Apache: Air Assault Review
|Genre:||Helicopter Combat Sim|
|Release Date:||November 19th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Good flight simulators are few and far between, and on modern consoles even more so - so when Apache Air Assault popped up in the store, I thought it might be worth a go, on the off-chance it actually practices what it preaches - "Destruction and devastation from above." And it does, in spades.
The first thing that struck me, as soon as I turned on the game, was the theme - a soaring, epic song which encapsulates the highs and lows of combat, and sounds awesome as well. So awesome, in fact, that the developers must have really taken their time and made a proper flight simulator, yes? Oh yes.
Springing from the coding of Gaijin entertainment - well known for their flight simulator games - Apache is the consummate sim game - fun, realistic (ish) and addictive.
The game places you in the pilot's seat of the world's deadliest attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache, and its derivatives, taking the role of pilots and gunners across three modern battlefields - though not set in any real countries.
There's no real connected plot between the three warzones, and the 16 main campaign missions jump from team to team, each separate pairing taking on pirates (which are in no way Somali), drug cartel overlords (which are in no way Columbian), and a desert warlord with delusions of grandeur.
The campaign has you levelling power plants, escorting special ops units, assaulting oil rigs, zooming through the jungle canopy hunting cartel bosses and generally zipping about the sky like a bumblebee with its tail on fire. Thankfully, the five or so versions of the Apache are as nimble as they come, and are capable of pulling off incredible manoeuvres- provided you get plenty of practice in first. Yes, in other words, this game is tricky.
The tutorial mode is too short, and doesn't give you a decent grounding in how to handle the aircraft, or the fact that you can resupply and repair at the helipads dotted around the campaign's various arenas of battle. This is a problem when you first get full control of the gunships, and set the control system from the extremely restrictive 'tutorial' mode, to 'realistic' mode.
It's like trying to fly a washing machine. The gunships are nimble, dangerous weapons, and this game has all the hallmarks of being more suited to a PC, and a joystick.
That said, once you get used to the swift nature of pitch and yaw, hurling the beasts around the sky is immensely good fun, and the armament the game equips you with makes raining death down even more so.
Every mission outfits you with two pods of unguided missiles, eight hellfire missiles for taking out armour, a cannon for close-range work (which can be used in infra-red and zoomed in modes) and occasionally some anti-air missiles, for those blasted helicopters.
The missions themselves are pretty varied, seeing the pilots fly assault missions, or holding back a tide of enemy armour as they try to storm a capital city. One particularly good mission has you flying through a blizzard-filled valley, dodging streamers of fire and bringing down helicopters with just your cannon - it's a tense, thrilling experience.
Of course, sometimes you wish there could be more than one human-controlled Apache in the airspace, and the game neatly comes equipped with a brilliant suite of individual missions which can be played alone or online, with up to three other pilots.
These missions are each brilliant in your own way, but my personal favourite tasks one pilot with flying an unmanned drone, lazing targets for the Apaches - it's great fun. The only downside to this is the lack of gamers who've bought or borrowed the game, as finding another player can be a bit of a slog.
There is also an offline co-op mode, which allows you and another player to pilot the same Apache, one acting as pilot, one as gunner. This is difficult to adapt to at first, as the co-pilot handles all the weapons, while the pilot has to dodge the copious anti-aircraft fire flashing up at you, and get the sights on the enemy. But, once you get a system rocking, the game is great fun.
Graphically the game, while nothing spectacular, more than suits the material. The Apache's cockpit is brilliantly modelled, and though you don't need the avionics modelled into the cockpit - thanks to the detailed yet simple HUD - for the purist, it is possible to fly by the avionics alone, which is an experience in itself.
Outside of the aircraft, the varied arenas of the game take you to a nicely rendered jungle, a spartan desert and valleys of snow, and though the graphics aren't so sharp when you get up close, the unbridled destruction you're going to be raining down pretty much negates this.
The ground-pounding friendlies and enemies are also quite badly rendered, especially when you zoom in the infra-red, but the missiles they fire are deadly, and dodging RPGs and heat-seekers can be a high point of the game at times - especially when you're facing other helicopters, who love nothing more than barraging you with ordinance.
As I mentioned before, the score to this game is epic, and incredible at times. The score is so good, it could be that of a big-budget Hollywood movie, and serves as admirable accompaniment to the action. That said, the rest of the sound effects can be a little off-putting. The pilots all have distinct accents, including a rather rambunctious Scot, but they're just faceless avatars.
The helicopter's rotors often fade out and back in again, rather than being the constant rattle you would expect, and sometimes the missiles launch silently, erupting in silent blooms of fire.
The few little bugs are easily ignored in the overall scope of the game, which is a great blast, with enough missions to keep things interesting, a great soundtrack, addictive multiplayer and all the thrills of being a combat pilot, with none of the risks.
If you like flight sims, and feel like raining hell on your foes, then look no further.
- Great score
- Plenty of missions
- Addictive, explosive fun
Not so good stuff
- Tricky to master
- Not many people online
- Poor tutorial
- No real conjoined plot