Hands On: Thunder Wolves

By John Walker on April 8th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

In case you’re wondering what name to call your game, the wrong answer is something like: “A Delicious New Pizza Topping For The Whole Family To Enjoy”. A good name, however, would be “Thunder Wolves“. Sadly you can’t have that one, as it’s already been taken, and by entirely the correct game. Most Wanted Entertainment’s in-development arcade-them-to-bits helicopter shooter evokes olden days arcade cabinet blasters, without hammering on the retro button.

It wasn’t just the name that drew me to check this one out. It was also the promise of blowing stuff up with helicopters. Perhaps it’s for the sense of revenge against the ever-more common scourge of having to shoot down helicopters in achingly scripted sequences in every FPS game EVER SINCE TIME BEGAN. But mostly it was the name.

Google it and you’ll immediately find information about the latest scores between the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, at the basketballs. (Timberwolves won 101 to 93 – sorry Thunder fans.) Dig a bit further and you’ll eventually learn that this is from the same people who brought us the definitely okay Joint Task Force in 2006, and the Paradox-published, definitely okay Defenders Of Ardania from last year. With Thunder Wolves, they’re aiming at yet another genre – a top-down-ish arcade shooter, deliberately reminiscent of those 80s movie tie-ins and grrr-shoot cabinet conversions.

I’ve played a few levels in a feature-incomplete version, and I think my positive experience is likely very much based on my hopes going in. Not wanting simulation, not wanting something incredibly tough, but instead always hoping for another game that will evoke memories of the glorious Attack On Pearl Harbor. (Er, let me emphasise I mean the game, not the event itself. I’m not a monster.) Something gloriously arcadey, floaty and fun, designed with idiots like me in mind rather than those with pilot licenses. And while it’s far too soon, and I’ve not yet seen enough evidence, to associate Thunder Wolves with The Great Game, it certainly does tick a lot of those boxes.

Right now the controls are only optimised for a controller, with mouse/keyboard still being worked on, so your helicopter is raised up and down by pressing down on the analogue sticks, locking on and firing on the triggers, pretty much as you’d expect. Missiles are on the shoulders, and BLAM BLAM BLAM! Because here missiles are a recharging resource, as real life really ought to copy. This is a game where even on Normal difficulty you can bump your helicopter into things, which to my understanding is not entirely an accurate simulation. But it’s exactly the sort of thing you hope to see in the all-too rare games that exist to entertain through being ludicrous, rather than real.

Pleasingly, pretty much everything can be destroyed. While the game will start nagging you with arrows to head off to the next mission marker, you can hang back and destroy every building, vehicle, industrial tower and hiding shooty human at your leisure, with things crumbling rewardingly. If you’re the sort of three year old like I am who has to constantly knock down the towers of blocks, there’s plenty in there already at this stage.

And yeah – it works. That seems like a fairly flat compliment, but in such instances I think it’s the most important thing. You’re not worrying about balancing your helicopter’s lean, or budgeting your precious few homing missiles. You’re bouncing off mountains and spamming the ground with ultrabombs. It’s just letting you have fun.

There’s clearly still work to be done. The more difficult to kill enemies’ health bars seem to slip in and out of existence, and are very tricky to see, and a little more busyness to the combat is probably essential. As for the characters and voice acting – while they’re terrible beyond words, just utter drivel, I think that’s kind of the point. It’s half of what helps capture that 80s vibe.

The game should hopefully be finished by the Summer, and will feature local co-op for people with two seats at their desk. I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be a Steam release, but no word on a price yet – with a game like this, getting that right could make all the difference.

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48 Comments »

  1. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I can still use “Lightning Weasels”, right?

  2. Lev Astov says:

    Mi-24 Hind? Sold.

    • Col Sanders says:

      This was my exact train of thought.

      Well actually more like ooh helicopter game no hind no sale then ooooh….

  3. guygodbois00 says:

    Remember Thunder Cats?

    • Baines says:

      Yes. Remember Airwolf?

      Thundercats never had a helicopter, did it? They had a tank.

      • Chris D says:

        Remember Blue Thunder?

        That had a helicopter. A helicopter, with a machine gun, for policing densely populated areas. Can’t think why that never caught on.

        On the other hand, eight-year-old me loved it.

  4. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    Oooh finally something that will replicate the fun I had with Thunderhawk 2!

