War Hawk

Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 26

Mar/Apr 87

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Jim Short burns the midnight oil to look at half a dozen more games for your Atari

1.99 cassette only

1 player
1 joystick




There's a budget war raging with Firebird and Mastertronic battling it out between them to produce the best Atari 'cheapie'. Previously, Mastertronic led the race handsomely with top notch games like NINJA and LA SWAT but Firebird have retaliated with a real cracker in the form of WAR HAWK.

It's a vertical scrolling space-zap game which shares many similarities with Uridium, a top-seller on various other micros. The aliens have set up their defenses on a huge asteroid belt and you must fly Warhawk into the heart of that asteroid belt, destroying bases and wiping out the marauding fleets of enemy starfighters. Watch out for space mines and meteor showers which will erode your defensive energy shields. Once your shields give out the game is over.

If you survive the initial run over the asteroid base and the subsequent kamikaze attack by the starfighters which converge on your ship like a swarm of angry bees - they have no firepower but, instead, try to deplete your shields by ramming into you - your first mission is complete and you advance onto the next asteroid with your shields restored to maximum strength.

Should you manage to completely wipe out any individual base you are rewarded with a welcome bonus. An ordinary joystick isn't much help here and an auto-fire stick is a must. It's difficult to rack up a decent score without one. WAR HAWK scores high on playability, though it tends to get impossible on the higher levels - or so I'm told! Graphics are bold and colourful, sound is well up to scratch for this type of game, and it has that elusive quality which keeps you coming back for more. If you're a glutton for punishment you'll appreciate this one.

Not content with all this, Firebird have tossed in a few extras. The title screen is a stunner, depicting a moving starfield fading away into the distance and giving the best impression of 3-D I've seen in a long while. However, the theme music is the real show-stopper. Composed by Rob Hubbard it is causing quite a stir in Atari circles at the moment. My own personal favourite is 'Song of the Grid' from BALLBLAZER, but most other Atarians reckon the WAR HAWK theme is the best yet on our computer. For once I'll bow to the majority and concede the point.

It's going to take something extra special to knock WAR HAWK off the top of the budget pedestal. Other software companies may have to do some soulsearching. How much longer can they continue to charge 8-10 a game when there are gems like this hitting the market at only 1.99? Think about it.