The USA gets a ton of flak for acting like the world’s police. But people seem to forget it was the role that they were always cast in: first as the unwilling participants in two World Wars — not really that unwillingly if you know your history — and then as the global rescue squad in every flashpoint around the world from Sierra Leone to Panama and Iraq. At least, when they weren’t the ones that started the problem they were intervening in — See Manuel Noriega. It’s in this vein that games like Operation Wolf were created.
The story follows a lone Green Beret Roy Adams, sent into a random foreign South American country - that bears a striking resemblance to Cuba or Columbia – to rescue hostages. Wait, that makes no sense. If he’s rescuing hostages, this should be Iran… And if so, then why is there a jungle in this game? I’m confused. The Iran Hostage Crisis ended in 1981, and this game came out in 1987. Taito, have you been using the History Blender again? Historically, there was a failed attempt to rescue the hostages called Operation Eagle Claw. It seems Taito decided to swap the Cacaw for the Awoo and give us this game. Whatever the reason here is the first game I ever encountered that had a gun physically mounted to the arcade machine. Let's go behind enemy lines with operation Wolf.
The first thing that struck me when I saw it long ago was that there was a gun sticking out of the arcade machine. I mean it's not something you see every day. Later I’d learn that physics had been ignored when it came to this game. As this noble green beret you run around with an Uzi that has 9 spare magazines of ammunition, holding 30 rounds each. Oh, and you have six rocket-propelled grenades. Apparently you can fire these. I don’t know how. The Uzi is not exactly a behemoth among firearms. It's a submachine gun capable of spraying and praying. It is many things, like an excellent room clearing device for one. But it is not, I repeat, not a tank or helicopter destroying machine.
This is why I love video games because in this world, the Israelis made a weapon capable of firing grenades! Having established that our hero is capable of breaking the laws of physics, it makes me wonder why I need a life bar at all. Also, you're on your own. You must play through five levels before finally getting to the five hostages that you have to free. I don’t know what makes them so special. Maybe they p**p Toblerones on command, it was the 80s after all. Once you free them you have to put them on a plane, but I'll get to that annoyance later.
You parachute into the jungle where your slay-date begins. Conveniently, every guard is happy to run out and shoot at you. No cover-based fighting here, which is a blessing and a curse. They can’t hide but neither can your obviously Caucasian behind. Mission one has you massacring anyone of a foreign extraction while trying to not shoot the birdbrained civilians that seemed hell-bent on photobombing your bulletstorm. You get bonuses for not fragging the locals but when you do shoot them - and you will - the game just says “Oh No!“ Like you just spilled some wine. “No, no Agatha, that’s not wine. That’s my spleen.” Following this, you blow up the enemy’s communication tower stopping them from calling in reinforcements… and denying everyone else from listening to the radio. Bloody Americans!
Stage two sends you through the obligatory jungle scene. Again, I’m wielding an Uzi that destroys patrol boats! How did America not demand a rematch with Vietnam? Hell, even with this game set ten years after the war, if I had a small and ridiculously overpowered weapon the average soldier could carry, I’d be knocking at their door shouting “Guess who?!”. Having rendered all the baddies and most of the wildlife extinct, you kill more baddies and then have a rest at the lone village. Then you do what may be the most brazenly bad*** move a soldier could make: he steals ammo from the enemy’s own stores. Dammit, I love the 80s! “Oh dear, I’m low on bullets…” BANG! BANG! BANG! “Nevermind.”
Now comes the time to visit ye olde concentration camp. By the way, don’t shoot the hostages. Mr. President needs his nutty chocolate dispensers. The fun part about this stage is that if you arrived in this stage without warning and started shooting, you’d frag the hostages. They wear grey and wander about, arms outstretched ala zombies. The only give-away that they’re worth protecting is the soldier with the knife that comes up behind them trying to get some candy. That and they wheeze their way slowly across the screen shouting “Help!”, then pause as they exit to say “Thank you.” Dumb*ss, I will drill you for a Snickers!
And finally you get to the airport. Yes, there’s a C130 Hercules - with American markings - and its just been sitting on the runway waiting for you. I’d love to have heard that conversation with customs.
“How come you’re just sitting here.”
“Uh-huh. Why all the guns?”
“Those are called helicopters.”
BANG! The customs guy drops dead.
“Boring conversation anyway.”
Having gotten to the plane, it trundles down the runway and based on your point of view, you’re defending it by hanging off the wing. Again, you have to wait for the zombie hostages to shuffle across the screen before fighting every helicopter in South America! Then they send in a Hind-D (Metal Gear Solid fans will know which one). But never fear for Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beats Paper and Uzi beats Logic. You escape to victory to be greeted by the creepiest president I’ve ever seen. He’s like a cross between Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Basically, shoe leather with eyes that can’t emote.
Yay! You’re a hero. Right up until they send you back again… I’m guessing the plane only has six seats.
An iconic game that taught you the concept “One Shot. One Kill”.
There’s a gun mounted to the machine. What more do you need?
Death wishing civilians.
Shooting pigs for power-ups.
So. Many. Helicopters.
I can’t fault Operation Wolf. It was a fun game with a great difficulty curve that taught you everything you ever needed to know about going out and being a hero - Bring a bigger plane!
Comedian, Writer, Actor, Voice-artist. Host of the Urbane Myths podcast, Co-host of GeekXP's 'Release The Geek'. Opinionist Purveyor of Wanton Meanderings. And above all, Geek.
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