I’ve written hundreds of reviews and previews during my twenty-odd years as a games inspector. As many of these appeared in the British version of PC Gamer magazine and nowhere else, and involve titles largely forgotten today, now and again something from my archive may appear as one of THC’s daily posts. Below the jump you’ll find my take on Apache Air Assault, a classy light helicopter gunship sim from 2010 that, sadly, still hasn’t made it onto Steam or GOG.
“Be the god of Hellfire, Hydra, and 30mm chaingun in Apache Air Assault”
“Until kestrels learn how to devastate shrew caravans with wing-mounted hornets, the coolest and deadliest hoverer in British skies will remain the Army Air Corps’ Apache AH-64. In my hometown you seldom go a day without seeing one beetling around the blue looking thuggish. That thuggishness and the nimbleness that goes with it, is captured superbly in this rip-roaring aerial shooter.
Despite colliding with a lot of the same mission design powerlines that HAWX 2 collided with (scripted sorties, binary victory conditions, too many foes…) Apache Air Assault ends up far more entertaining thanks to its plausible handling, punchier violence, and naturally slower pace.
The simple act of moving about the battlefield is pleasurable in this game. Gaijin – the Wings of Prey people – have got the floaty fidgetiness of a combat chopper almost spot-on. Dancing under bridges, alighting on mountain peaks, landing pads or rooftops is so very diverting you wonder whether the devs should have built an entire mode around manoeuvre, or at least made it a more important part of the campaign.
A few taxi, medivac, or recon missions would have helped aerate a 16-sortie centrepiece that relies a smidgen too heavily on blowing up or bullet-mincing baddies. With three storylines unspooling simultaneously you’re never quite sure where you’re going to be operating next – a thinly veiled version of Afghanistan, Somalia, or Colombia. What you can be certain of is, wherever you are you’ll be peering though your HUD at charred convoys and fluffy Hellfire trails within a minute or two of leaving the ground.
AAA’s cockpits have switches and MFDs in all the right places, but it’s all for show. Apart from occasionally jumping to a FLIR view to better spot and slot hot threats, most kills are the result of a simple three button process: select weapon, lock target, unleash hell. Those brought up on the great helo sims of yesteryear, will miss subtleties like manual target IDing (Is that a warlord conference or a wedding party?) radar modes and wingman orders.
The only opportunity for clever teamwork comes in co-op multiplayer. Comrades are a little thin on the ground at present, but once you’ve found one, a pleasant lunch-hour of liquidation is all-but guaranteed. With a dozen sorties, a skirmish creator, and a flyable Hind and UAV provided, it would be a bit mean-spirited to grumble about the fact that two players can’t share a single steed.
With someone else’s hands on the stick there’d be more time to admire what have to be among the prettiest vistas ever to appear in a flight game. Gazing down at Salcedo’s lush jungles, Lualia’s rusty shanty towns and Taziristan’s gorgeous gorges, its heartbreaking to think that this wonderful engine may never provide the venues for a less lightweight, less scripted gunship game.”