The visual evolution of Wolfenstein – From sprites to polygons

Mein shooter

Wolfenstein 3D was released in 1992–meaning that the Wolfenstein franchises is over 20 years old. Gaming was in a much different place back then. The SNES has only just launched, and the first-person shooter genre wasn’t really a thing. Back then, the idea of walking around and shooting stuff in first freakin’ person was totally unheard of, so–yeah–Wolfenstein made one hell of a splash.

With the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order mere weeks away, we decided to take this opportunity to look back at how the franchise has grown and evolved in a visual sense. What started with 3D went on to games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 2009 reboot; few franchises have lasted this long, and it’s a great way to see exactly how far gaming has come since id first sent us on a one-way trip to Castle Wolfenstein.

BJ Blazkowicz (3D | New Order)

Ah, BJ, how you’ve grown from a red-haired white guy with blue eyes to a similar looking blonde-haired white guy with blue eyes. The best part, though, is the fact that he has retained the chin dimple all this time. That, my friends, is continuity.

Caroline Becker (2009 | New Order)

In the 2009 reboot of Wolfenstein, Caroline was introduced as the leader of the Kreisau Circle–a resistance network fighting against the nazis. In the time between the two games she’s aged a good amount and lost the use of her legs, but she’s still said to be involved in the resistance.

Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse (Return | New Order)

In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, they called him Oberfhrer. In Wolfenstein 2009, they called him Obergruppenfhrer. To most, though, he’s Deathshead, leader of the SS Special Projects Division. Like Caroline, he looks to have aged a good deal since we last saw him, going from “creepy mad scientist” to “creepy old mad scientist.”

“Can I play, daddy?” difficulty (3D | New Order)

Ever since the original, id has enjoyed poking fun at players who dare attempt its game at the lowest difficulty. This trend continues in New Order, which once again drops Blazkowicz into a baby’s outfit for the next-generation.

Dogs (3D | New Order)

Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Angry German Shepherd is a good boy! Yes he is! Yes he isss! Erm. Uh. Yes, so, the dog model has received quite an upgrade in the past 20 years, going from a typical looking doggie (AND A GOOD BOY) to what is basically the robocop of canines.

Luger (Return | New Order)

Back in the early 2000’s you likely didn’t think that 1940’s-era weaponry could look much better–but you were wrong! The Luger in New Order is shinier, and higher-resolution than ever.

Mounted machine guns (Return | New Order)

Mounted guns are a staple of first-person shooters, so it’s no wonder that they’ve shown up in a number of Wolfenstein games. The biggest change I see is the fact that BJ’s hands have moved on screen, which is actually a testament to the confidence the developer has in its visuals. Seriously, look at them hands. Look at ’em.

Nazi guards (3D | New Order)

It’s actually interesting how many different little ways the developers managed to make the characters look similar. Sure, you could just make the guy look like a Nazi, but giving them the same hat and sash helps. What does it help, you ask? This article. It helps this article.

Super Soldier (Return | New Order)

Thought Captain America was the only soldier enhanced by his government to win World War 2? Ha! Deathshead also juiced up his own warriors, creating Super Soldiers. The modern version looks less ornate and more utilitarian, but both look like they can soak about three clips worth of Luger ammo.

And the Nazi jumped over the moon

It’s fun to look back and see how much games have changed, but the biggest takeaway–for me at least–is how similar they’ve stayed. And that’s not a bad thing. My nostalgia goes crazy when I see that BJ has the same butt-chin as he had before, and I love retro nods and throw-backs that serve as a gentle reminder of gaming’s fantastic roots. Have any other things you’d like to see compared between the games? Let us know in the comments!

And if you’re interested in more gaming nostalgia, check out 22 things every gamer kid has heard from their parents and First!!!! moments every gamer remembers.

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