Werewolf vs. Comanche
There's always a little niggle in the back of my mind - next to the clumping of grey matter that is usually reserved for those dreams of an "adult nature" and small furry creatures - that gets just a little bit bigger (and scratchy) when the game Comanche is mentioned in passing conversation.
It's not that, I hasten to add, I talk and indeed think about Comanche more than anyone else. Well, not that much more, I mean I have to think and talk about it sometimes, it's my job. But, I distinctly remember when the game first came in for review, reading some rather worrying information that was printed on the box. On the back, right at the bottom, in one of the corners, next to an in-game screenshot that quite hansome-ly displayed the reflective water and 3D weather model, in smallish, bold type, read the following:
Manual packed with military secrets by a top defense expert
You can imagine my concern. What on earth were NovaLogic thinking of, sticking such a thing on the box of a computer game? Had I inadvertently stumbled across an international spy ring, I wondered? Was this some cunning way of leaking international secrets across heavily guarded borders, hatched by the CIA, the KGB, or heaven forbid, the MI5?
I clearly remember tearing open the box, sweat pouring from my furrowed brow, and frantically leafing through the smart, grey booklet (which, incidentally, contained some of the worst scans of a CH Flightstick ever printed) in an effort to ascertain the exact nature of the military secrets published wherein.
It took me a good half an hour to read through the manual. And then another half an hour to read it all again, this time looking between the lines, carefully examining the spine for traces of microfilm, trying to split each page and staring at the blurry dotted images for any sign of a hidden message. Sadly, all to no avail. No military secrets (unless, of course, they were in some clever code) could be gleaned from within the manual. In fact, the only message that could be construed from the weighty tomb was that Comanche was the best helicopter combat sim ever developed, and that if ever a nasty, bullish dictator with too much facial hair was foolhardy enough to ever contemplate engaging in any kind of military fracas with the mighty U.S. of A, they would immediately be sent packing, not with their tails between their legs, but shoved firmly up their arses, by Uncle Sam and his God-like airforce.
In short, the tone of the manual was imbued with so much American self-righteous bravado that it made the entire script of the movie Top Gun seem like a piece of cleverly crafted McCarthyism. If this "defense helicopter expert" had any military secrets to reveal, it was simply that those pesky pinkish enemies of the greatest nation on earth had better watch out, because the Comanche combat helicopter is not only "the most agile and powerful fighter ever fielded", it is also American, so there!
Better dead than read
It would seem rather curious, therefore, that NovaLogic has decided to produce a similar helicopter combat game based on the Russian KA-50 Kamov Hokum (known to its friends simply as the Werewolf) after such a vitriolic rant about how nothing was a match for the glorious Comanche. And it would seem even curiouser (if I could borrow the phrase from Alice) that the Nova-Logic team decided to spend a considerable amount of time (and presumably, effort) on developing yet another combat sim, whose star performer is about as effective as a sparrow with a spud gun when pitted against one of Uncle Sam's Comanches in a combat situation. And still not content, they then go and build a whole new game around this rather frail scenario, pitching it as the head-to-head clash of the century, when it is, in fact, more reminiscent of a recent premier league match that featured both Man United and Ipswich Town.
One was left to consider but a few options: either a) this was going to be just a tad onesided and therefore completely crap and a complete waste of time, or b) Nova-Logic and, indeed, the "expert" who penned the manual that accompanied Comanche, suffered from a bout of severe national pride at the time of writing, and over did it a bit when it came to singing the praises of a certain attack helicopter of American origin. This unfortunate nationalistic faux pas also prevented the collective authors from revealing that there is, in existence, a Russian-built helicopter which was equally, if not better, equipped to counter anything the U.S. Comanche might feel inclined to throw at it. Not only that, but it is also considered by less subjective people "in the know" to be more manoeuvrable, better equipped and infinitely better looking than anything Uncle Sam has tucked away up his military sleeve. A cunning in-bred instinct and a concise understanding of American culture (albeit entirely based on war films of the '70s and '80s) led me to believe that the latter explanation was probably closer to the truth.
