Operation Wolf Review
All I can say is “WOW!”. I had the pleasure of playing the arcade version of Taito’s 1987 war simulator, Operation Wolf, for the first time at a classic gaming event last year. The first thing that struck me about Operation Wolf was the cabinet itself. I mean, seriously, in this day and age you would not see a video game anywhere with a controller that looked like a realistic Uzi submachine gun. The “controller” for this game completely won me over before I even started playing. Kudos to Taito for not being afraid to show their support for the Second Amendment and our right as Americans to bear arms, be they actual firearms or near perfect replicas. Nintendo could learn a thing or two from the Operation Wolf cabinet about not backing down to pressure from gun grabbing liberal complainers.
The plot of the game is engaging. You play as an American Special Forces agent tasked with infiltrating a jungle concentration camp filled with Communists and rescuing their hostages. So, the plot is simply the kinds of real life missions the United States military was sending their Special Forces on in South America during the 1980s. The game’s attract mode really pulled me in. Dramatic music plays while you see a soldier tie his boots, put a knife into a sheath, duct tape some grenades to his leg and finally cock his Uzi. Clearly the game developers were directly influenced by the excellent Rambo animated children’s program that has a nearly identical intro sequence (minus the grenades and Uzi, likely because the liberal producers in Hollywood nixed them).
Gameplay is relatively straightforward. The player’s job is to shoot all of the Communist soldiers while avoiding shooting the hostages, random children, bikini clad women and Red Cross workers you predictably encounter in the remote jungle and concentration camp settings. The player is allowed several hits before dying, damage coming off of a “damage meter” for each detected hit. Players can regain health by shooting bottles with the letter “P” written on them that randomly occur on the playing field. Operation Wolf is realistic due to the player having limited ammunition, which can be replenished by finding loose ammo on the playing field. The game is violent, but like in most military simulations, the violence is against enemies of the state who have committed crimes against America so it is justifiable violence. There is no gore as the impact strike sprites Taito uses are the same for shooting a soldier or one of the many vehicles that appear. There is no realistic violence, so points off for accuracy there as it does not perfectly replicate the types of things a special forces operative would see shooting dozens of enemy solders with a submachine gun at close range.
The player follows a series of objectives beginning with the player destroying a communications outpost in order to “cut them off from rescue”. Next, by way of a cut scene, the hero “sweats out” the location of the concentration camp from a captured enemy soldier. Again, points off for not really showing the interrogation and it really took me out of the game a bit. I’m glad more modern games decided to show these types of missions more realistically, but I digress. The player then advances through a Communist held village which you promptly liberate by force. It is then time to resupply so you “take a powder magazine by force”. It is now time for the big mission that the President sent you to do; freeing the hostages at the main camp. After freeing the captives, the next task is getting them on a plane to escape to freedom. Upon completing Operation Wolf, the player is greeted with an image of the President who appears as an attractive combination of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. If only. Unfortunately, the end screen doesn’t make complete sense because Taito botched the on-screen dialogue. The President is offering to shake your hand and exclaims, “Splended! You are a real pro.” Points off for Taito not knowing how to spell “splendid”.
Operation Wolf is not without its faults. However, it laid important groundwork for the amazing military simulators we’ve come to love and cherish on the most recent generation of consoles. While I can’t overlook some of these glaring problems, I still highly recommend Operation Wolf. Realistically, the game would have to spout the virtues of the Bill Clinton regime in order for me to give a game with a Uzi controller low marks.