The his­tory of Wolfen­stein

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The name ‘Wolfen­stein’ is now syn­ony­mous with Mecha-Hitlers, Panz­er­hunds, and hand­ing out straight lefts to the far right. Since 1981 it’s switched from top-down ad­ven­ture to mo­bile RPG, has pas­tiched movies in The Great Es­cape and po­lit­i­cal coups in Op­er­a­tion Valkyrie, and has been banned in Ger­many on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. We round up four decades of Wolfen­stein in our über-cool se­ries guide.

Cas­tle Wolfen­stein

Dev Muse Pub Muse Year 1981 Ach­tung! Be­fore the days of Wil­liam ‘BJ’ Blazkow­icz, you played an un­named Al­lied POW who had to elude Nazis, sniff out se­cret war plans, and es­cape the tit­u­lar cas­tle-turned-prison alive. You could sneak past foes, force them to drop their weapons at gun­point, or sim­ply shoot them in the back. There wasn’t an in­cen­tive not to end ev­ery en­counter vi­o­lently, re­ally. The re­ward for com­ple­tion was a Mi­crosoft Paint-es­que screen show­ing a fig­ure cross­ing a moat with the words ‘You es­caped!’ un­der­neath. A 1983 hack for the game, named Cas­tle Smur­fen­stein, re­places Nazis with Smurfs, and is cred­ited as be­ing one of the world’s first mods.

Be­yond Cas­tle Wolfen­stein

Dev Muse Pub Muse Year 1984 Op­er­a­tion Valkyrie, a real-life plot by Wehrma­cht of­fi­cers to blow up Hitler us­ing a bomb in a brief­case, gave this di­rect se­quel its ob­jec­tive: tra­verse a Ber­lin bunker, find the Führer’s meeting room, and place ex­plo­sives out­side the door. Stealth im­proved with the abil­ity to drag bod­ies for con­ceal­ment, the sub­sti­tute of grenades for dag­gers, and the pass sys­tem in which guards de­manded to see your pa­pers (although you could of­fer bribes). Fin­ish­ing the game earned you an in-game tele­gram from Al­lied HQ con­firm­ing “Hitler and most of cab­i­net dead”. Well done you.

Wolfen­stein 3D

Dev Id Soft­ware Pub Apogee Soft­ware Year 1992 Doom cre­ators John Car­mack and John Romero, along with Id Soft­ware, pop­u­larised first-per­son shooters with this ground­breaker. Al­lied agent BJ Blazkow­icz ex­plored uni­form rooms in his quest to de­stroy the Nazis’ zom­bie re­search pro­gram. Con­sist­ing of three episodes dis­sem­i­nated through share­ware, the fi­nal act cul­mi­nated in a bat­tle with what is un­mis­tak­ably Hitler in chunky ar­mour car­ry­ing chain­guns. That proved too sen­si­tive for some coun­tries, and it was banned in Ger­many. For a later SNES re­lease, Nin­tendo changed its at­tack dogs to slightly less vi­cious at­tack rats.

Spear Of Destiny

Dev Id Soft­ware Pub For­mGen Year 1992 Wolfen­stein 3D proved so suc­cess­ful it got a bonkers ex­pan­sion fol­low­ing BJ on an Indiana Jones- style mis­sion to re­cap­ture the Spear Of Destiny from the Nazis. This arte­fact is said to have pierced Je­sus’s side in his cru­ci­fix­ion. At the end of the game, old Billy Boy was sucked into Hell where he bat­tled the de­monic An­gel Of Death. Doc­tor Sch­abbs, the mad sci­en­tist from the pre­vi­ous game, also re­tured along­side his Über­mu­tant, a mon­ster with four cleaver-wield­ing arms and a chest-mounted chain­gun. In a later mis­sion pack, Hitler used the spear to sum­mon the Devil who, dis­ap­point­ingly, just fired orbs at you.