So, is Comanche v Werewolf going to be the sort of game you play head-to-head with your little brother when you're feeling a bit down and want to give someone a bit of a toasting? You know the scenario: "Here Johnny, let's play this brilliant new helicopter combat game. I'll be the Comanche - you can be the Werewolf!" And then spend the next half an hour giving him a thorough caning as your super chopper runs rings around his redundant Ruskie rotor machine from the planet Sycamore leaf. Well, errh - No. You see, NovaLogic are keen to point out that although the Comanche is considered to be better equipped to deal with certain situations. the Werewolf, with its twin main rot-ors and technically superior weapon system is one tough cookie when it comes to air to air combat, and that's what Comanche v Werewolf is all about. (No shit, Sherlock!)
Two for one, double the fun!
NovaLogic know that it's much more fun flying against a "living" pilot over a serial link or network, and this is why it is releasing the game as a double combo package -two games on two CD's - for the price of one game. Players can opt to fly either the Comanche or the Werewolf, and play head-to-head against each other, or as a team and take on the computer-controlled forces.
What's more, both games use an enhanced graphics and games engine (NovaLogic has brought Comanche bang up to date and included all the original missions, as well as a few new ones), whilst Werewolf features a dedicated flight model so that it handles differently to the Comanche; a heap of missions; and some rather impressive effects which are similar to those featured in the land-based Armored Fist, such as tran-sluscent smoke, flying debris, as well as some rather awesome cut scenes.
In other words, it's not a cash-in by any stretch of the imagination, but a cunning way of bringing a good original product up to date, adding some improved technical niceties and heaps more gameplay.
A far cry from the mission disc rip off of last year. Let's just hope the manual's not covered in blueberry pie.
I Suppose The Best Way To Explain I "haven't actually seen the original Comanche, touting as it was the new graphics technique called Voxel Space (whatever that means...). In its time it really did look a bit special, giving the Comanche pilot the chance to fly down valleys and ravines, skim over lakes and scare swans. That was then, but right now we're talking about the new Comanche 2. The first thing I noticed after loading it all up is that nothing much appears to have changed - the graphics are virtually identical to the original and the sound effects are, er, crap. So what's new?
To be fair, Comanche vs Werewolf isn't a simulator as such. It does away with the more complex elements of piloting a chopper (witness Apache Longbow) and concentrates more on providing a thrill a minute ride. The weapon systems are simplified, as are the flight characteristics; the graphics, as I've already mentioned, remain pfetty much untouched. Voxel Space strikes again! It has to be said that the landscapes still look reasonably good, even though there are times when the dreaded block monster comes clop-clop-clopping along and everything looks like something out of Legoland. Even the cockpit layout is virtually the same, although as you'd expect, the Werewolf cockpit is different. Comanche vs Werewolf may be the ideal tasty beverage to go with a Big Kahuna burger, but is there anything special about it that will make you rush out and buy it? Well, if you ain't got no friends, nothing. But add a couple of mates to the multi-player link-up and you've got the vital ingredients for seriously good gameplay.
There are four ways to link up: over a lan, a serial link, a laplink or over a modem. Needless to say, the lan option is going to present the greatest scope for multi-player gaming, but flying = with or against another person - even just one other player - is enough to transform any game into something special. You can choose to go it alone and try to smash the living shite out of up to eight other players (flying either the Werewolf or the Comanche); or you can team up, with some of you flying rah-66s while you let the others meander around in the KA-50.
It is this mixed team event that lifts Comanche 2 above its predecessor. The layout and design of the landscapes means you can get a fright when coasting over a hill, only to be met by a flight of four mean and angry-looking KA-50S just itching for the chance to shoot you out of the sky. The valleys can be used for terrain masking and, while other games offer this feature, it doesn't seem as real (or as necessary) as it does here. And you can add all this to the fact that the game will run swiftly even on a low-end 486. As a multi-player game it should please everyone - even those who get moist at the mention of Apache Longbow.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode