Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 3

Sound: 3

Gameplay: 2

Overall: 2


airwolfnes1.png (4234 bytes)The TV series Airwolf was about a super-helicopter flown by Stringfellow Hawk on secret missions of national security. This machine could move as mach speeds, turn on a dime, and blow up anything that got into its way. It's perfect video game material, which is of course a dream since Acclaim grabbed the license and a released something that has almost nothing to do with the show.

Somehow, the developers here did manage to do something difficult: make flying the world's deadliest piece of military hardware boring. Player's control Airwolf from the cockpit, blowing up the same jets, radar towers, and land targets every stage. The only difference between the stages is that the air becomes more populated as time goes by.

This would logically lead to some tension-filled confrontations, and they would be if Airwolf wasn't programmed to be a flying tank. This is most impossible-to-maneuver piece of flying equipment ever inserted into an arcade-style shooter. You don't chase bogies in this game; they're stupid enough to fly into your line of fire. Avoiding their overly accurate missiles is a lost cause. The first few levels are easy enough to lure you in with a false sense of security, and then you simply can't overcome their numbers.

To complete each stage, you must pick up stranded hostages. This is done from a side view after you fly over the marked section on the map, and once you finally realize what you need to do in order to land safely (just slow down), it's never again a challenge. There's no enemy fire to dodge or maneuver around, just some generic obstacles like power lines (which are hardly threatening). A brief cinema may follow the pick up, and it's always the same redheaded woman.

The game might have actually worked in this horizontal view as a basic NES shooter (which is what the arcade game was). Here, you lose everything that made Airwolf great. The ground and sky are made up of two colors, there's nothing to indicate you're moving, and the scaling effect when attempting to take down the radar tower is one of the most laughable on the console. Picking up speed (using the select and start buttons; hardly comfortable) is only indicated by gauge in the corner of the screen. You could be at a stand still and not even realize it.

airwolfnes2.png (3286 bytes)The only actor from the show to make an appearance is Alex Cord via a blown up digitized picture before and after each mission. The series star, Jan Michael Vincent, is nowhere to be found, which would probably have to do with the actor's addiction to substances known as "illegal." The only other graphical highlights are a few pics of the helicopter itself taking off and refueling. You only face two different enemies the entire game since variety was obviously not what Acclaim was reaching for.

One of the many things that made the TV show so special was the theme song. It made every battle (usually filled with stock footage) seem fresh and exciting. That doesn't happen in the game. During the action, you only receive monotonous sounds of the helicopter blade, machine gun fire, and missiles launching. The menus are the only places that contain any music, and while it's a surprisingly accurate rendition of that theme, even this becomes tiring.

The logical thing to do would have been to translate better (though still ridiculously difficult) Japanese NES Airwolf game. That one followed (and improved on) the arcade version by offering the horizontal view, a nice selection of weapons, and that all important show theme during gameplay. It makes even less sense when you consider Airwolf was cancelled two years prior to this Acclaim mess. It may not be a well-known 80's TV show, but it deserved far better then this.


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Last updated: Thursday, September 15, 2005 10:58 AM