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067 - Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

Best Games - Beyond Castle Wolfenstein

Everyone played that 3D shooter. You probably had a shareware disc or a disc with a handwritten label that said Wolf 3D. The one where you ran, gun outstretched, through squared off tunnels shooting nazis all the way. Wolfenstein 3D was great wasn’t it. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein isn’t that game.

We played Beyond Castle Wolfenstein in school. We would stay in recesses and huddle around the computer. This was not a school sanctioned activity. Our school did have an apple IIe or IIc in all the classrooms, so this was really just the students making the best use they could of the resources at hand. Maybe a few teachers in the entire school district had half a clue what to do with these machines. The students knew exactly what to use them for.

The disk was one that some kid had brought from home. Probably a twelfth generation copy, not even the distant vapor of legitimate retail lingered around it. No box, no manual, no nothing. We were flying completely blind. Every time we would take a fifteen minute run at the thing, we would learn new controls, and discover new secrets. Learning that you could crack locks if you didn’t have the combination was revelatory. As was finding that you could hold up a nazi guard with an unloaded gun just so you could steal his bullets.

It was Beyond Castle Wolfenstein and a trip to the school library that taught me who Eva Braun was. Before that game, I had never heard of her. While playing the game we discovered so many of her coats and diaries in locked chests and closets, I figured she must be worth looking up. Along the way I also learned about operation valkyrie, and figured out that they character you play in the game is likely a german resistance fighter, and not an intrepid allied soldier like some of the art would lead you to believe. So maybe it was somewhat educational after all.

Going back to the game now, the mechanics are thin, and the content is unique but sparse. What you do see though is the beginnings of something else. The road is pretty straight from Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, and it’s predecessor Castle Wolfenstein, to Metal Gear. This is one of the first stealth action games, even though it’s light on both. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein is the prototype on which one of gamings most enduring genres is built. That alone makes it one of the best games.

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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