Free, Browser-Based 'Wolfenstein 3D' Released by Bethesda
Bethesda Softworks on Wednesday released a free, browser-based version of the iconic first-person shooter, Wolfenstein 3D.
The game, available to play at the Bethesda site, supports most modern browsers: Google Chrome 16, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 11, and Apple Safari 5. The game is mouse-enabled, although players can play it via their keyboard only, if they so choose.
Bethesda, which bought iD Software in 2009, released the game in time for Wolfenstein 3D's 20th anniversary. The game is a remake of the classic Apple II game, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Although it wasn't the first 3D shooter - Hovertank and Catacomb 3D came before it - it was the first to provide a "3D" view of the world, with 2D sprites that were mapped from eight perspectives, to produce the illusion of a 3D object. The game ran in just 320-by-200 with 256-color VGA graphics.
That fact, as well as others, are part of an Easter egg of sorts: a special podcast with legendary game designer and iD co-founder John Carmack, who contributes his memories of the game. (We've embedded the video below.)
"The core essence of taking an experience that used to be done in top-down - we were all familiar at the time with top-down shooters like Gauntlet and things where you would run around and shoot at the enemies there - taking really similar gameplay and projecting it into te 3D environment, adding perspective and the fact that that changed the game experience so much was the real triumph of what we did then," Carmack said.
Wolfenstein 3D holds up well over time, especially when you consider that so many first-person shooters, especially the single-player versions of games like the Call of Duty franchise, are little more than "rail shooters," with the experience nearly scripted. Wolfenstein and its successor, DOOM, encouraged exploration, and rewarded players with hidden secrets and even secret levels. Unfortunately (or not) users can pick which level they wish to play in the browser version, even the secret levels.
A quick PCMag run through found that while the sounds and graphics are the same as the original, the mouse control feels too floaty. Still, we'd expect that gamers will spend at least a few minutes during their lunch hour reminiscing. We will.