Format War :: arguing the toss over which machine is better
Main review :: written by Jason 

Humanity is being menaced by aliens operating from bases hidden deep within a field of asteroids which are protected by airborne fighters, mines and clusters of meteors. Traditionally, these missions can't be taken on with a battle cruiser because there simply wouldn't be manoeuvring space (or perhaps the pilot's union insists they're handled by a lone, heroic flier with a one-person craft) so enter the Warhawk, a typically small but well-armed and nimble fighter craft whose pilot has been tasked with wading into the asteroid belt and smashing through the defences.

All very familiar of course because Warhawk is a somewhat generic vertical blaster, although it does have a couple of distinctive twists; for a start there's only the one Warhawk and, if it's destroyed in action, the mission is a failure so it's fortunate that they come with shielding as standard and can take quite a bit of pounding before going kaboom. With the C64 and Atari 8-bit versions there's also a power-up (yes, quite literally just the one and it only starts appearing around level 4) which temporarily enables automatic firing but, since the weapon pod can be shot, actually collecting one is a little hit or miss - a CPC Warhawk will instead come shipped with auto fire out of the box.

All three games use a bias relief graphics style for the background, with the C64 and Amstrad extending that to the sprites whilst the Atari uses single colour objects for the enemies and adds horizontal bands of colour to the player. Even when it was initially released in 1986 the style looked a little dated, but in all three cases the graphics are at least functional and the strange palette choices of the Amstrad version or single colour sprites of the A8 don't take away from the action. One of the stand out presentation features has to be the soundtrack, produced by Rob Hubbard on all three machines although only the C64 and Amstrad play the music during the game with the sound effects cutting in over the lead voice - oddly, the Atari 8-bit also features a shortened version of the theme that drops both the slower introduction and dramatic ending.

When it was reviewed in issue 17 of Zzap! 64, Julian Rignall commented that Warhawk "isn't at all bad, especially if you're a shoot 'em up fanatic who wants something reminiscent of the arcade game Starforce" - the overall score given by all three reviewers was a respectable 80% (and one of the screenshots is of the game before the Star Force end of level bosses were removed). The CPC version received a more mixed reception, scoring 75% from Computing with the Amstrad in issue 75 whilst issue 31 of Amstrad Action gave it just 49%. Current review site CPC Game Reviews ranks it somewhere between those points at 7/10, whilst a solid 7.9/10 has been awarded to their version by Atari Mania visitors.

Of the three versions under consideration (there is an Atari ST conversion available as well), all three are solid, playable shoot 'em ups and worth putting some serious joystick time into, but the C64 version comes out on top simply because it has the most consistent graphics, beefiest soundtrack and a steady difficulty curve that leads to it becoming almost manic on the later levels. The Atari 8-bit isn't quite up to the same standards graphically and geared a little too hard to begin with, so it comes in second and the Amstrad CPC takes the third spot because it's just too difficult even with the constant auto fire.



Format 8-Bit Computer
Publisher Firebird
Released 1986
Price £1.99
Review Jason
C64 Loading
C64 Loading
Top Commodore 64
2nd Atari 8-bit
3rd Amstrad CPC
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