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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
8.5
Visuals
9.0
Audio
7.0
Gameplay
8.5
Features
6.0
Replay
7.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation
PUBLISHER:
SCEA
DEVELOPER:
SingleTrac
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
November 10, 1995
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
Starhawk

Warhawk

 Written by Matt Swider  on June 19, 2007

Review: We kick off Warhawk Week with a look back at the original PlayStation game that started it off.


More from Warhawk Week:
Monday: PSone game review | Tuesday: Beta Strategy | Wednesday: Beta Review | Thursday: Ten Improvements | Friday: Halo 3 Vs. Warhawk: Battle of the Betas


Before Warhawk released to a limited number of PS3 beta testers in May, its PSone predecessor of the same name could be played by everyone on the original system. Whether or not you were accepted into the Warhawk beta, this 32-bit Greatest Hits title still excludes no one and is still playable on your PlayStation 3 thanks to backwards compatibility. In retrospect, it's obvious that more than a decade has gone by since SCEA and now defunct developer SingleTrac launched their futuristic jet simulator. It's also clear that the PS3 beta takes a very different approach when compared to this first-gen classic. Regardless, Warhawk for PSone is worth a look, especially if you didn't make it into the ongoing test pilot program and are anxiously awaiting the final version of the game to take flight in September.

Because Warhawk released for PlayStation in November 1995, there were few places to look for a used copy other than eBay. Late, scratched and without instructions, my disc finally arrived in the mail and I popped the old black-backed CD into my PS3. Despite the lousy condition of the disc, my pre-owned copy of Warhawk played fine, albeit with some acceptable audio skipping problems. I wasn't expecting a mint version. I also wasn't expecting how much of a departure the original gameplay would be from the beta that I have been playing for a couple of weeks now. While the PS3 game is a multiplayer-only affair and lacks a storyline so far, the PlayStation title is all about single-player missions and has a real, though surface deep, plot.

The Plot
The story stars two maverick pilots, Hatch and Walker, who pilot the game's real star, the futuristic Warhawk. Just like in the beta, a Warhawk is a VTOL, or a Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft. The ace co-pilots are under the direction of tough-as-nails Commander Jassic and go on missions to stop a tyrannical madman named Kreel. This megalomaniac got hold of a top secret substance called Red Mercury, a supposedly abandoned government project. In the hands of Kreel, the world is being threatened by a military juggernaut.

Warhawk is acted out through live action video cut-scenes between missions. As the female Jassic gives the boys lip about goofing off, you'll roll your eyes more than once at the incredibly cheesy dialogue. But don't forget that live action video like this was pretty novel in 1995. The text-based ?game over? epilogues aged better. They are sick and twisted conclusions that talk about Hatch and Walker drowning in the deep sea with their bones being scattered by sharks or being served as the main course at Kreel's victory celebration.

Kreel chocking to death on a chicken bone was the best ?game over? ending. According to the scrolling text, he was watching the pilots being tortured via a closed-circuit monitor at the dinner table and laughed with pleasure when it happened. The game ending reads: ?Kreel has died. You were indirectly responsible, but no, you have not won Warhawk. The best is yet to come. Try again.? Another successful attempt proves a win-worthy ending that is also pretty funny: ?Hatch went on to become Commander-In-Chief of the world's defensive forces?Walker finally married Commander Jassic, and the two went into business selling tie-died T-Shirts and ?I survived the Red Mercury War and all I got was this lousy baseball cap' baseball caps.?

Let's hope Incognito, which is made up of former SingleTrac developers and is making the new Warhawk game, brings some of that twisted humor to their PlayStation 3 title.

The Gameplay
There were no DualShock or even Dual Analog controllers when Warhawk landed in PlayStation's launch window two months after the console released. Instead, gamers back then had to use the D-Pad to turn right and left as well as move up and down. In the game, the button scheme is mapped out on an original grey controller with configuration options: precision, aggressive, hit-and-run and arcade. The default style, precision, uses the R2 button to make your Warhawk move faster and L2 to make it move slower. Pressing the X button greatly increases your speed with an afterburner effect, similar to the much more dynamic blue boost in the PS3 beta game.

Maneuvering the Warhawk with the D-Pad is a real test for today's analog-stick loving gamer. The weapons options were easier to get accustomed to because they are similar to the PS3 beta. Warhawks are equipped with both a machine gun and a special weapon, which are fired by pressing the square and circle buttons respectively. Specials in the PSone game include rockets, multiple swarm missiles, lock-on missiles, a plasma cannon, flash bombs and a doomsday bomb. Targets to hit with this more limited arsenal include flying bogies as well as ground-based enemies.

You cannot dismount from the cockpit and use surface-to-air and ground-vs.-ground tactics as in the next-generation beta. The gameplay is limited to you in your Warhawk in this version. It's also limited to a measly six levels. The now aged 3D graphics were a critical success in their time, but not the level count. Many players in 95 were disappointed that Warhawk was so short. The lack of a proper loading and saving method was also an issue as this title utilized passwords to reinsert players into a game level.

More from Warhawk Week:
Monday: PSone game review | Tuesday: Beta Strategy | Wednesday: Beta Review | Thursday: Ten Improvements | Friday: Halo 3 Vs. Warhawk: Battle of the Betas

Bottom Line
Warhawk for PSone is a very different game, but an important part of the success of the PlayStation franchise. It put gamers who were used to mostly 2D airplane games into a futuristic aircraft and rocketed them into the 32-bit stratosphere. Sure, it wasn't long enough and the dialogue was no better than a B movie. However, missions were fun to navigate, bosses were a blast to break apart and the humorous ?game over? screens were funny to read. Maybe, for those who haven't logged onto eBay to find their own slightly damaged copy, a Warhawk PSone download remastered with analog flight controls would make a great promotional tool for Sony's upcoming PS3 follow-up.


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