Thunderhawk is an action-based helicopter combat game developed and published by Core Design in 1993. It first came out for the Amiga and PC in 1992, although the Sega CD version is probably the most memorable.
The game consists of several campaigns set in ten different areas; each campaign being a set of four or five missions based on real-world events (like escorting UN convoys during the Bosnian War, or fighting pirates in the South China Sea). You fly a fictional AH-73M attack helicopter and must complete your primary objective in each to successfully move onto the next.
Thunderhawk is very simple and doesn’t require much in terms of flight simulator experience – it’s aimed more at beginners and action game fans than flight sim experts. The controls are very simple: the ‘B’ button cycles through your weapons (cannon, rockets or missiles), and the ‘A’ button is fire. You hold down the ‘C’ button and push up or down to ascend/descend; or push left and right, with ‘C’ depressed, to move sideways.
As you fly around you must avoid crashing into trees, and must also take out enemy tanks, SAMs, and helicopters. Your weapons will automatically lock on to the nearest target, so you don’t have to aim too precisely.
Graphically, Thunderhawk is pretty good for the time and it takes advantage of the Sega CD‘s extra power. The ground scales and rotates quickly as your helicopter moves around the landscape, and the whole flying effect is an extremely retro experience that you can only get in games from this era. The gameplay in Thunderhawk is relatively easy to pick up and play, and it’s not too difficult to progress quickly if you know what you’re doing.
Thunderhawk is not a sophisticated game, though. It’s a basic shooter with a fairly interesting combat engine for the time. It’s also a game of its time, rather than ahead of its time. Fun for a while but nothing too deep.
More: Thunderhawk on Wikipedia