Thunder Hawk (Core Design) Review | Mean Machines Sega - Everygamegoing


Thunder Hawk
Sega CD (US Version)

Published in Mean Machines Sega #13

Thunder Hawk

Being the worldly-wise people they are, Core Design know there are many problems requiring a solution on this planet of ours. Rather than dwell solely upon the likes of ending drug Baron's reigns, thwarting some major invasion or rescuing small villages from evil tyrants, Core's first real Mega-CD title provides the player with the tool to end it all. At the helm of the Thunderhawk - a prototype helicopter gunfire - Mega-CD owning mercenaries now storm into battle against everything and anything that moves.

Through ten assorted operations, incorporating 48 separate tasks, the Thunderhawk's pilot undertakes salvage missions and defends innocent people from exploitation in places ranging from South East Asia to frozen Alaska. Seeing as the Thunderhawk is armed with the latest in arms technology, taking the fight to the enemy is simple. Or so it seems.


Core Design already has a game named Thunderhawk available for the Amiga. This Mega-CD version is a lot different.

How To Play

Take the Thunderhawk into combat through 48 different missions in ten areas of the world.

The Worst Operation I Ever Had...

As mentioned earlier, the Thunderhawk is required to solve the problems found in ten locations worldwide. Each has its own list of prime directives. Here's a brief lowdown:

  1. Panama Canal: Canal Crisis
    Imagine the chaos of a city without bananas! This is potentially the case in Panama as warring factions attack all merchant shipping passing up and down this stretch of water. Enemy gunboats, water mines and SAM (Surface to Air Missiles) sites are the targets here.
  2. Alaska: Bio-Research
    A US bio-research lab is under threat from just about everything the enemy has to offer. This could mean an end to the many strange and unthinkable experiments going down in this vicinity. Perhaps it's just as well! Still, duty calls and the Thunderhawk once again takes to the skies and routs all and sundry before they can get their woolly gloves on any top-secret, biological designs.
  3. Central America: Recapture Town
    Since enemy occupation, a certain small town is in such a bad way that it's hardly worth recapturing at all. Still, justice must prevail and so the guerrilla troops, currently enjoying what little the town has on offer, are soundly blasted from their strongholds and convinced never to try this kind of gig again! In between Thunderhawk and the town are determined tank divisions and the like, and a bridge is sacrificed to prevent any further damage to this precious Central American town.
  4. South America: Arms Running
    The legs of a thousand South Americans are fleeing their homeland due to terrorists behaving as only terrorists know how, courtesy of arms-running hostile forces. Five missions bring this dread situation to a standstill allowing the South Americans a safe return home.
  5. South America: Stealth Down
    Looming trees make a nuisance of themselves in this location as do Surface to Air Missile sites camouflaged by dense forestation and well disguised patrol tanks. The point of this operation is to destroy the enemy base where scientists are excitedly deciphering the workings of the Stealth machine in the hope of constructing something like it for their own evil purpose.
  6. Eastern Europe: UN Convoy
    Well if it isn't another besieged town in the middle of nowhere! This time round the inhabitants don't seem bothered at all by their misfortune so long as they get their three meals a day and plenty of fizzy pop! A convoy of trucks from some of the world's most renowned supermarkets is on its way to with massive supplies of everything. Defend this convoy, resisting the temptation of going on an all-out, gook-destroying bonanza that might forfeit the convoy's protection.
  7. Middle East: Escort
    Once more the enemy forces are living it up in places they don't belong and it's down to the plot of the Thunderhawk to support the advance of the UN forces as they attempt to reclaim the friendly territory. This particular set of missions is quite a departure from the usual run of things in that the player not only looks out for his own safety but the welfare of a UN helicopter too. Simply taking care of all the primary targets in this instance is worthless if the UN transport is shot down, in whch case all of the player's efforts are a big waste of time!
  8. Middle East: Oil Dispute
    Oil refineries are sitting ducks for terrorist attack, especially when terrorists have acccess to submarines. Only the Thunderhawk, with its MK 54 depth charges, is capable of making sure that this enemy never comes up for air again! Though elsewhere in the game, the Thunderhawk takes advantge of low flying to avoid radar detection there is not a hope of repeating this success here as the open seas are swimming with gunboats that spot any oncoming attack from miles away! Only with a pilot's superior flying skills is this operation made a success.
  9. South East Asia: Chemical Warfare
    The nearest most of us get to chemical warfare are the results of hot curries and too much lemonade. In South East Asia, chemical weapons are constructed with the aim of being considerably more deadly. The victims certainly can't laugh the likes of nerve gas off in a hurry. By first knocking out the enemy radar stations the chemical weapons assembly plant is the main target in this area.
  10. South China Seas: Piracy
    Oo Arr! The pirates be bothering our UN shipmates on the open seas and the situation calls upon the heroics of a land-lubber for sinking their festerin' vessels good and proper! Don't go blathering about, wasting time with petty targets in these waters! Go straight for the primary targets - the pirate's main base, situated on an island - before Jolly Rogering the pirates' dodgy trading habits for ever and a day.

