"Your crack team of S.A.S commandos are scattered amongst the enemy islands. Your mission: get them out before the communist revolutionary army gets them in it’s evil clutches. Heavily armed and shielded in the world's most advanced helicopter gunship you’ll be flying in fast and low, blasting through hostile enemy defences. Your outfit is counting on you - don't let them down. This game is one of the most sophisticated battle simulations yet - gigantic maps packed with islands, enemy bases, tanks, aircraft carriers , helicopter gunships - everything!"
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Story Behind Operation Gunship
Fusion Retro Magazine : Issue 9
In this 5 page article we explain to Chris Wilkins the story behind creating our Rambo inspired top down helicopter shooters - Operation Gunship and it’s NES sequel - Firehawk.
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After watching the movie Rambo 3, just released on video rental, we thought it was brilliant material for a video game. We particularly liked the helicopter gunship it featured and thought this was a fantastic image for the box and players would love to take control of a helicopter like that flying across the landscape causing devastation! We thought we could use similar gameplay from Choplifter, a game we’d played a few years earlier on an Apple IIe. However, we thought it would be better to be viewed from top-down, giving the player far more freedom and choice and would be far more visually impressive.
We’d developed a great tiling system for creating organic landscapes for an unreleased adventure game, Excalibar, a couple of years earlier. We used the ideas from that to create a series of islands which had great coastlines, beaches, green areas and forests. On top of this, we had roads, bridges, fences and buildings.
The player would set off across the island shooting and bombing enemies vehicles and buildings, whilst locating and rescuing the commandos. We were particularly pleased with the damage system we used which led to chain-reaction explosions that looked great! We had to reduce the view window in an attempt to get a reasonable frame rate and scrolling speed, but we were left with poor speed and a small video window.
Reviews were reasonable, we even got a Crash Smash award, and the game sold quite well, but we were always disappointed at the scrolling speed possible on the Amstrad and Spectrum. When we moved to the NES, we realized how well this game would work on a console that had hardware scrolling and sprites. We were keen to rewrite the game from the same concept, and since it was so much better, we decided to rename it Firehawk.
Electronic Art’s massively successful Desert Strike was released in ‘92 and we wondered if it was inspired by Operation Gunship or Firehawk. However, we’ve read an interview with Trip Hawkins, and it turns out that he too was a fan of Choplifter and conceived the idea independently.