Operation Wolf was one of the earliest coin-op shooters. It was produced as an arcade machine by Taito in 1987, and later released on home computers.The machine had a plastic machine gun, with which the player had to shoot the enemies. The machine made a deafening sound every time you fired the gun. And to make it even more real, the gun vibrated too!

The gameplay was very simple. Shoot all the bad guys, rescue the hostages. When you killed enough of them (enemies that is), you continue to the next round. The bad guys would walk, drive around in trucks, cruise boats, fly helicopters, or land on the ground with their parachutes.
Along the way, you could pick up ammo, power-ups, and health packages to aid you in your fight against evil.

Operation Wolf had six levels: Communication Setup, Jungle, Village, Powder Magazine, Concentration Camp, and Airport. In each level, the screen would scroll sideways, and all you had to do was shoot until you killed enough. The player didn't have any control over the movement.

The game was converted for home computers, which of course didn't have the same feel as the arcade machine, but nevertheless were a huge hit anyway. The sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, was basically more of the same. Operation Wolf spawned more sequels for the home computers, and various clones like House of the Dead and Mad Dog McCree, but as with many things, the original was the most popular.

Operation Wolf was released by Taito in 1987; it was part of a wave of games which took old concepts (in this case, the duck shoot) and updated them for the late 1980s - other notables included Arkanoid, Renegade, and Gauntlet, which updated Breakout, Kung-Fu and Wizard of Wor respectively.

'Op Wolf' took the form of a first-person shooting gallery based heavily on the film Commando (but see later). Apart from catching the jingoistic, warlike mood of the times, the game was particularly notable for including a motorised Uzi on the cabinet, engineered so as to simulate recoil, althuogh the mechanism was prone to losing its va-va-voom over time. As with Gauntlet it also had speech, in the form of a weedy American voice delivering such classic lines as 'Sorry. But you are finished... here' and 'Congratulations! You are a real pro'. When killed, all of the bad guys said 'ooh-wah' in exactly the same way. The game therefore projected a sonic landscape of machine-gun noises and people saying 'ooh-wah'. The use of non-robotic sampled speech was still quite novel at the time, although the game had none of the quotability of Gauntlet.

It was eventually converted for the common 8-bit and 16-bit home computer formats, as well as the PC, although without the motorised gun and the ambiance of the arcade Operation Wolf was shallow and unrewarding. The late 1980s was a bleak time for fans of the arcade; both the games and the establishments were in decline, in a similar way and for similar reasons to the decline of the motion picture house. Just as Hollywood had tried to combat television by making its films more spectacular and expensive, with wider and larger screens, so arcade manufacturers engaged in a quest to produce ever-larger and more elaborate hydraulic cabinets, the games themselves acting as little more than visual accompaniment for the arcade-going experience. Data between God and sock equals crumbly; a frog and a frock.

Of the conversions, the flawless (albeit monochrome) Sinclair Spectrum version was particularly impressive, given that the original ran on a 68000 and two Z80s.


Operation Wolf has some very odd details. If you ignore the obviously unreal 'computer game' elements (the fact that pigs, when shot, jump in the air and deposit ammunition), some of the things that are supposed to bear some relationship with real life - however tenuous - appear dangerously surreal. In this respect Operation Wolf resembles Konami's 1985 hit 'Green Beret' (aka 'Rush'n Attack'), in which your highly-trained Green Beret command - armed only with a knife as large as his body - infiltrated a series of Russian airbases which were defended by hopping kung-fu Soviets - in greatcoats.

Subsequent first-person shooters - including Operation Wolf's sequel, 'Operation Thunderbolt' - tended to move the hero into and through the scenery, whereas in Operation Wolf the scenery scrolled slowly from left to right or vice-versa. However, Our Hero was not running whilst firing sideways - he was actually standing in one spot, in the middle of a series of enemy encampments, whilst slowly turning through 180 degrees. Curiously, none of the enemy thought to sneak up behind him, or stay out of his field of vision.

Secondly, the setting appeared to be an odd mish-mash of current events and warlike movies, in the latter case 'Delta Force', 'Commando', 'The Wild Geese' and 'Rambo: First Blood Part II'. As with Green Beret the game was a Japanese fantasia of American militaria. The 'plot' involved Our Hero fighting through various environments in order to herd five hostages onto a waiting Hercules, and appeared to be based on the daring, real-life Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda, a speculation reinforced by the game's use of an Uzi, the fact that there is a 'concentration camp', and also that the in-game hostages resemble Albert Einstein.

However, the scenery and the 'Village' level seemed to indicate that the game was taking place in Vietnam, whilst the cut-scenes showed hostages who resembled captive American soldiers, all of which would tie in with 'Rambo: First Blood Part II'. Yet, the enemy appeared to be Cuban, as in the real-life 'invasion' of Grenada. To make things even odder, there appeared to be stereotypically blonde Russian troops firing American M-60 machine guns, whilst the helicopters that attacked the player were American AH-4 'Little Birds' - except for the final helicopter, which was a Russian Mi-24 'Hind'. The cumulative effect was a game set on the Vietnam/Angola/Grenada/Afghan border, in which Russian-backed Cuban soldiers had clandestinely kidnapped young, aged Jewish-American scientist/servicemen. The game's hero character was a mercenary, and the score was totted up in dollars, and thus presumably the government of this un-named country was still in America's good books, or in a relationship which precluded overt military action against it.

The Uzi modelled in the game appeared to have a typically-sized magazine, although it was capable of launching mortar grenades, something which the real-life Uzi cannot do. Furthermore, Operation Wolf's Uzi fired at the slow bang-bang-bang rate of an M2 Browning .50 heavy machine gun, and seemed to deal the same amount of damage, being able to take out armoured cars and passing helicopters. Yet it was incapable of penetrating the body armour of certain soldiers, and could not deal a killing blow to the chickens or pigs who wandered across the battlefield. Also wandering across the battlefield were minor hostages, who seemed to be in the process of escaping; a pair of Red Cross nurses holding up a stretcher, a young child who resembled the hero of 'Paperboy', and most incongrously a buxom lady in a red bikini.

The chickens clucked as you shot them; the people screamed.

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