The World War II series continues with a lesser-known FPS franchise: Wolfenstein. Being id Software’s side project, it never got many sales and never really got the attention that Medal of Honor and Call of Duty got. It focused more on the supernatural and cult part of WWII. Everyone knows Hitler was into it and did a lot of experiments in this manner. Wolfenstein tells that story. It forgoes the D-Day reenactments and Pearl Harbor simulations. This is a more arcade shooter but still set in WWII.
Release Date: 5/5/1992 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 40%
Wolfenstein 3D was a good-looking game back in the day thanks to John Carmack’s programming magic. However, the game was boring and came before the famous Doom. It was unlike anything anyone had seen, a first-person shooter? No way! The game only received a couple of critic reviews but passed under everyone’s radar. The game was released about 15 years later as a remake and was slightly better.
3/1994 — SNES
GameRankings: SNES: 58%
Instead of creating a whole new game id Software went on a porting craze. They ported the game to every system that came out and it just never really kicked off. It was still boring and there were much better action games on the SNES. The SNES version was worse than the PC version because a lot was cut and it was edited. The faces were really low-res and it just looked awful. It shows that PC games just didn’t work on the SNES, and the game controlled terribly on the D-pad. However, id didn’t learn their lesson and continued to port it throughout the 90s.
Release Date: 10/19/995 — 3DO
GameRankings: 3DO: 82%
The 3DO may have been a failed system, but Wolfenstein 3D shined on it, and out shown the PC version. It had fully orchestrated music, better graphics, and the ability to load and delete saves. This was the best version to get and many issues were ironed out here. Of course, no one really bought the 3DO and the game continued to see a small market and garner low sales.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Release Date: 11/20/2001 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 86%
Wolfenstein didn’t see a new sequel until almost ten years after the original. It was reimagined using state-of-the-art 3D technology and was a huge hit with PC gamers. Wolfenstein finally go the attention it deserved and became one of the best-selling PC games of the time. It was praised for its amazing multiplayer and the single-player was solid as well. While Medal of Honor was doing well on PlayStation, Wolfenstein got to the PC first before Allied Assault blew players away.
Release Date: 3/31/2002 –GBA
GameRankings: GBA: 60%
id tried again on the GBA, it had the technology to run the original, and playing the game on the go seemed like a great idea, but the problems with the first game were ported over as well. It had 60 levels but could be beaten in a few days, it also offered no multiplayer which was possible with the GBA Link Cable. Why id just ported the game straight over it beyond me, it was a solid shooter on the GBA, which there were few of, but it just needed something extra. However, it was at least better than the awful Medal of Honor: Underground port.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War
Release Date: 5/6/2003 — Xbox
GameRankings: Xbox: 84%
Tides of War was released before the anticipated PC expansion. Wolfenstein was at its peak in 2003, but the Xbox version was loved for the online multiplayer that was an Xbox Live subscription seller. 16 players online were the hot new thing in 2003 and Tides of War fared much better than the abysmal Operation Ressurection on PS2. The game looked much better and in fact, even better than on PC. This was probably the best Wolfenstein console game made.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Release Date: 5/29/2003 — PC
GameRankings: PC: 87%
The official expansion was finally released 2 years later but was a bad time for the series because WWII heavy hitters were in full force. EA just released Battlefield 1942 and Medal of Honor had released Frontline a few months prior and Rising Sun was due out. Call of Duty was due out in October. Wolfenstein was in a sensitive position, but PC gamers ate it up. It was praised for multiplayer and the single-player was considered mediocre.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Ressurection
Release Date: 5/30/2003 — PS2
GameRankings: PS2: 69%
Wolfenstein hadn’t done well on consoles and Ressurection didn’t help that. The original RtCW was ported over but was missing the multiplayer, the game was heavily criticized for this. It doesn’t help that the textures looked terrible and animations were awful. The game bombed and didn’t do very well, probably for a good reason.
Release Date: 5/11/2009 — iPhone
GameRankings: iPhone: 87%
Wolfenstein made a comeback in 2009 with a reboot and to get fans excited they released an RPG on phones and re-released Wolfenstein 3D on Xbox 360 and PS3. RPG was very well received for capturing the addictive style of the first game, but with improved graphics and RPG features which was seen in Doom RPG. I personally loved the game, but it was very hard. The RPG elements added a whole new layer of depth to the game and sold very well.
Release Date: 6/4/2009 — PS3, X360
GameRankings: PS3: 77%
Sales: PS3, X360: <10,000
id just didn’t know when to quit with Wolfenstein 3D. No one liked it yet they thought a new generation of gamers would like it. The game suffered from the same issues as the PC version. It was boring and just so dated no one really cared. The superior RPG came out the previous month so why bother with this? Wolfenstein was actually the most ported WWII shooter, and one of the worst.
Release Date: 8/18/2009 — PC, PS3, X360
GameRankings: PC: 74%
PS3, X360: 73%
The reboot finally came. After tons of mediocre ports, everyone was curious about this one. The game looked really good, but it was the same WWII crap we were already tired of. The genre finally died in 2008, yet id Software thought it would be cute to release this. Maybe a few years prior this would have been welcomed, but just fell flat and felt average. The game had mazy levels, the weapons didn’t feel very great, and the story was pretty bad. It’s worth a play-through, but don’t expect anything amazing. I enjoyed the game a little, but after one play through I was done. The game sold just over a million copies and was the most successful Wolfenstein to date.
So there you have it. Wolfenstein was a weird series. The first game was ported for almost a decade then it came back in 2003 pretty strong on the PC but had bad console ports (Tides of War was pretty good). After a hiatus, it came back in 2009 but brought the stinky 3D game with it that no one wanted. So what of Wolfenstein now? No one has heard hide nor hair of the series since 2009. The series to date has sold just about 2.5 million copies which is not a lot for a long-running franchise. Will we see another on next-generation consoles? No one knows, Wolfenstein has a very small fan base and everyone is tired of WWII.