Thunder Wolves is an action shooter for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 where players pilot a helicopter through various missions and chase the high score like the arcade games of yesteryear. Developed by Most Wanted Entertainment, a Hungarian development studio, the game features thirteen missions, local co-op, multiple difficulties and customizable choppers. Based on other over-the-top action arcade games, it promises fast-paced gunplay and explosions in abundance. Does the arcade shooter fly high or is it all sound and fury?
GraphicsFrom the beginning, things were already looking bad. The title screen shows a helicopter flying through flames and a bullet-riddled, rust-covered Thunder Wolves logo. Switching to the main menu, the fonts are replaced with a cartoony, comics-esque font. The game quickly shifts from the serious and dark imagery of the cover art and title screen to what the game really is: a parodic, hyperbolic mess. It is not that games like this are bad, or that there are too many of them. The problem is that the humor is very difficult to pull off and it is where Thunder Wolves fails completely. It is nice to see that the option to skip the cutscenes appears immediately, without having to press start or a key to let the game know. They are not much to see either, most models being static and environments are low in detail, giving off an action figure look rather than being representative of the actual object. Some could argue that there is some charm in that, but no, not here.
The story is serviceable, and it is enough to drive the short, three hour campaign. The antagonists are a bit racist for being silhouettes. When they are not generic names like “The Serpent,” they are “Crazy Khalid,” the oil baron. Do not fret. Those are the only named bosses. Most will just be a stronger-than-average missile turret or tank. For players looking to get their money’s worth, look no further. Those three hours will feel like an eternity.
Missions will last around six minutes and up, depending on how many times you have to stop to think about what you’re doing with your life. In any given mission, players will be subjected to annoying, repetitive music that loops too often covered with radio transmissions from the player’s team screaming profanity and one-liners every few seconds. The game boils down to shooting at red symbols until the rockets and flares refill and then firing those. It is not difficult and on the normal difficulty gamers will find it hard to die with simple circle-strafing and the game’s generous aim assist. Not only that, but the kill boxes that battles take part in are claustrophobic. Enemies are often placed around the edges, prompting an irritating notice from the game for the player to return to the battlefield. The notice was even seen while in the middle of the map, so it is uncertain as to whether the borders of the battlefield are dynamic or just broken. Every now and then an enemy helicopter will show up and add some difficulty to the regular grind, but they never carry the same lethality as the player. It almost comes off as sarcastic when an on-screen text pops up saying “COOL SHIT, BRO” and “HELLA SICK!” after the player takes out a group of enemies. The entirety of the game is hovering around with the trigger held down, the machine guns blaring and the AI teammates having a much tougher time with the game than the player is.
The game does offer controller support, so those who play on PC will have the choice of using the Xbox 360 controller. During gameplay, the analog sticks seemed to handle the floaty control and overly sensitive aiming a bit better than a mouse and keyboard, but this all falls on personal preference. A local co-op option is given, but it is a poor excuse for a cooperative experience. The second player is relegated to a second machine gun turret on the first player’s helicopter. The second player gives up any control except for a reticle, and it removes any of the rockets and special weapons from the chopper. It actually makes the player weaker. Should the second player have some sort of magical powers to compensate for the helicopter’s motion, the machine guns still do considerably less damage than rockets. So this means that by playing with a friend, not only is the player weaker than when in single player, but just by moving the helicopter, they are constantly griefing the second player by messing up their aim. It is a great way to artificially increase difficulty while getting rid of that person you never wanted to be friends with in the first place.
OverallSurprises like Renegade Ops made great single player and multiplayer experiences based on great gameplay, sharp controls, fun environments and characters that never took themselves too seriously. Thunder Wolves takes that formula and falls short on gameplay and environments, while amplifying the characters to cloying caricatures of military stereotypes. These games are meant for enjoyment, entertainment, and escape. Thunder Wolves is most enjoyable when muted and played alone, but that is a sad excuse for what this gaming experience should have been. Money can be better spent on Renegade Ops, Castle Crashers, and other mindless co-op action games on the major platforms. Avoid this one like spinning propeller blades.