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Ocean Software Ltd
1988
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£8.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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42,43
Andy Smith
Chris Bourne

Ocean spray bullets.

Or 'Op Wolf' as it's lovingly know by the thousands of arcade fans who've had amusement halls up and down the country ringing to the sound of hundreds of machine guns bratt-a-tat-tatting. The official version of the game has been a while coming to the home micro, but now the 8-bit versions are complete with ST and Amiga due to follow shortly for an all-formats release. Has Ocean managed to capture the excitement of the coin-op?

The game is divided into six stages and your prime directive is to get to the fifth stage, rescue the hostages held there in a concentration camp and make sure they all get aboard a getaway plane that's found in stage six.

Armed with a machine gun and a fistful of rockets, you have to shoot and blast away at the enemy, killing as many of them as you can before they shoot you. Each horizontally-scrolling stage contains a detachment of enemy forces which has to be blown away before the section is complete. Larger opponents in the form of tanks, helicopters and gun boats back up the foot soldiers, and can only be destroyed with multiple bullet hits or a single rocket.

Targeting the enemy involves moving a crosshair sight around the screen. Hitting the fire button changes the cursor into a bullet hole (or a line of dust spitting up from the floor, if your aim is not that good). Setting out with seven magazines of bullets and five grenades, you are under-equipped - so resist the urge to keep the button pressed as you try to wipe everything out, and make sure to pick up ammunition as you go. This can prove to be tricky at times, because you have to shoot the extra ammo clips and rockets that are lying on floor before they go scrolling off the screen. If the enemy is ganging up on the screen, you have to decide whether you can last until the next clip appears, when you might have fewer opponents on screen and less chance of sustaining hits. Small animals scurry across the screen, and are an extra source of ammunition - if you manage to shoot them you're awarded with extra ammo.

A meter monitors your health, diminishing as you take hits and falling dramatically if you blow away one of the non-combatant natives, nurses or hostages. Shooting small bottles of medicine on the ground reduces your damage level, and completing a section allows for a bit of restorative R&R. Other extras that appear on the ground include sticks of dynamite which act like smart bombs, clearing the screen if you shoot them.

The stages get progressively harder. After Stage Three some of the baddies get cunning and start wearing bullet-proof vests, so you have to shoot them in the head to despatch them.

Operation Wolf was never a game to test your brain power - its undiluted mayhem and mass murder all the way. The 8-bit versions of the game are surprisingly faithful to the original coin-op: not only has all the action and gameplay been captured, but so has the excitement, making it one of the most satisfying and compulsive shoot-em-ups to have appeared in a long time.

Reviewer: Andy Smith

RELEASE BOX
Atari ST, £19.95dk, Imminent
Amiga, £24.95dk, Imminent
IBM PC, £19.95dk, Imminent
C64/128, £9.95cs, £14.95dk, Reviewed
Spectrum, £8.95cs, £14.95dk, Reviewed
Amstrad, £9.95cs, £14.99dk, Reviewed

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 82/100
1 hour: 75/100
1 day: 90/100
1 week: 85/100
1 month: 68/100
1 year: 35/100

It's not easy to get the hang of, but master the controls and you're hooked.

8/10
6/10
1/10
9/10
887/1000

Banner Text

SPECTRUM VERSION

The graphics are all in monochrome (though the colour changes for each stage) so it can be tough to see the baddies sometimes. The game loads in one go on 128K machines but is multi-load on 48K machines. You'll find yourself playing this for a long time to come - even if you manage to complete it you'll find yourself coming back whenever you feel the urge to blast away at some baddies.

AMSTRAD VERSION

The most colourful and with the fastest scroll of the 8-bit lot which affects the gameplay quite a bit if you've played the other versions. Terrific, if very mindless, fun.

Graphics: 9/10

Audio: 7/10

IQ Factor: 1/10

Fun Factor: 9/10

Ace Rating: /1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 88/100

1 hour: 75/100

1 day: 90/100

1 week: 85/100

1 month: 68/100

1 year: 35/100

C64 VERSION

The only one of the three reviewed here that gives you the option to play with either mouse or joystick. Playing with the mouse is the easier option, but you do get more ammo and grenades at the start of the game if you play with joystick. The collision detection is the tightest on the C64 so you can find yourself shooting through the gap between baddies' legs if you're not careful. Playing on joystick is very tough to begin with, but like most things perseverance pays off.

Graphics: /10

Audio: /10

IQ Factor: /10

Fun Factor: /10

Ace Rating: /1000

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 88/100

1 hour: 75/100

1 day: 90/100

1 week: 85/100

1 month: 68/100

1 year: 35/100

Screenshot Text

C64 version - If you run out of rockets you can always revert to pumping machine gun fire into the tanks.

Spectrum version - your damage meter has reached the top. Another hit and you'll be finished there.

C64 version - out of ammo! Line up on that magazine and hope you hit it with one of the few free shots you're given.

Stage one on the Amstrad - with no rockets remaining and five tanks and four helicopters left to destroy, your chances are slim.

Stage two on the Spectrum - you've just destroyed one gun boat and you've one more rocket left for the other one.

C64 version - at the start of level one. Don't shoot the nurse!

(Far right) C64 version - with no rockets left, it looks like that helicopter's going to force you to restart.