Thunderhawk 2: Firestorm
Thunderhawk 2 is the sequel (really?) to the original hit game that appeared on the Mega CD (spit) a coupla years ago. Newies to consoles may not know anything about the first one, but I’m here to tell you ‘bout the second. Hoorah! So what’s this game about. Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 ( T2 from now on – I’m not gettin’ RSI for anyone!) is a helicopter flight simulator. However, the good thing about this sim is that it doesn’t fall into the trap of having a control system so complex that you lose the fast edge needed for an action game. And there is plenty. What those clever Core people have done is create a realistic chopper sim with a helicopter that handles well, but in no way compromises the playability of the arcadey element. The result is a fast and furious shoot ’em-up, combining speed and strategy with some really great airborne action.
There are, in all, 26 different missions that must be undertaken through your employment as a pilot of the AH-73M attack helicopter. These range from the straightforward to the devilishly hard, and almost impossible. This makes the game difficult to complete too quickly, adding to its longevity. There are also three difficulty levels, which is handy, ‘cos starting in easy mode is most definitely advised at first, until you get the hang of the ‘copter’s controls.
Once you’ve mastered the handling, it’s time for some real fun. The missions in T2 are set around the world, involving 8 different war campaigns. These are played over different terrains, with some very well-defined undulating landscapes. Your enemies come in the form of ground attack missiles, tanks and jeeps, with aeronautics from assailant helicopters. There are even boats to attack, to add to the variety. Apart from your attackers though, there are also friendlies you must protect in certain missions, adding a certain strategic element to the game.
The soundtrack in T2 is another bonus in the game. The missions can be flown to a back beat supplied in the form of some rather smart ‘minimalist’ techno. This means the tracks aren’t too overpowering, but add quite nicely to the atmosphere of the whole thing. My only (minor) complaint on this front would be that you can’t control the mix between the SFX and the background music – its either on or off for both. Graphically, the game is up to the usual standard you might expect, although there are a few minor glitches that occur as it draws the scenery on the horizon, but this doesn’t detract from the gameplay too much.
What there is, though, is quite realistic and detailed enough. So, all in all we have a top notch game that can’t be faulted. Well, not quite. My only major criticism about the game is on the mission front. The game is certainly very playable, and the difficulty curve is set well, but the number of missions can feel a little restricted. It would have benefited from some kind of random mission generator that created missions for you as you progressed, matched to your previous performance. Otherwise, good stuff.