September 7, 2009


Akin to most ‘average gamers’ in their early-mid 30’s, I can point to a very select slew of titles that engendered a love of gaming over two decades old and counting.

Id Software’s original ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ is a proud member of this exceptional collection, a FPS that – despite its age – still stands strong as a testament to the best this genre has to offer. The game’s marriage of sharp graphics, solid AI, clever humor, and true surround sound (powered by Covox) combined to produce a gaming experience paid homage to by over 100 FPS titles in its wake. Unfortunately for ‘Wolfenstein 3D,’ the protagonist – B.J. Blazkowicz – was likely a naming victim of Apogee Software’s (of ‘Commander Keen’ fame) legacy of moronically titled heroes. Poor B.J. must’ve had a helluva time in High School. My full review after the jump:

wolfenstein_video_game_image_playstation_PS3_01.jpgUndeterred and ‘Like a Boy Named Sue,’ B.J. forged onward across a trio of sequels spanning multiple platforms. Seventeen years later, B.J. is still kicking sci-fi themed, Nazi ass and taking pixelated names. There’s even a movie in development to ensure his legacy is forever burned onto DVD’s the world over.

So how does ‘Wolfenstein’ for the PS3 fare in comparison to its legacy title and current FPS peers?

Early on, it becomes evident that id was hell-bent on proper homage being paid to the series’ roots, while simultaneously staying on the cutting edge of audio/visuals.

B.J. remains B.J., a one-man wrecking crew on suicidal missions to blow away every Nazi he can find via a combo of old school and sci-fi, futuristic weaponry/gadgets. Enemy AI remains strong, skilled in tactically surrounding our hero while using projectile weapons to flesh him out behind temporary cover. Supporting teammates are surprisingly useful, and provide nice cover fire – assuming you can help keep them alive long enough to do so.

I’m also pleased to see yet another fine implementation of the terrific Havok physics engine in ‘Wolfenstein 3D,’ its presence clearly felt by the impact of firepower on environmental items. Or particular note was the beautiful, Hollywood quality artwork comprising interiors of buildings and the items contained within. Related and while subtle, I found the spatial sound particularly well done, as SFX, voices and ambient noises react accordingly as B.J. moves across environments.

wolfenstein_video_game_image_playstation_PS3_02.jpgUnfortunately, however, ‘Wolfenstein’ is not without its fair series of flaws. The game’s supposed open, Campaign mode environment is anything but, and feels somewhat claustrophobic only a few hours in. (The game’s confusing map system only hampers this situation.) The same streets, buildings and underground tunnels appear over and over again albeit with re-spawning enemies. Moreover, ‘Wolfenstein’s’ aiming system – even when zoomed in – is enough to drive one batty. For an ass-kicking machine, B.J. certainly couldn’t hit the broad side of a Zeppelin. Also – and while a subtle annoyance – would be it too much to ask for lip-sync to match up with audio?

Despite these flaws, Campaign mode is a challenging and fun romp. Obliterating Nazi’s with sci-fi weaponry is a great deal of fun, ditto exploring all that Isenstadt has to offer. While the difficulty level (even on ‘Normal’) is a tad ramped up, ‘Wolfenstein’s’ health recovery (via seeking cover) and checkpoint systems (nicely inter-sparsed) rarely leave one frustrated enough to toss a controller.

Multiplayer is a ‘fail’ in its current state. Google confirmed I wasn’t alone in my frustrations over choppy multiplayer sessions. Second, I quickly lost patience with the far-too-long (20 minutes each), team battle sessions consisting of leveled up players picking off n00bs (sans needed upgrades). To elaborate, battle strategy consists of traveling in packs, fleshing out opponents into the open, and hoping your life bar sustains the mano-y-mano lead exchange session. Ho-hum. Character class differences didn’t appear enough to warrant extended gameplay time. Last – and perhaps due to lag – the ‘Wolfenstein’ multiplayer community is miniscule by FPS standards.

Despite these flaws, fans of the series would be remiss not to give ‘Wolfenstein’ for the PS3 a go…perhaps at a discounted price. I’m fairly confident id will patch the multiplayer lag problem, plus there’s hours of fun to be had in Campaign mode. Don’t be fooled, however: ‘Wolfenstein’ is certainly no ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Resistance 2’ replacement.


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