Wolfenstein 3D review

Back in 1992 ID software released Wolfenstein 3D, and although other games featuring similar tech came before it, it’s credited for the creating the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre, and for that accomplishment alone it certainly belongs in the Gaming hall of fame.

Inspired by the 80s top down action games Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, the game sees you playing a US soldier in a bid to escape a Nazi base.

You begin the game with only a pistol and a knife and must make your way through the maze of corridors and rooms, taking out guards and picking up treasure while finding the exit to escape that level. There are eight levels to this first chapter of the game, culminating in a final showdown with Hans Grosse, a dual machine gun wielding giant of a man. Once completed the next chapter opens up. Here the story gets more interesting, as you learn the true purpose of Castle Wolfenstein as a facility for creating undead soldiers… nice, that Hitler!

[Spoiler alert] This chapter ends with a showdown with a mad scientist and pretty much involves the same strategy as the first boss battle, which is to find the secret passage and the infamous chain gun. But it’s the boss battle in the 3rd chapter that is the best, which features the goose-stepping, moustache sporting, meglo-maniac himself… Adolf Hitler!

The original game finished here, but the iPhone edition features the three more chapters. All levels, chapters and boss fights are unlocked from the start and can be selected from the new game menu.

The good

Nostalgia fans will love this game! id hasn’t tried to be over clever here and the classic graphics and gameplay remain, with only the controls getting an overhaul.

As I mentioned earlier, all the levels are unlocked. This to some may be a cop out, but for those of you who didn’t experience the later levels, or are a bit of a noob… then it’s a nice option to have.

The graphics, while basic by today’s standards, run at a silky smooth framerate, and look crisp on the high resolution iPhone screen, pixel warts and all!

Sound hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing. Originally created by Robert Prince, who also composed Doom and Duke Nukem themes, the music in W3D is classic retro goodness, and sounds great. Sound effects are good too, with great gun sounds and humorous German one-liners.

The Bad

Apparently id’s John Carmack coded the new iPhone control options himself, and while they are not terrible, none of them feel quite right. There are four to choose from which give you a choice on where the move and look controls sit, as well as where the fire button is. You can also use tilt to control strafing or turning. From those options I would recommend the default, which has forward, and turning mapped to a thumb pad on the bottom left of the screen, with the fire button on the bottom right, you can then move side to side with tilt. However, I think an option where you can tap anywhere to fire would have been better, allowing you to map all movement to left and right thumb pads.

Finally, newcomers to this game may not get the whole ‘retro classic’ thing, and simply shrug it off as a game with terrible graphics that doesn’t control too well.

The bottom line

This game is 17 years old, and despite its dated look and feel, it’s the best FPS out there right now for iPhone! You can get it now for $4.99.

Presentation and graphics
OK, so the graphics don’t stand up by today’s standards but that’s missing the point… a 1961 E-type Jag doesn’t either, but it’s still a beautiful car!

Retro aural goodness

Despite the control issues, it’s still a blast to play

So many levels, so little time. Luckily you can pick and choose without unlocking theme first. Perfect for quick play sessions on the bus or train.

Final rating

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  • Dom Feeney

    I bought this and can wholeheartedly recommend.

    It is awesome slick frame rate. Decenti-sh controls are very responsive. Tons of levels with different chapters having different feels to the surroundings and different enemies. The inclusion of a map is a very welcome addition over the original DOS game some levels become a bit mazey but the map removes frustration.

    All in all It may be retro but it’s f***ing fantastic! Easily the best fps currently on iPhone. Roll on DOOM can’t wait


    I am quite new to gaming so I haven’t heard about this before but it sounds like a good game to buy. I’ll wait for a price drop.

  • iPGN-Nige

    I doubt the price will fall, this is an id game afterall. I think $4.99 is good value

  • deckard

    Good review, I’m especially impressed that you had the honesty to call this game like it is (it’s not perfect) and not slobber all over over it simply because it’s Wolf 3D. The port itself is pixel perfect so kudos to JC but the controls are simply not good compared to other games out there that do it better (take Space Trader for example, based ironically enough on the Quake 3 engine).

  • iPGN-Nige

    thanks deckard :)

  • Dom Feeney

    The controls aren’t that bad. Its a little annoying that you have to take your finger off the turn around key to fire, but at least they’re responsive.

  • Jay

    yep. i like this. time for them to port over DOOM, this time with better controls

  • Kevin J

    Yes, definitely brings back that nostalgic feeling but now I need my Doom 2.

  • Tiago

    This is a great game i have purchase this game and is really really cool =) but i think i will enjoy doom better =p.

  • Gongadze

    “The original game finished here, but the iPhone edition features the three more chapters. ”

    Um, excuse me, but the original game DID have 6 episodes…

  • Nigel Wood, UK

    Not in the original release, only in the later released version which contained the mission pack “the Nocturnal missions”

  • Matt R

    I have tried really hard.. but I can NOT stop playing this game.. I LOVE IT.. so simple yet… mutant zombie nazi jerks! DIE!