Re­turn To Cas­tle Wolfen­stein Dev Gray Mat­ter Pub Ac­tivi­sion Year 2001

Wolfen­stein re-emerged af­ter an al­most ten-year hia­tus pow­ered by Id Tech 3, the engine be­hind Quake III Arena. Once again, Blazkow­icz dis­cov­ered the Nazis were try­ing to buff the Third Re­ich by res­ur­rect­ing corpses. You bat­tled ev­ery­thing Hitler coud throw at you, from Lop­ers (cy­borgs whose lower body parts have been re­placed with Tesla gen­er­a­tors) to Über­sol­daten (be­he­moths with light­ning guns and rocket launch­ers). Wil­helm ‘Deathshead’ Strasse had been busy. This Min­is­ter Of Ad­vanced Re­search loved a bit of ex­per­i­men­tal surgery, and would go on to be­come Wolfen­stein’s pri­mary vil­lain.

Wolfen­stein RPG Dev Id Soft­ware Pub EA Mo­bile Year 2008

The weird­est en­try in the se­ries yet con­tained en­raged chick­ens, mega zom­bie war­riors, and toi­lets to smash peo­ple with. Here Al­lied com­mand sent BJ on a mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the Para­nor­mal Di­vi­sion of the Axis mil­i­tary and stop it once and for all. While pri­mar­ily a first-per­son, turn-based ad­ven­ture with a crap vir­tual D-pad, the game came with a score-based mini-mode called Chicken Kick­ing, which was all about boot­ing a poor feath­ered egg-layer into foes. As you can tell, it was more playful than other Wolfen­steins. Take paint­ings of Hitler that, when punched, caused the dic­ta­tor’s toupée to fly up.

Wolfen­stein Dev Raven Soft­ware Pub Ac­tivi­sion Year 2009

A di­rect se­quel to Re­turn To Cas­tle Wolfen­stein, BJ fi­nally got his of­fi­cial ti­tle: Op­er­a­tive For The Of­fice Of Se­cret Ac­tions. It only took 17 years. Upon learn­ing of a Nazi scheme to ob­tain a min­eral called Nacht­sonne that al­lows ac­cess to new di­men­sions, the OSA sent its best man. It was clearly look­ing to de­velop the Wolfen­stein mythos. For in­stance, Hans Grösse, first boss of Wolfen­stein 3D, ap­peared here as a tow­er­ing en­gi­neer with dual rocket launch­ers. Strasse got his baddy mo­ment too, run­ning away at the end shout­ing “Damn you, Blazkow­icz!” when BJ ex­ploded his zep­pelin.

Wolfen­stein: The New Or­der Dev Ma­chine Games Pub Bethesda Year 2014

Af­ter a botched Al­lied as­sault on Strasse’s Baltic Sea com­pound left BJ paral­ysed, he woke from his veg­e­ta­tive state in a Pol­ish asy­lum 14 years later to learn Nazis had dis­cov­ered new tech­nolo­gies and con­quered the globe. They not only con­trolled Europe, but had bases on the moon too. At the end, BJ killed Strasse and dealt a blow to the Nazis by hit­ting a key fortress with his U-boat’s nu­clear can­nons. The New Or­der also fea­tured an easter egg that let you play through the first level of Wolfen­stein 3D, pre­sented as one of BJ’s night­mares. Well, he’s been through a lot.

Wolfen­stein: The Old Blood Dev Ma­chine Games Pub Bethesda Year 2015

This stand­alone ex­pan­sion took place be­fore the events of The New Or­der and fol­lowed Blazkow­icz as he re­turned to Cas­tle Wolfen­stein to re­trieve a folder con­tain­ing the lo­ca­tion of Strasse’s com­pound. It was like the Rogue One to New Or­der’s The Force Awak­ens, the Death Star plans sub­sti­tuted with a pa­per binder. Stand­ing in his way was Nazi ar­chae­ol­o­gist Helga von Sch­abbs (any re­la­tion to Wolfen­stein 3D’s Dr. Sch­abbs?), and Rudi Jäger, a sadis­tic dog trainer who fed pris­on­ers to his me­chan­i­cally mod­i­fied ca­nines. “One last time. Then I can rest,” said Blazkow­icz, which is de­press­ing when you con­sider he’s got two games to come.

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