Operation: Thunder is a Physical Pinball Table released by Gottlieb (under the "Premier" label) in 1992. Developed by Ray Tanzer with artwork by David Moore and Constantino and Jeanine Mitchell, it was Gottlieb's last game to use an alphanumeric score display.
The game puts the player in charge of a squadron of F-15 Eagles and Stealth Fighters, waging an unyielding air attack on the enemy such as destroying radar installations, strafing tank columns, and attacking the domed power plant. Light up the mountainous terrain with a barrage of bombs and missiles, but make sure you don't run out of fuel lest you crash and burn. Only the best pilots will make it through all eleven missions, and those who survive the Final Assault will be rewarded with a hero's welcome and a well-earned promotion.
Many see Operation: Thunder as a fun popcorn table for intermediate players, with a nice variety of shots and an attempt to bring Video Game-style gameplay progression to pinball. Although the table's linear sequence and fuel-based time limits turned off some, others find it a refreshing change of pace from other, more open-ended games of the era. One thing everyone dislikes, however, is the game coming to an abrupt end after all of the missions are completed. Fortunately, this is an operator-selectable option, and most collectors leave it off to promote longer playtimes.
Operation: Thunder demonstrates the following tropes:
- Cool Plane: The player's compliment of F-15 Strike Eagles and Stealth Fighters.
- Emergency Refuelling: Late-game missions must be completed before fuel runs out; the player can refuel by striking a playfield target and performing a mid-air refueling.
- Going Critical: One of the goals is to shoot inside the Domed Power Plant and hit all of the targets within.
- More Dakka
- No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: All of the missions must be completed in order.
- Non-Standard Game Over: If enabled by the operator, completing the Final Assault promotes the player to a Five-Star General and ends the game.
- Rated M for Manly
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Tanks for Nothing: The enemy tanks serve no purpose other than as cannon fodder.
- Timed Mission: Invoked in the later missions, which must be completed before the player runs out of fuel. Failure to do so causes the flippers to go dead and the current ball to drain.
- Violence Is the Only Option
- When Things Spin, Science Happens: The Domed Power Plant uses a spinning disc to fling pinballs around its interior.
- Wizard Mode: "Final Assault", which is available only after completing all eleven missions prior, and requires the player to destroy every major enemy target on the playfield. Successfully doing so rewards the player with a bonus of 99 million points, a promotion to Five-Star General (which is worth another 50 million points), and ends the game (if enabled by the operator). Accomplished players are noted in a separate high score table.