Explosions, helicopters and Rock ‘N Roll. That’s the basic formula that makes up Thunder Wolves, a completely over the top shooter for the PC. There are problems in the Middle East and the team of Wolf One is tasked with quieting the storm. Max, the ace pilot who couldn’t care less about death, and his gunner Blister hop into their chopper and take out loads and loads of enemies. Set to the tone of a 1980’s action movie, it’s up to you to use your insane amount of rockets to take out anything that seems unfriendly.
Everything in Thunder Wolves has a very campy feel about it. Characters are extreme in their intentions and the dialogue has a well-produced bad quality about it all. Max, the main pilot, constantly answers back to his superiors as if he’s Kurt Russell circa 1986. For a game set in this time period to work the characters have to believe it, and luckily they all do in the dumbest ways possible. While the dialogue is never clever or outwardly humorous it does give the feel of a cheesy action flick quite well. Following Max as he hunts down “The Serpent”, a military mad-man who is hell bent on destroying the world, leads to multiple tense run-ins with vast armies.
About 90% of Thunder Wolves takes place in a helicopter of some size. Using WASD to move, the mouse to aim and fire and E and Q keys to increase and decrease altitude, you become a one man army. Thunder Wolves throws a ridiculous amount of enemies at you but luckily you have the arsenal to deal with them. The left mouse button fires a machine gun while the right mouse button lets missiles fly. Missiles work on a recharge meter rather than a finite number, and with three separate missile types you can be launching dozens of missiles before needing to resort to machine gun fire. This leads to a lot of crazy moments where tanks, trucks and boats are exploding beneath your missile induced fury. At times I felt the helicopters were a bit too floaty which made controlling them rather difficult. I realize it’s a helicopter, and that feeling makes sense in a simulation, but this is an arcade shooter and at times it felt a bit off.
Missions are well varied as your objectives are constantly switching during missions as you complete them. Normally the formula boils down to “go here and kill everything” but there are some fun spots in between that include landing crashing copters and escorting field agents. While no one enjoys an escort mission, Thunder Wolves makes them fairly simple and short as to not make them tedious. The crashing sequences, while scant, are intense as your copter spirals out of control and you must move it to its landing point before going down. Other objectives include destroying certain structures before time runs out and picking up care packages as well. While these are typically used as excuses for you to mow down more baddies, they’re fun none the less.
Don’t go expecting a world class story in Thunder Wolves; it’s probably one step below Cobra in that regard. As I mentioned earlier, the game takes the form of an 80’s action flick with silly dialogue and dumb catchphrases being uttered after every explosion. Max and Blister are a couple of psychotic pilots looking for a good time and a couple of explosions and that’s about it. They’re incredibly simple characters and the game follows that ideal as well. That isn’t to say that the story is lackluster- it achieves what it sets out to be from the very start with little to no surprises along the ride. The one sentimental moment and the one big reveal were both fairly obvious, and like a good action flick they’re treated with the right amount of camp.
Visuals is where I found the most difficulty enjoying Thunder Wolves. The design of the game feels incredibly basic and the level design is not varied at all. Locales include deserts, forests and oceans but they all feel so generic given the intensity of everything else going on. I enjoyed the city sections the most as the populated areas gave way to more chaos as buildings and trucks exploded in harmony. The game also seemed to have some hiccups when there was too much on the screen at once. A few times the game throws a heavy amount of troops and tanks at you, naturally you are to destroy them all and when doing so the game seemed to slow down for a second. On top of that, the design of the enemies (mostly tanks and troops) is pretty boring. Explosions look alright and character images used to represent speaking characters during cutscenes were fine as well, but nothing special.
Thunder Wolves has a few good rock beats going for it in terms of its soundtrack which helps to further sell the time period. Voiceovers sound decent enough, even if some characters sound seriously flat, and the rest of the game sounds pretty good as well. One of the game’s biggest downfalls is its incredibly short story. After 13 missions, each about 10 to 15 minutes long, I was done with the game. With a slow burn start and an emotional highpoint towards the end I felt as though the story closed out rather suddenly for a battle that seemed to be years in the making. Thunder Wolves really builds its enemy up well in the end but the battle between Max and ”The Serpent” was a bit of a letdown.
Thunder Wolves aims to embody the 80’s action flick and does so in a pretty fun manor. The gameplay is simple and enjoyable for the short time you’ll play, and the story feels appropriately campy. Enemies explode by the dozen and missiles fly left and right at all times. While the graphics are not up to par with what I’ve come to expect in a modern day game I still enjoyed my time with Thunder Wolves the way I’d enjoy my time with any action movie; I let my brain go and just smiled at all the explosions.