Operation Warcade is the spiritual successor to Taito’s 1987 coin-op shooter Operation Wolf. I remember the original game well, as the cabinet’s inbuilt light gun was stylised to resemble an Uzi submachine gun, and having spent school summer holidays pumping my pocket money into the machine I was eager to revisit the game in VR.
Unsurprisingly, Operation Warcade follows a similar formula to its ancestor with military-themed missions across various theatres of war. The game can be played with either the DualShock 4, a pair of Moves or the Aim controller; though as always the latter provides the greatest sense of immersion and far greater accuracy than the others.
Controller decision made, you’re transported to a virtual arcade-come-trendy nightclub with the Operation Warcade cabinet front and centre, other (non-playable) cockpit and environmental arcade cabinets and odd-looking NPCs occupy the rest of the environment. Firing at the cabinet’s screen brings up a mission select menu, though at the outset only the desert campaign is available; later stages are locked behind achievement-based goals, which I’ll cover in a bit more detail later in the review.
The camera constantly pans at a relatively slow speed from left to right, with enemies approaching from both sides of the screen, as well as emerging from obstacles in front of you. Due to your perspective, the enemy soldiers are a little over ant-sized, though are well animated when compared with their 8-bit forefathers. Every so often you’ll hear the trundle of wheels or whir of rotor blades which signal the arrival of vehicles such as APCs and helicopter gunships. Conveniently placed oil drums can be destroyed in order to maximise the body count and also result in any nearby enemies hilariously ragdolling through the air.
Each mission has a set of three mission objectives, killing three enemies with headshots or taking out a certain amount of vehicles for example. Completing these objectives unlock upgrades to weapons and also unlock further missions and levels. Three insignias appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen to confirm their achievement, whilst your current score occupies the left-hand corner of the screen. At the end of each mission, you’re given an overview of how well you’ve done, how many objectives were achieved and how your score measures up to the game’s worldwide leaderboard.
Unlike Operation Wolf, ammo in-game is unlimited (aside from a specific number of grenades), so there’s no need to conserve rounds, giving you one less thing to worry about. Weapon crates scattered throughout each mission yield upgrades such as rocket launchers, sniper rifles and freeze grenades; though unlike the standard firearm have a finite amount of rounds. By far the best of these upgraded weapons in terms of humour is the gravity gun, which sucks whatever you’re aiming at towards you, before spewing it towards your next target at maximum velocity.
Side missions for each level come in the form of immersion sequences by shooting at translucent rotating cubes. Doing so pulls you into the environment, boots on the ground style, manning a turret with a minigun or taking down enemies at close range with a shotgun to name by a few. In immersion mode the enemies are much larger and detailed than their insect-sized counterparts; each sequence lasts about a minute or two unless you take damage – in which case you’re booted back to where you left off.
Music in-game can be adjusted by firing at a green button directly above the arcade cabinet. The default setting is Dance – a horrendously Euro-pop techno track, alternatively, you can select Epic -a reimagining of the original Operation Wolf theme or you can choose to turn the music off altogether. Personally, I found Epic to be the best option, as the dance track isn’t to my tastes and turning the music off dropped my adrenaline levels.
Despite how fun Operation Warcade is, the game is not without its faults. The graphics are blocky at best, especially when compared to titles developed by larger studios. Vehicles quite often glitch out, leaving their occupants hovering in mid-air. Playing with the sniper rifle is an absolute chore, as the sight is so small I could barely sight my target, let alone zero in on them, which inevitably left me in the line of fire (despite the pinpoint tracking of the Aim controller).
Flaws aside, Operation Warcade is a whole heap of fun and really does recapture the fun and feel of the Taito shooter on which it’s based. The staggered progression path is easily achievable, even if a few replays are required in order to hit the next threshold. If like me, you’re old enough to remember the original or into 80’s action flicks like Rambo and Commando and you can get over its flaws, Operation Warcade is well worth adding to your VR shooter collection.