Monday, March 12, 2012

Favorite Video Games: Wolfenstein 3D (PC) 1992

 I salute you for dressing in that outfit

Three things I love about World War II

3. The The M4A3R3 “Zippo” Tank
The only thing cooler than a tank is a tank with a fucking flamethrower

2. Ball turret gunners
You have to have brass balls to lock yourself in a plastic ball without a parachute

1. We won.

My absolute favorite thing in the entirety of human history is winning World War II. For me, nothing cures a bad mood like watching the Nazis lose on the History Channel (please stop showing “Pickers” fleecing old men out of historical relics.) World War II and the victory thereof, was the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and the marked ascendency of the United States as a global Super Power. As to how that relates to video games…

Wolfenstein 3D (PC) 1992
I can't look at this picture without hearing the theme song.

Wolfenstein or Wolf 3D was released on May 5, 1992, but I got it for Christmas in either the 4th grade (late ’92) or the 5th grade (late ’93.) As I’ve mentioned before, I kind of sucked at platform jumpers, but it turned out I was pretty good at Wolfenstein. Resultantly, Wolfenstein was the first video game I really got into, and I would play it for hours on end.

Nazi scum!
It’s true that puzzles in first person shooters have gotten more complex than Wolfenstein’s standard “finding the key that opens the door in front of the elevator,” but all the basic mechanics of Modern Warfare and Half-Life 2 are pretty much present and accounted for. The game even had realistic gunshot sound effects and voice acting; something I didn’t have a chance to appreciate until I got a sound card a few years later. For 2 years I had to contend with a PC speaker, which had two settings: “off” and “SKULL SPLITTING!” and sound quality ranging from shrill beeps to dial-up-internet-esque computer gargles. Wolf3D was cinematic too; to this day it’s the only game I can think of that has missions that end on a true freeze frame, like a movie from the 80’s or an episode of Degrassi.
"Don't you forget about me..."

It was like nothing I’d played before. Most games, especially the ones that I was exposed to previously tended to involve killing things that were decidedly not human. To put it in perspective: in Bubble Bobble you imprisoned monsters in bubbles and when you popped them they turned into candy. Imagine the childish glee I felt as I brutally filled Nazis full of lead. The game’s about 20 years old, so I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I tell you that when you kill Hitler he melts into a pile of gore and then the game is kind enough to give you a fucking instant replay. Maybe Hitler didn’t really get machine gunned to death by a ten year old, but it would’ve been a cooler ending to the war than just committing suicide (like a bitch.)
"Let's see that again!"

I fell in love with the game instantly, but as much as I liked shooting Nazis the important thing was that they were Nazis. Prior to Wolfenstein I’d never heard of the Nazis before, so I asked my dad who they were. He explained that they tried to take over the world, like a bunch of comic book villains. I mean seriously, who tries to take over the world? Let’s see, there’s Doctor Doom, Darkseid, M. Bison, the Daleks, Cobra Commander, S.P.E.C.T.R.E, Brain (of Pinky and the Brain), and Adolf Hitler. When I inquired as to what stopped the Nazis he explained that men of his father’s generation fought and defeated them. I was shocked. My own grandfather served as an airplane mechanic during the war, and although he died before I was born, I couldn’t believe that someone I was related to helped defeat an group of people so evil they didn’t even seem real . My curiosity was piqued to say the least. I read every book I could on the subject, and eventually I graduated with a BA in history from Illinois State.
My Grandfather, Uncle Jerry, and my Grandmother

Wolfenstein 3D is the only game that I can honestly say changed my life for the better. (The time I’ve spent playing video games instead of doing homework is staggering.) It kicked off my interest in WWII and history, but it’s also a sweet game. There’s a reason it’s been ported to every system worth its salt, including the iPad, X-box 360, and PS3. As DLC on modern platforms it’s pretty cheap and convenient to check it out, but it can be expensive and inconvenient if you want to play the Atari Jaguar port for some reason.
A Jaguar cost like 300,000 tickets at Hollywood Park and I wanted one so bad.  Crappy system though.
...also, remember when Christina Aguilera was really hot?  Now I wouldn't touch her with yours.

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