"It was June, 2005. There was an internet chat room filled with the very geekiest of people -- videogame reviewers. They were, of course discussing games. All the big names got dropped but, when Operation Wolf got its deserved mention, one of the occupants showed distressing ignorance and utters three fateful words that have haunted him for the rest of his days. "
It was June, 2005. There was an internet chat room filled with the very geekiest of people -- videogame reviewers. They were, of course discussing games. All the big names got dropped but, when Operation Wolf got its deserved mention, one of the occupants showed distressing ignorance and utters three fateful words that have haunted him for the rest of his days.
“What’s Operation Wolf?”
This, of course, is all the ammo I need to make fun of one of my chums, and those innocent three words, forgivable in any circle not drowning in geekdom, has been thrown in his face ever since. But I am not a cruel man, and when I chronicled the game and its pedigree, it was for his education, not (just) for humiliation. I feel bad about how it was taken, so, some three years later, I’m going to advance the class, For him. For my friend.
Last time we learnt that Operation Wolf threw light gun gaming into the limelight back in the misty recesses of 1987. We learnt that it housed a sizeable, ebony and manly Uzi to mow down a huge collection of angry guerrillas with streams of bullets accented by the satisfying backdrop of booming grenades and how it could arguably be credited with the launch of light gun gaming. It was a big success, spawning numerous (and vastly inferior) computer and console clones and appearing, by law, in arcade rooms across the world. This presented Taito with a little bit of a dilemma: how do we top this? The answer came with the direct sequel, Operation Thunderbolt. Take everything and times it by two.
Clean-cut marine teams up with obligatory black guy to take on a small African nation that's hijacked an airliner filled with precious American citizens. Now you have obligatory black guy in tow, you'll notice Thunderbolt's big, new addition. A second Uzi sitting, erect and proud, next to your own.
What this effectively does is roll out the same game as before; you still have to destroy six stages to complete the game and rescue all the hostages and your enemy is still a small army of identical goon, a smattering of jeeps, APCs and helicopters, and a series of interchangeable environments.
Grab a friend; let the mayhem rain down!
"What are you doing? Stick to your own side of the damn screen!"
"I've cleared my side of the screen. It's not my fault I'm better than you."
"See? That's what you get. Take your eye off the mark and an enemy pops up in front of you and gives you a good stabbing."
"I would have got him if I wasn't covering your flank. You need to take the snipers on the roof out quicker."
"Stop faffing around and grenade the damn tank."
"Do it yourself; I'm shooting the 'copter's missiles out of the sodding sky."
"I'm out of grenades. I used them all on the jeeps near the start."
"You can just shoot them! You're bloody useless -- save the grenades for the big vehicles!"
"Oh, guess I had a grenade left, after all."
Throw another player in the mix, and you get so much more than a second pair of crosshairs. Operation Wolf flooded the screen with soldiers that could and would shoot you with their initial barrages (putting the incompetent Time Crisis goons to deep shame) and Thunderbolt shows a sadistic keenness to continue the trend. They'll pop out of simple wooden huts, guns a-blazin', spring from nearby shrubbery to lodge a machete in your eye socket and line rooftops and walkways to nibble away at your sizable health from afar. A second gun is vital in mowing them down sharply but player two runs the same risk of exhausting their ammo stocks as you do, making each extra magazine you need to claim the kind of desperate race that can wreck decade-hardened friendships in a split second.
It's bloody warfare on and off the screen. I'm not sure Taito really knew what they had on their hands when they riveted a second Uzi to the cabinet, but arcade hostilities hadn't been so high since Gauntlet dropped vital heal-ups in between allied wizards and elves all limping along on the slightest sliver of health or had their players compete in a desperate footrace escape the attentions of the Grim Reaper.
Even if they knew they wouldn't speak to each other for the rest of the day, pairs of would-be gunslingers were drawn to the riveted dual guns by the intoxicating call of wide-spread violence and never-ceasing action. Operation Thunderbolt is hazardous to your social life, but damn near vital to your trigger finger.
I don’t need light gun games to alienate friends. I just run long-forgotten digs made over the internet into the ground.
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