Review – Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission VR

One of the first games I have ever played on the PSVR, and VR in general, was Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, a game which is still one of my favorite VR titles of all time. It made me realize how perfect the marriage between virtual reality and arcade shooters is. I was wondering who would be the first one to bring an old arcade shooter franchise back from the dead in order to take advantage of this brand new technology. Would Sega make a new House of the Dead? Maybe Bandai Namco would revive Time Crisis? Nope. It would be Taito, or what’s left of Taito itself, partnering up with Microids and Virtuallyz Gaming in order to bring Operation Wolf back to life with Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission.

Operation Wolf Returns

The SMG is light, loud, and inaccurate. And I love it.

Operation what now? This one is a massive blast from the past and I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing what Operation Wolf is. This light gun arcade shooter was released way back in 1987, being one of the first games of its kind. It spawned sequels and imitators, but it never managed to achieve the same popularity as other games like House of the Dead, Virtua Cop, or Lethal Enforcers. Still, as a classic shooter franchise inspired by Rambo and Commando, a VR reboot sounded like a great idea from the getgo. I’m happy to say that Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission is exactly that: pure, arcadey fun. It’s not exactly immersive for a virtual reality game, but it delivers in its simple but replayable gameplay loop.

What we have here is a rail shooter set in a variety of locales where the objective is to shoot enemies, avoid missiles, and rescue hostages. You don’t need to worry about moving around or exploring. The game does that for you, leaving you to simply wield your four different guns and blast foes wanting to mow you down. Just focus on trying to be a cartoonish Rambo.

Operation Wolf Returns choppers

These choppers are made out of glass and twigs.

The control scheme is as simple as it can be. Select one of your four weapons with the left analog stick. You have access to a pistol, an SMG, an assault rifle, and a shotgun (other weapons can be temporarily wielding during specific sections). Shoot everything that is also trying to kill you, and try not to kill innocent bystanders and hostages. Aim your weapon towards your foot to reload. Press the secondary trigger on the right Quest controller to throw a grenade. Press X to use a medkit. That’s pretty much it. And it works so well because it’s not trying to be realistic, it won’t force you to manually reload or perform anything that requires complex motions. Just aim and shoot, and occasionally reload. Just like the classic light gun games from back in the day.

Even though most games published by Microids don’t exactly feature jaw-dropping visuals or the best of presentations, Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission did not disappoint in this regard. Sure, it’s not visually amazing, but its cartoonish presentation helped alleviate the workload on the Quest 2’s aging hardware, ensuring a (mostly) stable framerate. The game even features some above-average voice acting and a soundtrack that sounds like a cheap Rambo knockoff, but in the best of ways. I expected a lot worse.

Operation Wolf Returns rifle

There used to be an enemy camp right next to an explosive barrel. Emphasis on “used to”.

Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission had one goal: prove that you can, indeed, revive a classic light gun arcade franchise with the power of virtual reality, especially with the added benefit of the Quest 2’s portability. Even if it has a handful of issues (it’s really short, the occasional framerate stutter, visuals that aren’t particularly amazing), it wasn’t trying to be an immersive, complex experience. It’s pure arcade fun, and it gets the job done with honors. Now Sega, my dear, I hope you’re paying attention at this game, and I hope you have just realized how easy it would be for you to port House of the Dead onto a VR headset. What are you waiting for?

Graphics: 7.0

Cartoonish graphics help alleviate the workload on the Quest 2’s aging hardware. It’s not impressive but it looks good enough. It rarely suffered from framerate drops, but they did happen at times.

Gameplay: 9.0

The control scheme is as simple as it can be. Shoot, reload, throw grenades, use medkits. It doesn’t try to be anything complex or overly realistic, and it works well as a result.

Sound: 7.5

The soundtrack is simple but effective. It tries to convey a sensation of being in a Rambo movie. There is some voice acting as well.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission isn’t trying to be a realistic VR shooter. It knows its limitations as a VR version of an arcade game, and it’s a lot of fun because of that. It is short, but it is also very replayable.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission VR is available now on PSVR2, Quest 2, PCVR and PICO 4.

Reviewed on Quest 2.

A copy of Operation Wolf Returns: First Mission VR was provided by the publisher.