|Platform(s)||Apple II, MS-DOS, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64|
Castle Wolfenstein is a stealth-based, action-adventure, shooter video game developed by Muse Software for the Apple II. It was released in 1981 and ported to MS-DOS, the Atari 8-bit family, and the Commodore 64. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein is its sequel. With an emphasis on trying to avoid detection for as long as possible, Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel are considered by gamers to be prototypical stealth-based games—some of the first in a genre that would not gain popularity until the late 1990s, for instance through Metal Gear Solid (1998).
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Castle Wolfenstein is a stealth-based action-adventure shooter game set in World War II. The game's main objective is to traverse the levels of the castle to find the secret war plans and escape alive. There are a total of 60 discrete rooms in the castle, on five separate floors. Although the internal contents of rooms are shuffled at the beginning of each game, the path through the castle always remains unchanged. Therefore, it is possible to fully map the castle, and then utilize the map during subsequent games. Progressively higher military ranks are earned upon each successful escape with the war plans, and the game becomes correspondingly more difficult as each higher rank is achieved. There are eight ranks, beginning with Private and culminating at the rank of Field Marshal.
The game is played from a top-down perspective, though the characters are seen upright like in a side-scroller. The player traverses the levels by sneaking past, impersonating, and sometimes even killing Nazi soldiers. Castle Wolfenstein can be controlled with a joystick, paddles, or a keyboard.
The player starts the game with a gun and ammunition. Once the player starts moving, he attracts the attention of the guards, who will try to shoot or apprehend him. He must either run from the guards or kill them. There are two styles of guards, the basic guards, and the SS Stormtroopers who wear bullet-proof vests marked with the SS insignia. The basic guards are not very intelligent, reacting only to the sounds of gunshots and grenades, or after seeing the player wandering around without a uniform, and will gladly walk their patrol paths into your raised gun and surrender to a search. Additionally, they are unable to leave the rooms they are stationed in. The SS guards are much smarter and, once alerted, tend to chase the player from room to room. They require a large number of rounds or a grenade to kill.
The player can kill enemies by firing the pistol (which expends ammunition, a scarce commodity, and risks raising the alarm if another guard is present) or throwing a grenade (though this will also attract the attention of nearby guards). Once an enemy soldier is dispatched, his body can be searched for ammunition, keys, grenades and bullet-proof vests. If the player reaches maximum carrying capacity, any remaining ammo and grenades will be left on the body. To avoid detection, the player can find a uniform (either in a chest or from a dead guard), which will convince the normal guards that the player is one of them. However, the SS guards will usually expose the player as an impostor. Pulling a gun on a guard usually will cause him to put his hands up, allowing him to be frisked for ammo, bullet-proof vests, grenades, and keys, depriving the guard of the full quantity of these he carries. Any in excess of the player's carrying capacity disappear from the game. Optionally the player can kill the guard at this point.
Some rooms contain locked chests that can be picked and searched. Some are empty, but others contain useful items such as bullets, grenades, uniforms, bullet-proof vests and the war plans. Chests can also contain bratwurst, Liebfraumilch wine, Schnapps, Eva Braun's Diaries, cannonballs, and medals, though all are worthless in gameplay. Edible items, when ingested, result in comments on their flavor. After drinking an alcoholic beverage, the player's aim is temporarily thrown off balance, resulting in bullets and grenades missing their target.
Other than the outer walls of the room and the stairs, the entire room is destructible using grenades. This can be necessary in order to access a chest from another direction if a body has fallen in front of it: searching a body has precedence over opening a locked chest. Chests can also be destroyed with a grenade, but if the chest contains explosives (bullets, grenades, or cannonballs) it will explode and end the game. Chests can also be shot open, but attempting to do so also risks setting off any explosive contents.
Running straight into walls temporarily stuns the player, but vertical walls can be clipped slightly by the player's motion and not stun him. Also, some horizontal walls can be walked into from the side without effect. Fallen dead guards can also allow the player to walk through horizontal wall segments and chests, albeit not from directly below. Surviving guards and SS will not walk over bodies, so they can be used to block passage to areas of the room, trap guards in cul-de-sacs, as well as block entrance by the SS into rooms.
One of the main drawing points for fans was its unprecedented use of digitized voices. German words shouted by the guards, such as "Halt!" ("Stop!") and "Kommen Sie!" ("Come!") were frequent. Though limitations in technology only allowed for a few distorted shouts, the voices added to the game's atmosphere and made Castle Wolfenstein stand out from other games released at the time.
An Allied spy has been captured and taken to Castle Wolfenstein for interrogation by the SS and is subsequently thrown into the dungeon. A dying prisoner emerges from a hiding place and in his last moments, hands the spy a fully loaded Mauser C96 pistol. The spy proceeds to escape the dungeon, steal the battle plans from the officers' headquarters and leave Castle Wolfenstein.
Silas Warner was inspired to create Castle Wolfenstein after seeing the video game Berzerk at an arcade, and then watching the 1961 film adaptation of The Guns of Navarone on television a few weeks later.
Debuting in September 1981, Castle Wolfenstein had sold 20,000 copies by June 1982. Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games criticized the Apple version's slow gameplay but concluded that "the thrill of the escape is worth the wait". Ahoy! criticized the Commodore 64 version's slow load times and annoying wall-collision detection, but called Castle Wolfenstein "addicting. I am not all that big on killing everything that moves, but I really got caught up in the adventure". Antic criticized the Atari 8-bit version's use of the Apple II original's "lousy sound and black-white-green-purple graphics".
The Apple II version received a Certificate of Merit in the "Computer Game of the Year" category at the 4th annual Arkie Awards. A 1991 Computer Gaming World survey of strategy and war games gave Castle Wolfenstein one and a half stars out of five. However, in 1996, the magazine named Castle Wolfenstein the 116th best game ever.
Castle Wolfenstein became so popular that by 1984 at least one commercial game trainer for a video game was created for it. Muse released a sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, which is similar in gameplay and appearance. The objective is to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase, similar to the 20 July plot as part of Operation Valkyrie implemented by Claus von Stauffenberg.
Castle Wolfenstein inspired the game Wolfenstein 3D and its sequel Spear of Destiny by id Software, which were both released in 1992 and helped popularize the first-person shooter genre. Id went on to release Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory in 2003, Wolfenstein in 2009. Wolfenstein: The New Order, using the Id game engine id Tech 5, but developed and published by MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks, respectively, was released in 2014.
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