Airwolf Review

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Developer: Acclaim Publisher: Acclaim
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Every once in awhile, I get to a review I don’t feel like doing because the game I had to play to write it I didn’t feel like playing. Airwolf is awful, there’s not much more to say, and it’s sad because the Japanese got such a better version of what could have been a decent or even really good title. This is quite simply one of the most boring things I have ever come across.

Graphically, Airwolf is terrible, which is kind of strange from Acclaim at this time. Being that it’s a helicopter flight-sim, you have a cockpit view that looks okay, but there’s hardly anything going on. The background is either plain blue or black with the same planes and stupid artillery firing at you constantly with bland, fuzzy circles called ‘missiles’ in the manual. The main screens show the same thing over and over with some really poor animations. Somehow, Airwolf is a helicopter that when viewed from the front, tilts its rotor blades towards you. It appears the programmers, in attempting to show you how they spin, forgot about perspective. The game throws the same crap at you over and over again, with some very poor detail and incredibly bland color schemes. In addition, it even glitches from time to time. The fade-in and out sequences that show you your insignia before rounds actually skip and flicker, and at times when you’re being briefed on your mission, the text was out of it’s damn bubble across the screen or over the main graphic, scrambled. Terrible.

To top it off, Airwolf jolts out of the blue yonder with some of the most dreadful sounds I’ve ever heard. Your shots are okay, and the missiles sound fine, as well as explosions, but there is a complete absence of music here. The only tune you get occurs during the title screen and briefings, but the problem is is that the game was programmed so that the music stops when play begins and then whenever it’s played again it takes off at the same point it ended on, sometimes in mid-note. Talk about awkward. They managed to replicate the TV show’s theme pretty well, but I really don’t want to hear it this much, and without some sort of song going on during the actual play, Airwolf feels even more worthless.

And for the trilogy of terror required in any suck game, Airwolf comes at you with lame, pointless gameplay. The idea of it is that, sort-of following the show, which at this time had been off the air nearly two years, you have to rescue prisoners in various outposts while avoiding enemy fire. The controls work just fine, but listen to some of this:

First, Airwolf tries to combine a flight-sim with a quasi-shooter. You are given a map before each level showing you the location of prisoners, fuel support stations and airfields. Each time move over a prisoner icon on the map, the screen goes to this weird landing sequence where you have to just move your helicopter forward and back while tapping up a few times so you don’t crash. It lands on the ground, the prisoner enters, and you’re on your way. That’s it, and it never gets difficult, same thing all the time, over twenty freaking levels. There is hardly any variation other than the way prisoners are placed around the map and the total number of them. At first one, by the last level six, that’s it. Talk about tedious.

Second, you only have three lives and no continues. You can get extra lives from gold planes that occasionally appear, but the main problem is that you always die because Airwolf is too slow to dodge enemy fire. You can speed up by pressing start, but it still does little to help you avoid missiles. This is compounded by later levels with this absolutely stupid feature. There is a perimeter to every level that marks off the edges of the map. The manual informs you that if you reach this perimeter, the enemy has a ‘special weapon’ there that ruins your navigation and stops you cold. Not sure how that’s even feasible, but it explains how the program essentially freezes at these points. In addition, some later levels have small corridors of the map with really tight perimeters you have to go down. You’ll quite easily get stuck, because while trying to turn around you continuously hit into the ‘secret weapon’s’ range, glitching the game and not moving, thus getting hit by the three missiles it takes to take you down as you try to figure out what you need to do. This was really counterintuitive as well, you’d think just turn around to get out, but you need to do that and then speed up. Why? Talk about some shoddy programming.

Third, and finally, though I could go on, Airwolf has absolutely no variety. The same enemies, the same levels, the same waste of your life. There isn’t even an ending, it just keeps going after you reach level twenty, and then it, talk about having some nerve, just skips back to an earlier level, pretending it’s twenty-one when it’s actually fourteen. I have never felt this bored by a game before, it’s hard to believe the programmers actual sat down and tested this and thought it would do well on the market. It has to be one of the worst things I’ve ever played simply because it’s so damn boring. There’s just nothing to do. Same briefing over and over again, same huge-breasted, teddy-wearing prisoner over and over again, same text, same planes, same everything. What is this?

Airwolf could have been considered creative had they done a little more with the idea. I don’t mind flight-sims, provided they’re programmed well, and the prisoner pick-up segments could have been made different, perhaps throwing in some small, horizontal shooter segments. I don’t know, but regardless, this is really nothing more than a worse version of Top Gun with no variety and a very half-assed attempt at it, that’s it. So, no creative score for you.

Replay value? Ha, wow, there is no reason for me to even own this damn game now. It was so impossible to get anywhere playing normally that I put on some cheats and nearly went insane from boredom. There’s nothing here to bring you back, trust me. As for game length, much longer than it needed to be. Ten levels of this much repetition is hell for even the most brave of gamers. When you have this much similarity in a game, don’t make it any longer than ten levels, please. I just can’t take it.

Again, I have another puzzle to figure out. Why does it seem that the US market received such crappy versions of games? The Japanese version of Airwolf is actually quite enjoyable, but this, this is just worthless. If you’re looking to see what a really crappy flight-sim looks like, check it out. Or, if you want to see some poor programming, look no further. Airwolf will not fail to please you in this regard and bore the hell out of you.

Graphics: 3.5
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 3.5
Creativity: 2
Replay Value/Game Length: 1.5
Final: 2.9
Written by Stan Review Guide

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