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Apache: Air Assault

Apache: Air Assault

Helicopter sims aren't exactly a dime a dozen these days and Apache: Air Assault has been flying under the radar a bit. Could it be worth picking up?

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The base is under heavy enemy attack. Red markers indicate the attackers on my heads up display. Tangos all over the place. The rotor blades start humming, I'm up in the air and take aim for a number of armoured vehicles and foot soldiers carrying rocket launchers. My AH-64D Apache Longbow unleashes the heavy artillery with Hellfire missiles raining down on my targets. If you're a military fanatic it's enough to bring forth tears of joy.

It's all about helicopters made for combat. All airborne delights you get to pilot are officially licensed by Boeing. Before each mission you get a rather short briefing on what you need to do. It's your typical cliché riddled, dry and informative tales of terrorist attacks and pirate troubles.

Don't expect a particularly exciting or gripping story. Instead the focus is solely on what Boeing's combat helicopters want to be known as - death bringing super weapons. Something that Apache: Air Assault is successful in conveying.

I take out a whole convoy with a dozen rockets, scout for guerilla troops in the jungles with heat vision, hunt for terrorists across snowcovered wastes, sweat it out in intense dog fights with enemy helicopters, give support to a downed colleague, demolish bridges and buildings. The missions are varied, well crafted and combat is seldom boring. It's loud, sounds good, and looks fairly realistic, without doing anything out of the ordinary in the visual department. There are moments when the framerate stutters, and textures sometimes pop up a little late, and I would have loved more detail. But it does the job.

The machinegun is for the most part handled automatically by the artificial intelligence, leaving you in charge of the heavier weapons, but you can choose to switch over to manual use of the machinegun at any time. If you press the B-button (Xbox 360) you enter a black and white camera view mounted underneath the helicopter. It makes it easier to pinpoint individual targets especially when the heat vision is switched on.

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You can share duties with a friend on the same console. But don't get your hopes up too high. The co-operative mode is limited to letting one player pilot the helicopter, while the other one handles the weapons. You can argue that it adds a layer of authenticity as these duties are divided in real life. But trust me when I say that it's not particularly entertaining to just move a sight around and shoot enemies. Piloting alone isn't very entertaining either. Each part is fairly boring on its own, but together it's a totally different story. There are also navigational issues for the pilot when the gunner enters the previously mentioned black and white view. Personally I would have preferred a split screen option with two helicopters.

It gets better online. As opposed to the local co-operative mode you get to fly around with a helicopter each in order to complete a series of missions. It's reminiscent of the regular campaign, adds communication with humans and adds value to the experience. Apart from the campaign and the online mode there is a sandbox option where you pick environment and difficult as well as settings such as number of enemies and their colour.

Before you head off to war there is initially two difficulty levels to choose from. If you happen to be a seasoned veteran there is a realism mode that's tough as nails. I have no idea how close it is to a simulation, I've never even been in a real helicopter, but it's a challenge to just keep the helicopter in the air. And then you have to take down tangos as well. The easier setting is perfect for a newcomer who doesn't enjoy shaving tops of trees or crashing into mountains. The physics simulation is more forgiving and it's more of an arcade experience than a simulation. If you happen to think that realism mode is for weakling you will eventually unlock veteran mode where the challenge reaches infernal heights.

To pilot a helicopter with a standard controller works fine. But in the same way a racing game is best experienced with a steering wheel, I would imagine Apache: Air Assault is even better with a joystick. The selection of joysticks for consoles isn't exactly deep these days, but there is Thrustmaster joystick for Playstation 3 that is said to work wonderfully with the game.

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There aren't a lot of helicopter games on the market these days as they target a niche audience. But sometimes it's great fun to sit down with these kind of niched title. Especially if it's a good one. And that's what Apache: Air Assault is. It may not be the prettiest one, and it's extremely anonymous, but if the first paragraph of this text got you going, you probably won't care about those details.

Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault
HQ
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Challenging, satisfying combat, varied missions, well crafted controls.
-
Anonymous, average graphics.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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