So, we are finally there, ready to kick some Nazi’s butt! Well not quite, we have some mini films to watch first to set the scene. I intend to write my review as if this is the first time that I have played the game. I want to look at what gets presented and when. There will be times when I’ll jump out of this mode but that will most likely be to mention something that either won’t get explained later. As we learn new plot elements, I’ll step aside from the game and try to give some sort of summary of the real world item, place or person that this either is or, more likely, what it is similar to. If nothing comes up as obvious, I will attempt to speculate, though I will always say when I am speculating.
So, the game starts up, the obligatory credits roll and then we watch the intro film. As it has been posted multiple times on YouTube, I’ll post what seems to be the most popular copy below.
I’ll also provide the actual script below:
The prolog starts on a battle field of epic carnage. A hooded man (monk?) with a firebrand staff, treks thought the rain to a ruin. One of the knights sees him and runs to attack. The man repels the attack with a magic discharge from his staff. The fallen knight’s helmet falls off and rolls over to another warrior. The other stops what he is doing, picks up a head (anyone’s head!), and throws it to the hooded man. They talk…
Hooded Man: Heinrich, your reign of terror must end.
Heinrich: You fool! You know as well as I that I cannot be destroyed!
Heinrich advances on the hooded man with his sword. He swings but is met with the magic of the other’s staff. Neither one yield and they are both repelled by the power. The hooded man crawls over to a crystal (the light we assumed that was on his staff) meanwhile Heinrich picks up his sword and walks over to deliver a killing blow. As Heinrich is about to strike, the hooded man draws a sigil in the stone and speaks to Heinrich.
Hooded Man: A prison then…
Light strikes Heinrich and sweeps him over to a raised platform. With the aid of the shinning crystal, the hooded man drops Heinrich into a seemingly bottom-less pit and rocks seal him in. The hooded man finally speaks.
Hooded Man: May the fates hold off the coming of the storm.
The hooded man turns and walks away. The building turns to rubble as he leaves.
1943 AD (that’s right exactly 1,000 years later)
Men are digging around large stones. While we don’t see any faces, we can assume that the man about to speak has just discovered the imprisoning sigil of Heinrich. He says….
“Return to Castle Wolfenstein immediately. Notify Herr Himmler – we’ve found him!”
We can only see the man’s arm but from that we know that he is a German officer.
So what do we learn?
We thought we were going to play an escape from Castle Wolfenstein like how the original Wolfenstein 3D but we instead watch a film about supernatural events of a thousand years earlier. Clearly something is going to happen now that the sigil has been re-discovered but it is unclear how that will affect the game. A quick search on Heinrich turns up the following:-
Henry I the Fowler (German: Heinrich der Finkler or Heinrich der Vogler; Latin: Henricius Auceps) (876 – 2 July 936) was the Duke of Saxony from 912 and German king from 919 until his death. First of the Ottonian Dynasty of German kings and emperors, he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet “the Fowler” because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king.
On the same Wikipedia page we find the following, more ominous reference:-
There are indications that Heinrich Himmler saw himself as the reincarnation of the first king of Germany. The Nazism ideology referred to Henry as a founding father of the German nation, fighting both the Latin Western Franks and the Slavic tribes of the East, thereby a precursor of the German Drang nach Osten (the attack on the countries east of Germany).
The above picture shows Heinrich Himmler laying a wreath on Heinrich I’s tomb.
Clearly, there is something to the events of the tenth century and those of the twentieth. So, from the very beginning, there is a mixing of truth with fiction. From what information is known about Henry the Fowler (Heinrich), he was more of a benevolent ruler (as much as 10th century rulers could be) rather than a warlord. He gained something of a legendary status within Germany in much the same way, and for the same reasons as King Arthur and Charlemagne. In battle, he successfully led a force against the invading Magyars (Hungarians) and in peace he united the Germany duchies into a loose confederation that could be considered an early Germany.
Where the intro video deviates from history is his portrayal as some sort of black magician warrior that has some level of immortality (“You know as well as I that I cannot be destroyed!”) and secondly, by 943 AD he was already dead. I think it was important that the two events span 1,000 years but also, the rediscovery had to be a middle war year. I think the 1,000 year span was important because it reinforces the other 1,000 year span mentioned at the time, the 1,000 year Third Reich – a 1,007 year span doesn’t have the same ring to it!
We don’t get any real sense of where the film is set but we get glimpses of an almost Stonehenge-like circle structure that the action takes place in. As the monk walks away, it all seems to collapse behind him so I guess it makes sense in the limited 1943 part of the film, we don’t see anything of this building.
Going back to real history, Heinrich died and was buried in Quedlinburg Abbey which is in the north-western foothills of the Harz Mountain range. I’ve included a picture below. If you were to replace the abbey belfries with a single bergfried tower, you would have another Castle Wolfenstein-like castle as envisioned by Silas Warner.
I mention the Harz Mountains because we will be visiting these mountains soon enough. This is a map of the area. Quedlinburg is just below the map’s key.
Now if we want to fit it all together, we can certainly try. How about Heinrich dying in 936 as historically stated but then rose from the dead by dark magic. He, with his undead army, plunders the land causing all sorts of damage until imprisoned by the hooded man. So who is this hooded man? In the game, we don’t find out but the Wolfenstein Wiki states that he is Simon the Wanderer – an ex-Benedictine monk that left the order. They don’t state their sources but as no one has contradicted them, that’s good enough for me.
We can also make an assumption that these soldiers are somewhere near Castle Wolfenstein as the voice implies that his journey back to Castle Wolfenstein will be a short one.
There are not too many details of how this film was made. It was made by a company named Blur Studio and they are still in business creating animations. The Quake III engine was not used to create this film (unlike the rest in the game). This link gives some details of the film making process including the fact that the film was made to be displayed on cinema screens. The idea of multiple passes to create the blurred background can be handled almost automatically these days. For reasons unexplained, Blur Studio is not included in the game credits.
Onto the actual game! Well actually no. I decided to go through the prequel levels set in Egypt that were added to the PS2/Xbox versions of the game. And that means, of course, that we have another film to watch. I will also talk about how you can play the PS2 version of the game if you want to follow along.