Battlehawks 1942

Battlehawks 1942

Infobox VG
title = Battlehawks 1942

developer = Lucasfilm Games
publisher = Lucasfilm Games
designer = Lawrence Holland
engine =
version =
released = October 1988 []
genre = Flight simulation
modes = Single Player
ratings =
platforms = DOS, Amiga, Atari ST
media = 5.25" and 3.5" floppy disks for PC version, 3.5" floppy for Atari and Amiga version
requirements = "PC:" Dos 2.0, 8086/8, 384Kb RAM, Graphics: EGA, CGA Sound: PC Speaker, Adlib
input = Keyboard and Mouse for Atari and Amiga versions, Joystick supported only by PC version!

"Battlehawks 1942" was a World War II naval air-combat flight simulation video game released in 1988 by LucasFilm Games. It was about the Pacific air war theatre.

Battlehawks 1942 was the first of a World War II trilogy that LucasFilm Games released, the other two being "Their Finest Hour" (1989) and "Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe" (1991). []

On a side note, the manual for Battlehawks 1942 included a large overview of the Pacific war, the manual could be considered something like a history book that came with the game. Covering over 100 pages and filled with archived photos and detailed technical information about aircraft, ships and tactics made this manual worth reading, compared to the very sparse documentations of present flight sims.


The Battlehawks 1942 Amiga version had the most colourful graphics, the Atari ST version had the best sound - the PC-DOS version missed both, but only the DOS version of Battlehawks 1942 supported a joystick. Introducing a flight simulation game without joystick support for the homecomputers (in the 80s dominating the market) was a somewhat strange, disputed decision made by LucasFilm in 1988. Air combat manoeuvers such as the "Split-S" or the "Immelmann turn", explained detailly in the Battlehawks 1942 manual, couldn't be correct performed on homecomputers without a joystick, using only keys or mouse (on the other hand the mouse was a more accurate device for the reargunner's place in the bombers).

In Battlehawks 1942 the player could participate in four pivotal naval battles of the Pacific war:

* The Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942)
* The Battle of Midway (June 4-5, 1942)
* The Battle of the Eastern Solomons (August 23-25, 1942)
* The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (October 26, 1942)

In each of these battles, the player could experience the same situation from the US side or the Japanese side of the battle. The player could fly authentic aircraft of the era--Wildcats, Dauntlesses and Avengers on the U.S. side and Zeros, Vals and Kates on the Japanese side. Realism settings such as invincibility, unlimited ammo and unlimited fuel, starting altitude and the caliber of the opposition pilots were present, so Battlehawks was an amazingly customizable game.

Each mission started with a briefing, giving a general outline of what was needed to do. Battlehawks 1942 was a departure from the usual flight-sim in so much as the player was thrown almost immediately into the action, as there were missing Take-offs and Landings.

As with most flight simulators, Battlehawks had a cockpit point-of-view, switchable with the keypad for a look around the plane. Instruments were few: airspeed, altimeter, bank and pitch, fuel, rate-of-climb, RPM, compass and indicators for fuel and engine/airframe damage. The planes also had levers for landing gear, speed brakes (if equipped) and flaps.

The Battlehawks 1942 manual included detailed Fighter Tactics instructions, such as deflection shooting or how to perform overhead approaches from the same or the opposite course. Mission types included escorting bombers as well as fighter interceptions, which were generally quite challenging and gave a great view of the diversity of the missions that were flown in the Pacific in 1942. Allied players flying Grumman F4F Wildcats would find themselves often vastly outnumbered in a desperate attempt to save their carriers from waves of Japanese Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers. There were also dive-bombing and Torpedo-bombing missions on both sides. Dive-Bomber and Torpedo-Bomber tactics were also discussed in the manual.

Since the Pacific war used lots of ships, several kinds of vessels from battleships to carriers were modeled in Battlehawks 1942 to defend or destroy.

