had an Apple II. Later it would be ported to DOS, Commodore 64 and Atari 400/800 computers.
There was a sequel to it called Beyond Castle Wolfenstein with the same fundamental gameplay with added extras such as being able to move bodies, but however it did not sell very well and in 1987 Muse Software went bankrupt and closed.
We wouldn't see a Wolfenstein game for a while and the resurfacing for the series would be done by a small developer based in Austin Texas. id Software wanted to make a new game from the first person perspective, because wolfenstein wouldn't be the first time that they did a first person game their first game was Hover Tank 3D and then Catacomb 3D done from the first person. They were huge fans of Castle Wolfenstein as John Romero and John Carmack grew up with the Apple II computers so they wanted to do a remake.
Wolfenstein 3D (1992):
Wolfenstein 3D broke new ground when it was released because it laid down the foundations of what we know today as the First Person Shooter. It had maze like levels you had navigate through and you picked up new and more powerful weapons coupled with finding keys to unlock doors. This game was also controversial due to over use of Nazi imagery, the inclusion of Adolf Hitler and the use of excessive violence for the time. John Romero said that they had no intentions of stirring controversy they just wanted to remake a classic from their childhood. The game was a complete success fuelling the team to build upon it with their next project Doom.
We wouldn’t see another Wolfenstein game for almost a decade and this time it wouldn’t be handled by id but by a third party instead.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001):
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was the first game in the series not to be developed by id Software although they did supervise the project, this game was developed by Gray Matter later on to be known as Treyarch who make Call of Duty games. There previous game Kingpin Life of Crime was a first person shooter so they had some experience making them as well as using id tech. This game focused on the Nazi’s fascination with occult and they are trying to resurrect a dead Anglo Saxon warrior. You once again play as B.J blazkowicz and you must kill every Nazi that gets in your way to stop them from raising an undead army. This game also had a successful multiplayer which was developed by Splash Damage who would make Quake Wars and the not so good Brink, it had varied modes that kept players invested for years.
Wolfenstein would take another hiatus and we wouldn’t see another major title until 2009, but this time it would focus less on PC and more on the 7th generation of consoles.
In 2009 Wolfenstein was released on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC and was developed by Raven Software these guys have been working alongside id software since the 90's and using their engines to make their own games such Hexen and Heretic. This game was intended to be an open world game in its conception but they found it strayed too far away from the experience of Wolfenstein, but how ever some of the open world elements do show with the town hub area where you can explore and get into skirmishes with Nazi patrols. Wolfenstein was received positively by critics but they said it wasn't an experience that will blow your mind, but it was entertaining. Unfortunately the game didn't sell very well despite the positive feedback and we wouldn't see another Wolfenstein game until 2014.
Wolfenstein The New Order (2014):
Newly founded Swedish developer Machine Games consisted of ex members of Starbreeze who worked on games such as The Darkness and Payday so they had experience making FPS's. They kept on pitching game after game to Bethesda but they were not biting, however Bethesda offered them to work on an id game and they asked if anyone was working on a Wolfenstein game and they said no so the project began. Wolfenstein The New Order was released in May 2014 and what gamers and critics liked about this game what they didn't expect was the story because it added a human touch to B.J was a flawed character who is tired of fighting. This game takes place in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War 2 and have taken over the world, you find yourself in 1960 trying fight back for a free world. The New Order takes a step in different direction by ditching regenerating health and you can pretty much use any weapon akimbo. The game was a total success all gamers and critics loved it and was nominated for many game of the year awards.
Now we have the stand alone expansion for The New Order called The Old Blood releasing on Xbox One, PS4 and PC next week let’s see what lies ahead for the future of the Wolfenstein series.