I’m one of those antiquated gamers who remembers the arcades with a form of wide-eyed wonderment. Walking in and inhaling all the cigarette smoke, my eardrums assaulted with a cacophony of music and one liners from the various machines. My eyes treated to flashing lights and incredibly detailed pixel art. The pinnacle of my arcade experiences was always the ‘light gun’ games. Being able to slam in your great British pence into a cabinet, tightly grip a replica pistol or machine gun. For a moment being lost in the battle with the bad guys. With each pull of the trigger you felt like an action movie hero.
The first of such games which I experienced is the venerable Operation Wolf. It was released in arcades in 1987. Its large cabinet dwarfing those around it, featuring various evil soldiers throwing grenades and tanks begging to be blown up. It cried out to be played and obsessed over. The mounted Uzi felt suitably macho as you curled your fingers around it, the gun was riveted to the cabinet and allowed players to swivel their aim to point at all angles on the screen.
Operation Wolf was divided into six levels, these ranged from jungles to docks. Enter your location of choice and you are thrust immediately into the action. Hordes of gun-totting thugs will spring out from the wilderness or the wooden huts, unleashing a barrage of bullet hell at you. Don’t panic, just pull the trigger of your trusty Uzi 9mm and riddle them in a hail of machine gun fire. The perspective of the game shifts from right to left, creating an illusion of movement. When the tanks and choppers emerge, your bullets won’t be effect. These are tougher villains that you have saving your grenades for. Pressing the simple button at the side of your mounted Uzi sends a hand grenade. Those armored vehicles never stood a chance against you. Be warned however, explosives and grenades aren’t plentiful.
The bad guys aim is far deadlier than those of say, Virtua Cop or Time Crisis. As soon as you start, get used to the hot kiss of shrapnel lead. Even with the generous health bar, its not long before you hear the steady beeping emitting from the cabinet. A warning that you are about to bite the dust. When your health is low, it focuses the mind, squeezing the effectiveness out of every bullet. Your eyes will be roaming around the screen desperate to take down the next solider before he fires the fatal bullet into your shoulder or gut.
Losing health is also not the only way to encounter the Game Over screen. If you run out of bullets or kill too many hostages, that will prematurely end your adventure. You can gain more grenades and ammo but slaughtering the animals that roam around. I’ve also assumed that they are ‘bad’ animals as I pump bullets into them. Besides, its for the greater good isn’t it?
Operation Wolf is all about the seemingly endless slaughter of your enemies. No plot or reasoning why you are single-handedly taking on an enemy. You don’t need any of that. You just need your trusty Uzi and keen reflexes as you blast through the levels. This was a tough game, one of the ‘Dark Souls’ of the light gun genre but it was groundbreaking and transcends any generation gap. For those who want to learn more about video game history or for those who just enjoy wholesale slaughter, you need to play this.
Operation Wolf is all about the seemingly endless slaughter of your enemies. No plot or reasoning why you are single-handedly taking on an enemy. You don’t need any of that. You just need your trusty Uzi and keen reflexes as you blast through the levels
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,