The graphics throughout Battlehawks 1942 were acceptable due to the sprite-based (so called) 3D engine, which is based on bitmaps which are being rotated and scaled depending on the player's view.

Muzzle flashes and tracers were present, the planes took hits and caught fire, smoked or exploded with the pilot bailing out in a parachute (gunning down the vulnerable pilots was not possible, "chute shooting", this particular bit of historical nastiness had been banned by LucasFilm programmers).

LucasFilm had perfectly captured the tactical strengths and weaknesses of US and Japanese aircraft of the Pacific War, which meant that strategy was essential to win a fight in Battlehawks 1942. Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters were very nimble and could outturn the allied Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters in the game, but they lacked armor protection. The armor protected F4F fighters could take quite a few hits and got home in one piece, whereas most of the Japanese Zero fighters just blew up when hit by gunfire. All aircraft had their own damage models.

LucasFilm had even captured the strengths and weaknesses of several variants of an aircraft type. For example, in 1942 a new version of the US Wildcat fighter, the F4F-4, entered service. This version was less popular with US pilots, because the same amount of ammunition was spread over two additional guns, decreasing firing time. The predecessor model F4F-3 had four 50-caliber guns with 450 rounds per gun, the successor variant F4F-4 had six 50-caliber guns with only 240 rounds per gun. Flying the F4F-4 in Battlehawks, you could really understand why US pilots protested at that "improvement" of reduced firing time, when ammo was dry, and Zeros were present.

Enemy artificial intelligence (AI) also was of high qualitiy in BH1942. Enemy aircraft would twist, turn, jink and generally had been very hard to hit. Japanese Zeros did also make a very good effort getting away from US planes and wind up on their tail.

Excellent pilots achieved promotions and several medals in Battlehawks (Air Medal, DFC, Bronze Star, Silver Star, Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor - if the own plane received severe hits, the Purple Heart was awarded).

Overall, Battlehawks 1942 was one very impressive product. Despite a few bugs, it was a lot of fun. It was the first Pacific theater air combat sim that everyone had been waiting for in 1988.

Pacific theater air combat simulation successors of Battlehawks were as follows: "Aces of the Pacific" (1992), "1942: The Pacific Air War" (1994), "Pacific Strike" (1994), "WarBirds" (1997), "MS-CFS2: WW II Pacific Theater" (2000), "Abacus Carrierops für Microsoft FS2002 & FS2004" (2004) and "Pacific Fighters" (2004).


Achievements awarded to LucasFilm for Battlehawks 1942: "Action Game of the Year" ("Computer Gaming World") and "Program of the Year" ("Computer Entertaine"). LucasFilm Games later renamed itself LucasArts. The primary figure behind the company, Star Wars' George Lucas, did not change.


* "Battlehawks is a World War II flight/combat simulator, if you had not already guessed. Now here is the catch. It does not support the use of a joystick. Crazy or what? You can only use mouse or keyboard. What a joke!" (Zzap! covering Amiga games, Iss. 50, June 1989, p.34)

* "If you're an aviation enthusiast at all, you'll want Battlehawks 1942 just for its extensive manual. It's 127 pages of history, tactics, theory and aviation lore and includes fold-out maps of the battles in which you can fly. It's truly a spectacular production and almost worth the price of the game by itself." (START magazine, VOL. 4, NO. 4, November 1989, page 44)

* "Many years ago, while working at Skywalker ranch on Battlehawks 1942, I overheard two people talking over my shoulder about the game I was working on. Imagine my surprise when I turned around and saw Steven Spielberg and George Lucas discussing it and learning further that Steven Spielberg was playing and enjoying it. He was an early video game convert." ( [ Larry Holland] , Battlehawks programmer)

External links

*moby game|id=/battlehawks-1942|name="Battlehawks 1942"
* [ Screenshot movie]
* [ Battlehawks Review]
* [ The Legacy museum]
* [ Amiga screenshots]
* [ Video (3min)]

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