To Arms, Or Six Even!

To assist in the Thunderhawk's various missions it's armed with six forms of weaponry, some of which are prototypes - just like the Thunderhawk itself.

30mm Cannon:
The Thunderhawk's standard offence. It's ace for crop busting, tree felling and taking out the odd tank.

Ace for taking out helicopters and aeroplanes which are much more manoeuvrable and, therefore, fall better to a swift missile up the exhaust pipe.

Rocket Pods:
The office favourite! Sear into the enemy bases and rip them to shreds!!

250lb MK-82 Bombs:
These are best used for bridge-busting exercises, though they do make a nice mess of enemy bases.

RCS-233 Runway Cratering System:
Good for bombing airways to stop enemy places taking off.

MK-54 Depth Charges: Submarines have no hope of escape when these are raining down their periscopes!


Sega's choice of Thunderhawk as their flagship Mega-CD title in America is a wise one. As fast as it is smooth, the Thunderhawk handles well and the illusion of speed as the craft is piloted through the forests and canyons is both convincing and exhilarating. Success is only guaranteed to those who have the patience and skill to fly this thing properly, assuring that no target is missed whilst also keeping the welfare of the Thunderhawk in perspective.

A strategic element enhances the gameplay and the assortment of specialist missions offer variety too. What isn't all that wide-ranging is the use of tactics. For the most part, it is possible to escape damage whilst inflicting some of your own by flying at a reasonably low level and following the directions indicated on the compass and radar.

Consequently the boredom threshold is crossed very early in the game. Thunderhawk is awesome to watch, sonically extravagant but is downed in the fun department - almost, nearly but not quite the killer I had hoped for.


Grelps! Thunderhawk is probably the most graphically impressive console game I've ever seen. The graphics are as spectacular as can be, and really put the Mega-CD to good use. The filmy intros are totally incredible and the in-game graphics follow the trend. Each level has its own colour scheme to compensate for the limited Megadrive palette, and this means there's wealth of detail. The sprites are great, especially impressive when you realise it's possible to view them from any angle at all (except from underground, of course, what with you being in a helicopter and everything).

Mind you, the old adage "it's gameplay that counts" must eventually rear its head, so what about the game? Well, the control of the chopper is excellent, allowing you plenty of scope for low-level flying, strafing, evasive action and spinning round and round on the spot until you're sick.

There's also loads of missions, with the best being the escort-the-friendly-aircraft and depth-charge dropping strategical-types. The only problem is that the more shoot-'em-up-based missions are too repetitive because there's no structure to them; you just fly around a large, open plan level shooting stuff. That said, Thunderhawk is still an excellent game and definitely worth the investment.


Presentation 91%
P. The presentation screens in Thunderhawk are very striking, though there is still the option of excluding them.
N. The mission intros grow tiresome very quickly.

Graphics 92%
P. Everybody who sees this game is completely taken aback! Every aspect of the Mega-CD's hardware is taken full advantage of and the results are outstanding!

Sound 93%
P. Again eager to make the best use of the Mega-CD, Core Design's musicians excel in the sound department with some decent progessive rock groovers.

Playability 88%
P. It's fast, challenging and enjoyable as both a mindless shoot-'em-up and strategy type infiltration affair.
N. As far as the shoot-'em-up element goes, there is danger of boredom.

Lastability 81%
P. With ten operations that include 48 missions, al of which offer a high level of challenge on the "Hard" setting, a long-lasting challenge is assured.

Overall 84%
Thunderhawk broadens the gap between cartridge and CD-based titles. It stands as a shining example of the Mega-CD's capabilities though it falls short slightly on the gameplay front.