“A region with lots of conflict that starts with ‘Middle’?”
The answer to this question, which is asked during the first couple of missions, is as predictable as the game itself. Preview images for Thunder Wolves depict helicopters blasting missiles at enemies, and that is precisely what you’ll do for the entirety of the game. A very arcade-like expereince, it has every single element needed to be a worthy entry in the military shoot-em-up: a huge score count at the top of the screen, glowing red enemies, endless ammo, simple controls, and a macho-focused, humorous attitude.
Developed by Most Wanted Entertainment / Published by bitComposer Games
Available on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360
*Review Code provided by BitComposer Games
Thunder Wolves is an arcade title which delivers everything you would expect from an arcade game—and I mean the ones where you inserted a quarter into to play; these are quick and simple moments of entertainment which make you feel indestructible. It’s non-stop action that is rich in shooting and destruction, but shallow on story and anything else worthy of committing to memory.
The story takes place in Asia, predominantly around the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It revolves around Max and Blister, helicopter pilots. Blister (he is called “Blister” because he reminds Max about a blister on his ass he once had) is a novice who’s partnered with the veteran Max. After discovering a nefarious ploy by “the Serpent,” who everyone suspects is in possession of a nuclear weapon, the player is tasked with air support in a number of missions that cover escorts, rescues, and search and destroy assignments. As the story progresses and Max and Blister take down scores of enemies, their bond grows closer to where they eventually become great friends and partners in destruction as they go after The Serpent.
Right from the training mission the action is impressive. You’ll never have a moment in which you’re not being shot at from every angle. Enemies are accurate, fearless, and great in number, but luckily they are also weak and easy targets. This gives you a great feeling of invincibility as you’ll constantly get out of hairy situations with relative ease as long as you do what you are supposed to — fire, fire, and fire. If you kill enough enemies the game goes into little cutscenes which put a brief pause on the firing to let you in on how the mission is going—which no one will really care for because it means you get to shoot more enemies regardless.
The biggest sense of accomplishment you will get is that of unlocking new helicopter models as you progress through the story’s missions. They all vary in looks and in payload, but lack noticeable differences in performance. This is forgivable, since the differences in payloads are very noticeable and vary from wide-impact and remote controlled missiles to powerful airstrikes from allied planes. There are also multiple skins for your helicopters, but this is like applying a new coat of paint to the side of the house facing the alley: no one ever appreciates it since the action is always focused on shooting at your enemies to keep them off your allies or away from yourself.
Your enemies include other aircraft, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and foot-soldiers among others. Due to there being many enemies crowding the skies (and thus the screen) with bullets and missiles, it becomes very difficult to know exactly what you are shooting at. You then begin to shoot only at the bright red enemy markers since that’s all you can discern from such high altitudes. Due to this, the game becomes a simple matter of shooting to kill the red marker that seems to be using the strongest weapon or getting the closest to you and/or your objective.
The controls for reaping such mayhem on those enemy squares are very simple to master. The hardest ones are the controls for increasing or decreasing altitude, but you get those down literally in the first lesson of the game. This game can be accurately described by one of Max’s lines: “It’s not rocket science. It’ just rockets.” It’s all about flying around and shooting anything that’s red—all the while listening to the rock background music accompanying the macho-hoorah moments as enemies burst into flames.
There is a co-op mode where you can team up with a friend locally, and you are either assigned the role of pilot or gunner. The missions for co-op are the same as those in single player, so if one has played the single player portion, one of you will already know the mission—and game for that matter—by heart: just shoot at and kill the red markers. Some gameplay variation is attempted by placing the player in a first-person view and allowing them to man the gun. There are also bits where you are asked to snipe directly from your helicopter (don’t ask me how that’s done, just go with it), but these in turn end up robbing the player since it places them in the passenger’s seat and you no longer control the aircraft’s movement.
Overall, Thunder Wolves does what any classic feeling arcade game does: it will provide you with quick sessions of fun as you destroy everything in sight, but in the end it provide only that—quick, forgettable sessions. The average player who is used to deeper and more varied gameplay will grow tired of the same drill in each mission. But if you’re into arcade shooters, you might want to check this one out.