Wolfenstein 3D Review

Wolfenstein 3D Review: More Than Just DOOM With Nazis

Last Updated on November 30, 2023

I recently played and reviewed the original DOOM, but I never tried Wolfenstein 3D, which came out the previous year in 1992. I had a ton of fun with id Software’s famous shooter, and now it’s time to try what came before.

Before I get into the review, I have to address the controls. I’m using a keyboard and mouse, and traditionally, you move with the keys and look around with the mouse. In Wolfenstein 3D, the mouse also moves you forward and backward, which feels awkward and imprecise. There’s joystick support, but this doesn’t mean ‘controller’ support, and I couldn’t get it to work.

There’s beauty in simplicity

With my input gripes out of the way, let’s talk about gameplay. Wolfenstein 3D is a first-person shooter and plays like a slower-paced DOOM. We’ve traded monsters for nazi soldiers and the dark, moody setting for brightly lit corridors. I was taken aback by the swastikas and blurry pictures of Hitler decorating the walls, but they are thematically appropriate. The visuals are simple but serviceable, and the music is surprisingly catchy.

Wolfenstein 3D is a ‘no frills’ shooter, but the pacing and combat are refreshing. Compared to DOOM, I often found myself checking corners and weaving in and out of doorways to avoid gunfire. It’s debatable how much this helped, but I seemed to stay alive longer playing this way. Although austere, gunfights are fun, and kills are accompanied by a satisfying scream.

Wolfenstein 3D

I found Wolfenstein 3D quite challenging. Enemies went down with a few well-placed shots but frequently got behind me and did a ton of damage while I flailed around trying to find them. Although there’s not a ton of variance between soldiers, the bosses do a great job of keeping the gameplay fresh.

Lost in a labyrinth

While no doubt a technical limitation, I often got hopelessly lost in Wolfenstein 3D. So many rooms and doors look identical, and although some have scenery, I rarely knew where I was. I ended up using the bodies of fallen enemies to mark where I’d been before, but I’d have appreciated a map.

Stages feel more complex than needed, with little to make them stand out, but the biggest issue with the map design is hidden doorways. I’m fine with convoluted secrets, but obscuring the only way through a level behind a moveable wall is a baffling design choice.

Wolfenstein 3D is regarded as one of the godfathers of first-person shooters, with a legacy that can’t be overstated. The game is dated, but that’s to be expected from a title over 3 decades old. I can see why Wolfenstein is beloved, but it’s hard to recommend through a modern lens.

Wolfenstein 3D (PC/Steam): While I can appreciate Wolfenstein 3D as a precursor to DOOM, it's a game I struggled to get into. Combat is fun, and the simplicity is charming, but awkward controls and map design hold it back. Anthony

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About the author

Anthony is a freelance writer and has worked in the industry for four years. He's furiously competitive and is always looking for the next big multiplayer hit. Anthony is a passionate PS1 collector and firmly believes in playing his retro games rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf. He also loves speedrunning and always looks forward to the next GDQ and ESA events.

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