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Gunship 2000 puts players in the role of a helicopter pilot for the US Army. Players can choose to fly single, one-off missions or take part in an ongoing campaign in a theater of their choice, either in Eastern Europe in a hypothetical conflict between NATO and the Soviet Union, or in the Persian Gulf to take part in the historical Operation Desert Storm.
Players start their career as a warrant officer, flying a lone helicopter in missions against either fixed targets or vehicles, usually tanks, on the move. Missions feature a primary objective, a secondary objective, a home base, and occasionally a FARP (forward arming refuel point,) where they could land and stock up on ammo and fuel. Most missions were of a search and destroy nature, but occasionally pick up and deliver missions were ordered. If players did well enough on their first few missions, they were offered the chance to be promoted to the commissioned rank of 2nd lieutenant.
Once this happened, players were accompanied in missions by a flight of wingmen. The flight consisted of six helos, total. One heavy flight, which contained four helos, and an additional light flight of two. Players could select aircraft and loadout for their flight, as well as issue orders to them in-flight. However, they executed their orders with varying degrees of competence. Often, they would attack low-priority targets with their best weapons, or, unload a barrage of high-powered weapons upon a target which the player already attacked with a missile in-flight. Even so, swooping in with a mix of six well-armed helos was more effective than going it alone.
The game featured adjustable realism settings. They also had to deal with environmental effects such as ground cover, which is ideal for helicopters to attack from, wind effects, and temperature. Lower air temperatures allow aircraft to carry heavier loads, in general, so players flying campaigns in Europe could typically load heavier ordnance than players trying to fight it out in the desert. Further, European maps typically had more terrain features to hide behind, making the European campaigns generally easier than desert ones.
Players could chose from a wide array of helicopters and armaments, some of which were in use at the time, and some of which were under development. The list includes:
AH-64D Apache Longbow (in development at the time)
MD 500 Defender
RAH-66 Comanche Warrior (in development at the time, later canceled)
RAH-66 Comanche Scout (in development at the time, later canceled)