I’m old enough to remember the original Operation Wolf and how important it was to its respective genre and gaming.
It was a game that broke boundaries, that drew your attention at the arcades and found a surprisingly natural home on consoles across a plethora of different systems.
But I say this with the deepest respect for what Taito accomplished back in 1987, it does not hit the same in 2023.
The pitch makes a ton of sense. With us pivoting towards retro again, either stoking the flames of nostalgia or seeing how far we’ve come as an industry it makes so much sense to recreate everything great about that arcade classic and reinterpret it for today’s audience.
That goes for visuals, it goes for effects. On PS5, in particular, that makes use of Adaptive Triggers and Haptic Feedback. And it also makes use of VR.
While I haven’t sampled this particular game in VR, I immediately feel like it’s probably best served there to at least get the most out of the experience. And you can tell right off the bat that the conversion to flat has not gone seamlessly.
Enemies just randomly appear right on top of you in-between blasts of shooting and when I say up close, they’re taking up almost half the screen. Aiming and movement is confined to the left analog stick which, for most FPS players, is going to feel immediately weird.
And most importantly, sections of the screen are blocked out but there are still enemies attacking you from corners you can’t aim at. Or when you do get to aim at them, moving the reticule is like walking through quicksand. It’s absolutely painful.
So, immediately, you see that using your hands for free movement is just going to be immediately better. You can, at least, use your PS5 controller in motion to aim, which does make things a lot better. Though steadying it just enough to take shots is a bit of a challenge.
But if all that is still not enough to deter you, it’s all just kind of … dull and repetitive. Let’s not talk about the overwhelming numbers of enemies that are going to hit you no matter what you do, how much you get into cover and how fast you are at the draw.
Also the weird imbalance of weapons that fluctuates wildly with how much health and damage it takes to down an enemy and how it just seems to vary. But also the repetitive nature of missions which, despite varying scenery, just don’t really do enough to be particularly interesting.
At least you can play this one co-operatively if you want to? Being able to play this in the background with a bud, each blasting through a constant stream of baddies can be mildly satisfying.
There’s also a Survival Mode so if you really can’t get enough of the amount of enemies on screen at any one time, then I guess this mode is perfect for you.
But for me, there was just nothing particularly fun or interesting about this one. Perhaps more if you’re playing in VR, but you’ve got a pretty good flavour of all the game has to offer within its first mission and nothing wildly changes beyond that to convince you otherwise.
Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission doesn’t set the groundwork or foundations for the genre like its predecessor did all those years ago. In fact, it doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the original, despite the modern day revamp in VR and inclusion of haptics. Its problem often is that it was a game designed for VR and the porting to flat just hasn’t gone well between controls and technical issues. It’s passably fun with a buddy in co-op, but once you’ve played through the first mission, you’ve got a pretty good idea of everything the game has to offer. Which is, in all honesty, not that much at all.
+ Some entertaining possibilities in co-op
+ Art style is nice
+ Can be fun shooting for a hot minute
– Gets dull and repetitive quick
– Difficulty is overwhelming at times
– Porting from VR just hasn’t translated well
– Aiming is awful
Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission is out now on PC, Xbox, PS5/VR2 and Switch
Code Kindly Provided by Taito for review purposes
Tested on PS5 (non-VR)