Players Software
1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

24
Chris Bourne

Once again you have the chance to prove yourself as a hero on the battlefield. In Desert Hawk you pilot a sophisticated helicopter over a particularly nasty part of the desert on a mission to rescue soldiers stranded behind enemy lines remember Choplifter? The risks are high; the chances of success, low. Only flying skills can decide the outcome.

Under cover of darkness, the helicopter slowly rises into the sky. Silently, the chopper flies over the arid desert in search of the wounded men. The enemy have been expecting such a mercy mission, however, and have positioned defences to destroy the helicopter. A cannon fires lethal shells which are very hard to see in the half light. Shrapnel launchers are positioned rather too close to the pick-up zone. As you appear on their radar, missiles shoot out of the top of the shrapnel domes, to explode, spraying shrapnel everywhere. Only skilful manoeuvring prevents the helicopter from being blasted out of the sides.

On the higher levels, more sophisticated weapons are sent to stop your mission. The tanks can only fire shells to a certain height, but this makes them no less dangerous when you are coming in to land and pick up some comrades. The real weapons to avoid at all costs are the heat-seeking missile launchers. These missiles are attracted to the engine heat of the helicopter and go to any lengths to destroy the chopper, unless you can out-smart them with some pretty nifty flying. Contact with the missiles results in the destruction of the helicopter and the mission is prematurely terminated.

Only three soldiers at a time can be carried to safety. Once the chopper has been successfully landed, the allies run on to the screen and hop aboard. When three guys are inside, you must take off again and fly back to base before returning to pick up another batch. At each subsequent level the number of soldiers to be rescued increases by two, and the enemy weapon systems multiply.

The helicopter is equipped with a defence system at the start of the game, the helicopter has one hundred missiles. These can be fired horizontally or dropped on to a target below, depending on the position of the helicopter. Points are scored in the game for picking up soldiers and these are displayed at the top of the main screen.

The Landing Computer display occupies the bottom of the screen. When the helicopter is in the correct position for a successful landing the colours around the edge of the landing screen stop rotating and the word 'LANDING' appears. If you try to land the helicopter before this has happened, it crashes. To the right of the screen there is the fuel and temperature chart. If things get too hot, the engine cuts out and you drift slowly towards the ground. Should the enemy be below the helicopter when this happens, it's curtains. Running out of fuel has a similar effect as overheating the engine.

The screen scrolls sideways to give the impression that the helicopter is moving. Below the desert with cacti and ancient relics passes by.

CRITICISM

'Desert Hawk is the sort of game that takes you back to the age when all Spectrum games cost a fiver and you had to take pot luck in the computer shop when you bought a game (the mighty pages of CRASH weren't available!). I feel that there is no real point to this one, as once you've completed the first bit, all the rest is the same. The graphics are full of attribute problems and they seem to suffer from in-built flicker. The sound, however, is fairly good: there are lots of spot effects and even a tuneful beep at the beginning of the game. The game itself is very tedious to play and also very primitive, so I wouldn't really recommend it, even for two quid. A bad start for PLAYERs I'm afraid.'

'The presentation of Desert Hawk is good for a budget game. It's superior to the usual budget stuff but not as good as the Spellbounds of the budget world. I found the game was very similar to an old favourite. Blue Thunder - not just because it's a helicopter game but because the whole look of it is very similar. The way the helicopter moves a round is very poor and, like the rest of the graphics, suffers from a very bad picker when anything invades its character space. The sound is very basic and merely consists of a few blips here and there and a quite convincing whirr at the beginning of each game. The whole look of the game is very bright and full of colour but the graphics are not well drawn and the desert scenery is not very convincing. A nice try PLAYERS, but something a bit more playable next time please.'

'First impressions of Desert Hawk left me dying to get away from it. The controls are extremely unresponsive, and the whole thing felt as if it were one of those games that gives cheapies a bad name. It can become a little bit addictive after a while, but it doesn't really justify an expenditure of £1.99 to my mind. There are many better cheapies around. If I were you, I'd take my money to Knight Tyme or something like that.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: pretty unresponsive
Use of colour: quite dull
Graphics: quite a lot of attribute problems
Sound: some nice spot effects and a realistic sound effect at the beginning
Skill levels: one
Screens: small scrolling play area

47%

Screenshot Text

"Ready for take off?" "Aye, aye Captain Zeep"

Bringing the chopper into land would be a good idea - mind you don't crash though...