Sunday, 13 September 2015

Video Game Review - Apache: Air Assault (Xbox 360)

Ive been buying cheapo video games again!

Apache: Air Assault is a 2010 action flight simulator game, developed by Russian game developers Gaijin Entertainment and published by Activision.

I picked up my copy for a measly £4 from the Doncaster branch of CEX , and, having immensely enjoyed the "Strike" series of games, I thought it would be a groovy idea to climb into the cockpit of an attack helicopter and rain hellfires, hydras and 30mm cannon ammo down on some assholes once again.

I wasn't disappointed :)

The games story line takes place over a fictionalised modern day setting, following the adventures of "Taskforce-191"; a multinational (mainly US and UK) anti-terrorism taskforce that uses attack helicopters in conjunction with air cavalry to combat terrorists and drug cartels in the Middle East, South America and former Soviet states.

As the games title suggests, your main vehicle of aerial pwnage is the Apache attack helicopter, you get to use various different versions of it, ranging from the "standard" US issue AH-64D "Longbow", to the UK version, the Westland AH-1 Apache (although in practice, the differences between the two are purely cosmetic).

The campaign missions have a series of objectives to be completed, such as destroying an enemy stronghold, destroying transport columns, protecting friendly buildings or providing air cover to ground forces while they clear out buildings.
In this respect, the game becomes a little repetitive, with many of the missions seemingly being more difficult versions of ones you've already done.

The games controls are difficult to master, being as they operate in pretty much the same way as a real helicopters controls would do, with one stick performing double duty by controlling altitude/air speed and direction, and the other stick controlling pitch and yaw.
The game has two distinct flight modes, "Training" keeps your chopper within "safe" pitch/yaw limits (one of the games achievements rewards you for performing a barrel roll, which can't be done in training mode), whereas "Realistic" sees your chopper performing some extremely unsafe/suicidal maneuvers with no safety margins. For novice players, "Realistic" mode, coupled with the difficult to handle control system, will see them crashing whenever they try to fly, however, the flight sim experience is one of the best I've seen for a helicopter game on a home console.

As this is an action game, there is, of course, combat to be done. The Apaches main armaments consist of a 30mm cannon for anti personnel work, Hydra "dumb fire" rockets for explosive ground support against lightly armoured vehicles,  Hellfire ATGMs for anti armour work and Stinger Air-to-Air missiles for use against nay aircraft you come across.

Your copilot can use the cannon independently, but control of the missiles comes down to you. Now, whereas the Hellfires and Hydras generally hit what you aim them at, the Stingers are another story.
You see, the problem is is that the AA combat portions of the game are frustrating as hell, being as 99.99% of the time, your Stingers will fail to hit, much less destroy whatever you use them on, and you spend a hell of a lot of time jockeying for position with Mi-35 Hinds (the export version of the Soviet era Mi-24 Hind) in the hopes that you can catch them with a "ripple fire" of Hydras or a good couple of hits from your 30mm, which is made harder by the odd fact that you cant seem to climb fast enough to get above them into the best position to fire. (It should be noted that Air-to-Air combat between helicopters in real life is extremely rare, with less than a hand full of reported incidences of it actually happening)

The other thing is that although you are given a certain number of "lives" to allow you to continue if you get shot down, the games AI likes to respawn you in rather odd places, which, I have found quite often leads to the bad guys "spawn killing" you in a hail of RPG fire before you have chance to maneuver away from the respawn point...cue a lot of me shouting "oh for fucks sakes!" after I get spawn camped into oblivion.

Outside of the campaign mode, there is "Free flight" mode, which allows you to pilot other choppers featured in the game, such as the Hind and the MQ-8 "Fire Scout" drone in mock battles.
There is also an online portion of the game, as well as a co-op mode.

All in all, Apache: Air Assault is one of the better combat flight sims available for home consoles, although its not perfect, it is still pretty good, and worth picking up for the cheapo.

Final score: - 8/10

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