I thought it would be really nice to review this little gem, not only cause it is a good game (though obviously dated), but cause it also has some great educational value. You see, this was the first flight simulator released by a company then known as "Lucasfilm games". Written by Lawrence Holland, a programmer who is responsible for some of the best simulations ever. "Battlehawks" was the first in a great WWII trilogy, the predecessor to "Their Finest Hour" and "Secret weapons of the Luftwaffe". Sadly, the last mentioned was never released for the ST. But "Their finest hour" was, and the roots of "Battlehawks" can clearly be seen.
After these games Mr. Holland went on to bigger fame with games like X-wing, Tie-Fighter, X-wing Alliance...All great space combat sims, recreating the world of the Star Wars movies. But it all started in 1988 with this WWII simulation! So let's check the ST version out...
The graphics are really bad by today's standards, But I have no doubt they were state of the art back in 1988. There are different techniques used to display the planes and other objects. They are not 3D vector graphics but 2D sprites. This had to be done cause of the hardware limitations of those days. So it's a bit hard to see in what direction planes are actually flying, since there are only a front, a back and 2 side sprites implemented! But still, it's fun to see how they made flightsims back then.
Again, nothing special here. Some engine noise and machine gun FX. Not bad, but I have heard way better!
First of all, You either choose to start a training mission or begin one of the four operations. You have to decide the side you are on. Fly as an American or a Japanese fighter pilot. Then you have to make a selection between one of twelve planes at your disposal. choose a fighter or maybe a dive bomber. The planes are all nicely presented, with lots of info. You even have the option to rotate them and have a look at a different angle. Finally you'll enter the mission briefing room before ending up somewhere high above the pacific.
The missions vary mostly from bombing a ship to defending a fleet. The game knows 20 different types of ships BTW. You have to defend yourself against the "Zekes" with your regular cannon, one in the back of the plane and one in front. And when you've chosen a bomber, you have of course a bomb on board to blow up the enemy ships! It's really fun to make a dive from high altitude, then drop a big one on the ship and see it go up in smoke!
There is a limit of 16 planes at once in the sky. Again, this had to be done due to hardware limitations. Incoming bullets are realistically presented, leaving these little black clouds behind! Really cool. In the cockpit you can switch between 5 views, being 2 side views, the back view (where you control the back cannon), the down view for bombing and the front view.
Controls are pretty accurate, but the scrolling is slow and jerky. Especially when there are lots of objects on screen, the frame rate drops to a frame a sec. Also, when you get close to objects, they look horribly. But you have to look at this game as if it was 1988!
This is a game with a high nostalgic value, but if you're after a good WWII simulation I would rather recommend "Their Finest Hour" instead, it's way better! Don't get me wrong, "Battlehawks 1942" is a good game, but seriously dated. It is fun to give it a try, just to see how it all started. The original package included a very extensive manual, with loads of info on al the planes and ships. It was a little WWII encyclopedia!
- Graphics: 5
- Sound: 5
- Gameplay: 7
- Overall: 6
The intro screen...
The main menu. Make some selections and take off!
In the plane review section you can get detailed info on every aircraft!
The briefing room! Better take notes...
Blast those damn 'Zekes' to hell
This carrier is history, thanx to my diving skills ...