Helicopters are pretty smart things, Bp being able to fly just about everywhere and all that. This general smartness makes them pretty useful in wars, and hence a good subject for computer games. There have been chopper sims on the PC for nearly as long as there have been sims of fixed-wing planes, but there's never been enough of them on the shelves at any one time to give you much of a choice, and there's usually only ever one out there that's really worth getting. The current flavour of the month is EA's excellent Longbow 2. This is aimed at fans of ultra-realism, featuring all the weapons, sensors and other stuff that's packed into the AH-64 Apache gunship. It's also got lots of very detailed terrain to hide behind, and generally great graphics.
Team Apache is another AH -64 sim with cutting-edge graphics, but developers Simis have adopted a different approach from that used in Longbow 2. Instead of going all-out to accurately model the real thing, they've simplified the on-board systems which (they reckon) leaves you more time to actually enjoy the gameplay and concentrate on fighting and tactics.
What's The Catch, Then?
But how much has been left out? Well, tbe biggest difference between tonpbow?and this game is that in Team Apache you only get to play the pilot. This means that weapon targeting is out of your hands, and although you can instruct the computer-controlled co-pilot/gunner (CPG) to shoot targets, there are none of those long-range camera views and other sensors. Instead, the computer automatically prioritises targets, leaving you to select and fire the weapons.
My initial reaction was that leaving out the CPG's role from Team Apache was like leaving out half the game. However, the biggest problem with Longbow s that you have to do both jobs in real time - which is fine when cruising towards the target area with the autopilot switched on, but in the heat of bathe you don't have time to do both jobs at once, and end up letting the computer's AI handle the targeting anyway. Team Apache's approach really just takes this one step further.
While the on-hoard systems have been simplified, the flight model definitely has not. Having never actually flown an Apache, I'm buggered if I know whether or not Team Apache's choppers handle accurately, but they feel suitably wobbly and awkward, and flying along at 100ft takes a lot of concentration.
Lush Graphics Alert
But flying low is made considerably less stressful by the excellent graphics. While LongboWs got plenty of rolling terrain, it's been criticised for a lack of actual ground objects. Not so with Apache. There are plenty of roads, houses (some with cars parked outside), trees and even cities, complete with skyscrapers that you can fly around. Everything's nicely detailed, too, which helps convey a real sense of speed.
Team Apache's got the usual dynamic lighting effects, including the obligatory lens flare, and the helicopters themselves look lush. The attention to detail is superb, and one of the first things you nobce when you switch on your engines is the shadow of your rotors flickering across the cockpit Switch to an outside view and you can see rippling circles in the grass caused by the down-draft.
But best of all is the weather. Rain showers feature proper rain drops, while the storms come with forked lightning and thunder. Even more to Simls' credit is the fact that the whole thing runs incredibly smoothly on a P200MMX with a 3Dfx card, with no noticeable jerkiness, even in the middle of cities.
Gameplay consists of the usual instant action, multi-player, training and single missions, as well as dynamic campaigns. The first of these is set in Colombia, with a drugs-related theme, while the second is in Latvia. When you start a campaign, you get the chance to manage the men in your unit, which is where Team Apache really stands out Each man has a set of traits that make him more or less suitable in certain conditions, and it's up to you to keep things running smoothly. If your unit starts to suffer too badly, morale plummets, and pilots and ground crew start underperforming.
Combat is a pretty hectic affair, and flying straight into a combat zone means instant death. Sneaking around is much more sensible, popping up now and then to see what's over the horizon. The simplifications made to Team Apache are bound to put off a certain kind of sim fan, for whom attention to detail is of the utmost importance. But then they'd be missing one vital ingredient - playability, which Team Apache's got bags of.
While it may not have all the instruments of the real thing, the flight model and gorgeous graphics do a great job of convincing you that you're flying a helicopter into combat, which is surely the point anyway. It may not be the best sim, but it's certainly the most fun.
Why Are Helicopters Such Bastards To Fly?
Helicopters always seem to be crashing, so they must be a bit tricky to master. But why?
It doesn't take a genius to work out how helicopters get off the ground: the rotors are like little wings that zip round and pull the whole thing up. That's the easy bit. The hard bit Is controlling the thing. There are three controls - the cyclic, the collective and the tail rotor. The cyclic is the thing that's controlled by the joystick, and It basically sets the direction that the rotors pull the chopper. Collective Is how much the rotor blades bite into the air, which controls how much thrust Is provided. Finally, the tall rotor can be used like a rudder to spin the helicopter round on its axis.
So if you're flying in a straight line and want to go up a bit, you can pull back on the stick, but just doing this will simply make the helicopter 'flatten out'. This will indeed make it rise, but it'll also slow down. If you pull back too much, it'll shoot upwards pretty fast and stop moving horizontally - bad news in combat. So careful juggling of collective and cyclic are needed. Be sure to practice just flying about before you even think about going into combat You'll need to be better than Mike Smith if you're going to get very far In this game. Still, If Prince Andrew can do It...
Download Team Apache
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Team Apache Screenshots and Media
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