GamesCom: Apache: Air Assault Impressions

By Lee on September 7, 2010, 7:13PM EDT
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Despite the likes of Call of Duty and Medal of Honour falling over themselves to include helicopter sections, there's hasn't been a dedicated helicopter sim on this generation of consoles yet. I didn't realise that before an Activision rep pointed it out to me. Presumably that means there's a load of you out there who can't wait to jump in the cockpit and unleash some Hellfire missiles on unsuspecting bad guys.

Developed by Gaijin Entertainment, the people behind IL2-Sturmovik, Apache: Air Assault should scratch that itch.

Working closely with Boeing, the developers have chucked a lot of realistic detail into the game, making sure that everything from the sound of the engines to the knobs in the cockpit are precisely as they should be.

This finicky attention to detail extends to the handling of the choppers. With the game at veteran difficulty, controlling your chosen helicopter is no easy task, with the handling pitched at frighteningly twitchy levels, finite ammo and a genuine fragility that could see one shot sending you down into the ground.

You can throw the difficulty levels down a couple of notches and things loosen up a little, gaining stabilisation assistance and replenishing ammo to allow you to go about your business with relative ease. But according to the Activision rep, veteran is how the game is meant to be played.

The missions themselves will see you flying over sea and land to dispatch tanks, anti-aircraft emplacements, boats and more. You'll do this with a large variety of missiles, cannons and rockets, all based on real life technology. Suffice to say, though you may run out of ammo, you'll never run out of ammo choices.

One gimmicky addition is the thermal and night vision. This allows you to zoom in and target enemies in a way you simply couldn't before. Slicing up opposition soldiers from the sky has never been so efficient.

As you swap from mission to mission, you'll pilot a different helicopter with a specially customisable load-out. There should be enough options to keep you tinkering, and more importantly, interested.

But then if you get bored of the 16 campaign solo mission (also playable in split-screen with one pilot and one gunner), then there are always the impressive co-op and multiplayer options to turn to.

There are 13 unique co-operative, online missions for you and up to four friends to tackle, offering a substantial challenge. Then beyond that, there is good old familiar deathmatch, playable over any of the levels from the main campaign. Apache: Air Assault has everything you would expect.

Visually, the game uses a technique similar to Ubisoft's HAWX series, by using real-life satellite mapping technology to create the landscape of the levels. Nicely detailed views over valleys, forests and military bases look perfectly crisp, the perfect backdrop to the business of blowing crap up.

Unfortunately, one sea-based mission we were shown didn't look quite so good. Fogged in, with an odd coloured sea, it just didn't look right. Wide emerald seas with vast cloudy skies are an overused staple of the flight sim genre, of course. But this felt like somewhat of an artistic mis-step.

It's possibly the only thing I could fault about Apache: Air Assault. But I'm sure it will be sorted out before release.

So why does it leave us so cold? If the game looks good, has employed experts to ensure realistic detailing, offers a wide range of single-player, split-screen, online co-op and adversarial options, what's not to like?

We'll tell you. This is a game laser-targeted at a gap in the market. It wasn't made from love or passion or ideas, it was made because - as the Activision rep said - there aren't any another heli-sims out there. Apache: Air Assault will do everything perfectly well, but we suspect you'd be hard pressed to fall in love with it.

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