Called by some the “grandfather” of shooters, Wolfenstein started life as a stick figure platformer called Castle Wolfenstein way back in 1981. From those Apple II origins it has evolved through various incarnations to the graphically detailed first-person shooter it is today.
Two things have perpetually stayed the same: The dreaded Nazis are always up to no good. And the heroic one-man army B.J. Blazkowicz is ever diligent to foil their malevolent schemes.
Storylines of the past have involved everything from espionage quests in an ancient castle to running and gunning through armies of zombies. This time, Hitler’s goons have upped the ante in a fictional town called Isenstadt where they are fiendishly tinkering with the occult.
It seems that crystal shards hidden around Isenstadt can unlock another dimension and tap a mystical force called the Black Sun. The resulting supernatural whiz-bang is capable of turning a soldier into a hideous monstrosity with indescribable power. (Not sure why you would want to live life as a radioactively glowing skeleton, but the bad guys are lining up.) Of course, before the SS can use these twisted abilities to rule the world, it’s up to B.J. to snatch them away from the evildoers, spilling as much Nazi blood as possible in the process.
To that end Wolfenstein has its players battle their way through a series of missions for a resistance underground called the Kreisau Circle and a group of occult scholars called the Golden Dawn. These two groups help deliver the Thule Medallion—a device that allows B.J. short bursts of time-slowing, bullet-shielding and interdimensional-traveling abilities.
A Time to Dismember
Between supernatural medallion zaps, gamers are engrossed with the zings, bams and booms of large-caliber weaponry. You’re tasked with continually upgrading your arsenal of rifles, machine guns and flamethrowers. (Supernatural weapons and abilities can be upgraded as well.) And then you stride forth to riddle, burn, electrocute and viciously dismember every breathing German trooper and Nazi boss you can find. Flesh sizzles and blood spatters. Along with flying limbs, savaged corpses are seen scattered and torn after each encounter. In fact, the game features an “Enemies Killed” counter that keeps track of the dead and the means of their slaughter.
In the midst of these grisly escapades are a variety of occult references and symbols. Foul language includes misuses of God’s name. Soldiers talk about recent interludes with the opposite sex. And several times you run into women dressed in skimpy lingerie. (One encounter involves a houseful of cowering half-naked prostitutes.)
As Bad as a B Can Be
In case you haven’t yet picked up on my tone, I’ll say it straight out: This isn’t one of those Call of Duty-style shooters. B.J. Blazkowicz is all about derring-do, but this is definitely not a game concerned with WWII heroism.
“Wolfenstein takes place during World War II and features Nazis, but other than that it is very much its own experience,” said idSoftware developer Peter Sokal in a 2404.org interview. “Since it is not an attempt to be historically relevant, we can throw a lot of unexpected twists at the player.”
Again, I will be clear: What he calls twists I call senseless carnage and occult creepiness blended together like so much raw meat in a gothic grinder. The resulting paste is a broad-based M-rater gamespot.com called the “equivalent of a B-movie.” The bloody kind of B.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.