Thursday, April 18, 2013

Game Review - Operation Wolf

Today's review will be on Operation Wolf, a 1987 shooting game made by Taito. The first time I came across this game was long before the arcade boom in Turkey; so this could actually be the very first arcade game I ever played. There was a 7-Eleven not far from where we lived at the time and they had an original Operation Wolf cabinet on the second floor in a corner, with no other arcade games to accompany it. I loved going to 7-Eleven with my mother at that age, I couldn't imagine any better way of spending time than that. I would eat those disgusting frozen hamburgers or greasy hot dogs, maybe win another one from their scratch and win promotions and of course, play some Operation Wolf. I was barely tall enough to reach the controller and I don't think I was even aware of the little red button on the side of the controller which was used to launch rockets.

Later, when actual arcades opened up in the neighborhood, I started seeing this game here and there. You would definitely notice this game in an arcade, the bad ass uzi light gun would certainly catch your attention. An interesting feature of this game is that if you see an Operation Wolf cabinet in an arcade, it has to be an original cabinet, because generic arcade cabinets don't have the gun that is used as a controller in this game. There were maybe one or two other light gun games, but this one was certainly the most popular at that time.

I also got a chance to play this game at home, in my cousin's Sega Master System. Although they did sell light guns for the Master System, my cousin did not have one and it was a bitch to play this game with a standard controller. I remember playing this game for hours but barely getting past the second stage. Now, running the game under MAME and using mouse as a controller, the game becomes almost too easy to play. Here's a video of me beating the game with just one credit:

To say a few words about the story of the game, our character, Roy Adams, is a Special Forces Operative and he needs to rescue five hostages from a concentration camp in South America. To do this, he first needs to cut the enemies communications and get information about the location of the concentration camp. Then, he needs to raid a magazine and replenish his ammunition. Finally, he should rescue the hostages, get them on a plane and flee.

The game play is pretty straightforward, you need to shoot all the enemy soldiers, tanks, choppers, boats, motorcycles etc. and not shoot the hostages, nurses, villagers, kids and women in bikinis... I am not kidding, there are women in bikinis running around for some reason, for instance see 4:17 in the video. I don't know how one goes from sunbathing in a beach to running away from bullets, but apparently, that makes sense to the developers of this game. There are also items with various effects that you can shoot, such as magazines, rocket bombs, health restoring drinks etc. Also, if you see a pig, chicken or bird, shoot it and you might get a magazine or rocket bomb. Barrels, crates and coconuts on trees might also reveal items.

The game relies heavily on quick reaction and reflexes, but that is not all. Usually, there will be many targets on the screen and the player needs to prioritize these targets in a way to avoid sustaining any injuries or minimize the damage if it is impossible to avoid it altogether. For instance, if there are many soldiers and a helicopter on the screen, it is a good idea to kill the soldiers first and then take care of the helicopter since the damage from the helicopter alone will probably be less than the damage from all of the soldiers combined. Also, resource management is important because sometimes it makes more sense to use rockets while in some situations it is better to save your rockets. For example, when there are many targets on the screen, it may be a good idea to kill helicopters or tanks instantly with a rocket to deal with other smaller targets but if there is a single helicopter on the screen, it should be killed with bullets to save rockets. When there are multiple heavy targets close together, they can all be killed instantly with a single rocket and that is usually a good time to use a rocket.

In conclusion, I think Operation Wolf is a pretty successful game in its genre. It is one of the two shooter games that I really like (the other one is Beast Busters). Three sequels were made after this game by the way, Operation Thunderbolt, Operation Wolf 3 and Operation Tiger. Maybe I will review those games as well, who knows?