warhawk1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Warhawk for the Sony PlayStation, published by Sony Computer Entertainment America and released in the United States in November of 1995.]

Plane blows up other planes, makes good.

Returning to the PlayStation's first-generation titles can be a risky venture. They're good for whenever you find yourself on a nostalgia kick, but more often than not you usually end up wondering how you ever tolerated all that weird polygonal tearing and warping. Even worse, it's hard looking at titles like these and coming to grips with the fact that, at some point in your life, $50 for Battle Arena Toshinden seemed like a really good deal.

Some titles have aged better than others, though, and Warhawk's gameplay holds up better than much of the PlayStation's first-generation library. The likes of Street Fighter: The Movie and King's Field don't exactly provide much competition, but even when judged on its own merits, Warhawk is still a lot of fun to play today.

warhawk2.jpgWhen sprite-based explosions were good enough.

Warhawk wears its age like a badge of honor. Start the game and you'll find yourself watching an FMV sequence. A live-action FMV sequence. The actors are bad, the sets are sparse, and the storyline is pretty dumb. Still, it's fun to watch the tough-as-nails commander (with a heart of gold) chew out the Warhawk's young, cocky hotshot of a pilot and his levelheaded and steadfast copilot after every stage. It's like the Sega CD never left us!

Gameplay doesn't require much in the way of description. You control an armored aircraft that can somehow go from accelerate to reverse in a matter of seconds. Using this ship, you're charged with the task of stamping out terrorism, which is occasionally accomplished by flying into volcanoes to collect canisters of red goo.

Thankfully, your ship doesn't actually control like the bulky chunk of metal it appears to be. Control is where the game excels -- whereas many flight-based games get bogged down in realism, the ship in Warhawk can stop on a dime, hover, and spin in place while in mid-air. Your ship's unusual freedom of movement is what allows for much the game to take place within enclosed environments, which often deteriorate into Death Star trench-style obstacle courses. Warhawk may be an aerial combat game at heart, but the emphasis on flight precision is what keeps the experience fresh more than ten years after the game's initial release.

Thrilling FMV sequences, starring...this guy!Needs more motion-sensing controller.

One of Warhawk's more interesting features is that it contains more than thirty different endings, not all of which require playing the game to completion. Dying on any of the game's levels produces a unique ending text for each. It's even possible to get a "good" ending this way...that is, if your idea of a good ending is the evil terrorist leader choking to death at the dinner table while laughing at your plane's flaming wreckage.

To get the best ending requires some ingenuity on the player's part, however. During the last mission, the game informs you that the only way to kill the final boss is to ram your plane into it, sacrificing your characters' lives in the process. Or so you'd think! If you've read the instruction manual, you'll know that the Warhawk has a cockpit ejection function, which you can use to your advantage in order to see the best ending.

The thought put into these numerous endings demonstrates that Warhawk wasn't just a throwaway first-gen title. Warhawk was developed with the sort of care and detail that makes it worth revisiting today, and hopefully, the upcoming PlayStation 3 sequel will follow suit.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]