Review: Apache: Air Assault
Apache: Air Assault is a heli flight simulator with little competition. There's plenty of opportunity for it to shine, but there was also much room for it to fail to meet expectations as a result. How did it turn out?
- Worth The Time?Yes, to the hardcore heli fans, otherwise not really.
- Things LovedThe realistic feeling of flying a helicopter, the multiplayer.
- Things HatedThe repetitive and bland visuals, the dull single player, the lack of excitement and substance to the game, the repetitiveness and lack of variety.
- RecommendationHardcore heli fans will perhaps get the most out of this game. Or if you love games like Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X 2, then you might also just be the right candidate for this game as well. To anyone else, there is fun to be had here, mostly with the multiplayer. However, a full price purchase is not recommended, and you'd best give this a skip.
- Name: Apache: Air Assault
- Genre: Action Flight Simulator
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Online and Offline co-op
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
- Developer: Gaijin Entertainment
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R451-499 (PS3, 360), R270-299 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
It’s not an often occurrence that gamers will be treated to a truly good flight simulator. When it comes to helicopters in particular, it’s unfortunate that the reality is that there is a definite shortage of games to satisfy the hardcore heli fans, let alone those with only casual interest. Gaijin Entertainment sought to address that with Apache: Air Assault, a pure action-orientated helicopter flight simulation game, and it’s understandable why there would be excitement for this title, due to the lack of games of this nature as mentioned before. However, the road has been a bumpy one for this title leading up to its release. While following its progress, gamers have experienced various ups and downs that have inevitably produced mixed feelings towards the game before it was booted out of the development door and onto the shelves of retail. It’s sad for us to say that mixed feelings is exactly what we’ve come away with after having given this game a play-through.
There’s not much to tell with regards to what the game is about. In a nutshell, you’ll pilot several Apache attack helicopters through numerous missions that all basically require you to fly around, complete objectives, try not to crash and blow stuff up. Aside from the few cutscenes here and there, the game briefs you before each mission to explain the situation to you, in that you need to head into red hot war-filled areas to stop terrorist attacks, but we pretty much summed things up to be “fly helicopter, blow things up” and that’s pretty much what you’ll do for the entirety of the game. While the early missions in the game simply have you repeatedly kill ground forces, such as soldiers, trucks and tanks, the later missions are perhaps more interesting, where you’ll be engaging in dog fights with other choppers, attempting to destroy whole enemy bases and flying across a vast ocean while defending your allies from incoming enemy boats.
While this may make the game sound exciting, the reality doesn’t quite get there. Sure enough the variety in helicopters is welcome, and it’s great that each chopper has its own look, feel and flight in addition to there being a grand attention to detail with them, but for the most part the single player is just bland, repetitive, unexciting and slow paced, to lay it all down in one swoop. The redundancy involved in repeatedly playing through slow, dull and repetitive missions will probably bore you before you get to the later, somewhat more fun levels. Thankfully, the single-player campaign allows for two-player co-op, which can make things more enjoyable or a lot more boring. Choosing this option will allow you to go through missions with a buddy, where one of you will fly the chopper and the other will man its weapons, so it’ll be up to you and your partner to decide how exciting that is. In the end, it’s not revolutionary, but it’s nice option.
The immediate cause for concern with flight simulators are of course the controls. In Apache: Air Assault, controlling your helicopter can either be smooth, simplistic and enjoyable or insanely and frustratingly difficult. The choice between the two is up to you as it depends on the difficulty level you choose. The Training difficulty level keeps things easy, fun and mostly irritation-free. Here, the right analogue stick will turn your chopper left or right as well as increase or decrease altitude, while the left stick will govern movement, allowing you to move forward, backwards and strafe. However, choosing the Realistic level will instantly make things a hell of a lot more challenging, and often incredibly frustrating, as the movement controls will loosen up quite a bit as you’ll need to keep your chopper stable and control momentum. To put this into perspective, on the Training difficulty level we were smoothly able to guide our chopper through enemy ranks and wipe them out, enjoying the ride, while our first attempt at Realistic left us with a forty-five minute crashing session.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the means in which you’ll dispose of your enemies. Typically, you’ll have your array of machine guns, homing missiles and rocket barrages to blow things up with. Furthermore, you’ll get to zoom in on targets normally, or by using the ground-facing camera that comes equipped underneath Apaches, called Manual Gun Views in the game, which enables you to use thermal vision to scope out enemies and take them out with machine gun fire and missiles. Lastly, with regards to gameplay options, you’re also allowed to change the camera around, from a third person perspective to a few first person cockpit views. For the most part, the gameplay remains unchanged through the duration of the single player, and the lack of variety will eventually put an end to the initial enjoyment gained from this mode.
There are a number of grievances involved in gameplay for the Realistic setting, but things are mostly smooth-sailing for Training. An example would be that it can be a huge pain in the ass to get an enemy inside your aiming reticule on Realistic, but on Training you’ll be able to clear out your enemies without much fuss, making it the choice for the casual player, while Realistic is naturally the option for hardcore fans or those after a great challenge. From all of this Apache: Air Assault sounds solid enough, but it can’t be expressed more clearly that the game just lacks substance. There isn’t much to do, not much to experience and not a whole lot of depth to the game either. It’s just light entertainment.
Aside from the single player and its attached co-op component, there are few other modes on offer. The game features a Free Flight mode, which is basically a training mode that allows you to practice flying and combat after choosing your own conditions for the training session. There is also a Replay feature, which is exactly what it sounds like, and you can view matches to see this from a different angle or simply for the sake of it. Then there is a Hanger, where you can customise your Apache choppers, kitting them out with decals you’ve unlocked in the game. Finally, there is the Squad Operations mode, which is basically the multiplayer component, and it’s here that the game becomes somewhat more enjoyable.
The online is similar to the single-player really, in that you’ll be given a variety of missions and objectives to complete and enemies to kill. However, it’s more fun because you’ll be teaming up with up to three other players, each in control of their own choppers, in order to work together and complete the tasks assigned to you. You, along with your allies, will be up against the AI, so the missions can either be extremely easy or, well, more of a failure than challenging, because it isn’t all that hard, except for maybe when the game level is set to Realistic. The multiplayer is perhaps where you’ll spend the bulk of your time with this game, as it does manage to be entertaining, but just like the rest of the game, it won’t last you all that long, and it’s not all too exciting or revolutionary, and chances are you’ll grow tired of it soon enough.
Graphically, Apache: Air Assault is a mixed bag. The helicopters all look pretty good, and the attention to detail is great. However, the environments you’ll fly around in often end up being decent or just sub par and below, and some of the damage here is caused by the repetitive ‘copy and paste’ design and layout. Another culprit is destructibility, in the environment, as it’s noticeably weak, as any destroyed buildings, for example, will seem to fall through the ground rather than crumble. But the game can be given credit when it comes to its sound track, which consists of orchestrated, war-like themes that give a patriotic or heroic impression, and they’re all pleasant to listen to.
Apache: Air Assault is a fairly decent attempt at crafting a true flight simulator, but it falls short of delivering the experience that fans have been waiting and craving for. Ultimately, this is a game that the hardcore fans will probably enjoy and get the most out of, while the casual player will have to settle for a little bit of light entertainment. It’s a pity then that this title suffers due to its limited gameplay, and in the end it just lacks a great deal of substance. The result is that the overall enjoyment here is short-lived, and the feeling you’ll get when you’re done with it is that it could have been a lot more.