    • Kohmatohs says:

      Indeed, the first thing I hoped for is a modern Thunderhawk. Thunderhawk 2 was great fun.
      I recently replayed Thunderhawk on Mega CD after retrieving it from storage and was surprised at how enjoyable it still is. Especially the ridiculous jingoistic electro rock infused presentation. So very Nineties. I miss you Core Design.

    • identiti_crisis says:

      Yes! My thoughts exactly. And there I thought it was just some obscure game I picked up at a computer fair fifteen years ago. Great arcade-semi-tactical gameplay for twitch thinkers. On balance, though, it did introduce me to the conundrum of how to properly pronounce “Panamanian”, or if it is even a real word…

      I was also reminded of Incoming! which was a similar, but less tactical, arcadey shooty bang game with perhaps more variety in the things to be shooting from.

      Anyway, more of this, please. I’ll buy them; I may even get around to playing them!

  5. MondSemmel says:

    How are Joint Task Force and Defenders of Ardania “definitely okay”? They have metacritic scores of 68 and 58 respectively. That gives them the questionable honor of being below the magical 7/10 rating the worst games are supposed to get…

    Sure, scores are meaningless for good games. But it must still mean something when two games by the devs are universally panned…

    EDIT: tl;dr version: Don’t get your hopes up.

    • GunFox says:

      I can’t speak for defenders, but Joint Task Force was actually pretty good. Some solid ideas marred perhaps by a somewhat unpolished execution. Had they made a sequel with a more involved campaign with additional tactical and strategic choice, it would really have been a fantastic game.

      Slap a turn based open ended strategic meta game onto an RTS and I am so sold. JTF would have done really well with one.

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        Yeah JTF was definitely middle of the road, “eh, I don’t wish I had my time back or anything” level gaming.

        Solid but rough and a little flavourless.

        A ham sandwich after a long day’s work.

        Definitely ok is what I’m trying to say.

  6. Solidstate89 says:

    It’s like Just Cause 2 – Air Combat: The Game.

  7. buzzmong says:

    But does it have a black and white Bell 222 with jets on it?

  8. David_VI says:

    Name reminds me of the band POWERWOLF

  9. CMaster says:

    Check out (rather old game) Hell Copter, for some pretty satisfying helicopter arccadey blasting.

  10. sabrage says:

    “local co-op for people with two seats at their desk”
    Then this is DEFINITELY the spiritual sequel to Desert Strike I have always wanted.

    • MeestaNob says:

      EA are idiots for not milking a HD re-release out of their Desert/Jungle Strike games.

  11. Moraven says:

    Defenders Of Ardania had a terrible UI for the PC, warcraft 3 tower war mods were better for content and UI. If it did not require much touches, it might be ok on mobile.

    Getting the Desert/Nuclear/Soviet/Jungle Strike vibe from this. If they can update that gameplay with good content, this could be good.

  12. Morcane says:

    This brings back memories of Gunship which I played to death in my innocent teen years. All was good.
    I’m getting too old for this shit.

  13. Phoibos Delphi says:

    Does anybody remember “Extreme Assault” from BlueByte? I just loved that game to pieces… but I can´t find the CD anymore… must have been lost in the great cellar flood of 2003…. sigh. Thunder Wolves seems to be a spiritual successor to many games….

  14. BobbyDylan says:

    So, if MWE make enough cash from this, please will you make Nexus 2?

  15. TsunamiWombat says:

    As a lad I had a Sega Genesis, and on that genesis was a game called JUNGLE STRIKE. it was the sequel to DESERT STRIKE and it came before URBAN STRIKE. They were a series of games about a helicopter which was apparently standing in for the entirety of the United States military, and you did awesome things like fly around a huge map filled with hidden collectibles, enemy bases, POW’s to rescue, hidden copilots to find, and missions. And your fuel and ammo consumption was tracked so you had to resupply. It was almost a sandbox Helicopter assault genre.

    This is nothing like that, but I wish it was.

  16. drvoke says:

    For anyone interested in arcade-y, mission-based helicopter fun, I could recommend Apache: Air Assault. I haven’t tried to play it with keyboard and mouse, but it played nicely with a cheap Logitech 3D whatever joystick, and of course works well with the 360 pad. It’s not a Nuclear/Jungle/Desert Strike-alike, but it uses a serviceably real-feeling arcade flight model and is chiefly concerned with moving between waypoints and deploying ordinance in the general direction of the bad’uns. It also has different unlockable choppers which you can then go back and use on older missions.