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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: June 26, 1998
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way, military games became a lot less fun than they used to be. Nowhere is this more evident than in the closely scrutinized sub-genre of the helicopter simulation. That’s not to say that something like Jane’s Longbow 2 isn’t a great game, because it is. But with the release of each new helicopter sim comes a deluge of ranting newsgroup messages from gamers who suddenly consider themselves ex-Army Apache pilots. Everyone’s an expert on weapons loads and flight models, and claims to know just which game is the most “realistic.” Not that you can blame them, though. In recent years, military sims have become less about original gameplay and more about realistic one-upmanship: Which game’s got the better flight model? Which company had the support of the military? Did the designers get in any real flight time before they made the game? The result of this increasing concentration on accuracy has been a predictable, almost formulaic approach to game design throughout the genre. Beyond any technical considerations, a helicopter sim can be expected to have some kind of quick flight option, some single scenarios, maybe some training missions, and the requisite campaigns. For most missions you’d be able to take along some wingmen, arrange your waypoints, choose weapons loadouts, and so on and so forth. Such has been the case with helicopter sims from Comanche 3, right up to Longbow 2. God forbid a military sim actually breaks away from the norm and offers us something original.
Then there’s Team Apache. A game with a rather muddled design history, it was originally being developed by Simis under the Eidos Interactive label. But then two of Simis’ original owners, Ian Baverstock and Jonathan Newth, bought the company back from Eidos and regained their independent status. From there, Mindscape acquired the publishing rights, and now the game is available to you, the gamer. But there’s something else you should know. Team Apache isn’t a hardcore military sim in the Longbow 2 sense, doesn’t have a 20-hour learning curve, and won’t teach you everything you always wanted to know about the Apache AH-64D attack helicopter. What it will do is give you something almost unheard of in a military flight simulator: original gameplay. And, as if that weren’t enough, you might actually learn a thing or two about real helicopter company team operations to boot.
Team Apache does include all the requisite elements of a military helicopter simulation. There is indeed an “Instant Action” option for jumping right into the thick of things, “Training” missions that guide you through every aspect of Apache operations, single “Combat Missions” that allow the player to fly individual sorties without having to get involved in a whole campaign, a mission editor for creating your own custom scenarios, several multiplayer options, and of course, full campaigns.
The Instant Action missions are pretty much as they are in any military sim. They allow the player to experience the excitement of combat as soon as the mission starts, and really reduce Team Apache into some kind of arcade game. While the option is certainly appreciated, its implementation could have been a bit better. In every Instant Action mission I played, my helicopter was at least heavily damaged, sometimes destroyed, before I even got off the ground. It only takes a few seconds for you to turn on the engine, engage the rotor, and take off from the base, but most of these missions begin with some enemy unit actually shooting at your helicopter as soon as you appear onscreen; before you can even get the Apache into a hover, chances are you’ll have taken a few hits. If you do hop into an Instant Action mission, I highly recommend turning the game’s realism settings to minimum, so you can just appreciate the sheer visceral thrill of buzzing around, blowing away everything in sight.
The Combat Missions are much more detailed than those offered through the Instant Action option, and are a good introduction to those found in the two campaigns. The player can fly in either of the two campaign areas, Latvia or Colombia, and set a variety of options, from time of day and weather conditions to the number of Apaches in your flight. While there are a number of different mission types available, like Deep Strike, Search and Rescue, and Air-to-Air, the objective for each one is always the same, so the player will have to play with the time and weather options if any kind of variety is desired. Still, I kind of liked the fact that the objectives always remained the same; this allowed me to retry missions I had failed, honing the skills I would need in the campaign game.
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