Apache Air Assault, from the biggest video game publisher in the world, Activision, puts players directly in the cockpit of a virtual Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopter. Developed by the Russian developer, Gaijin Entertainment, with an official license from the manufactures of the real-life Apache helicopters, does this aerial combat simulator have what it takes to deliver a promising yet true-to-life helicopter simulation or does it fail to take off?
Being officially licensed by the manufactures of Apache choppers and virtually every other commercial aircraft vehicle that anyone’s ever been on, Boeing, the first doubt in anyone’s mind is whether or not the title will deliver. For example, the official NASCAR games or the video game tie-ins to The Dark Knight can’t possibly stand a chance again Gran Turismo 5 or Batman: Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, players will notice right off the bat that Apache Air Assault is far too niche to appeal to the masses.
Despite being grounded very close to reality, the game does not opt to replicate actual events. Instead, Apache Air Assault chooses to stray from a Medal of Honor-esque authentic universe to a fictional mission set like that of the more recent Call of Duty titles. Unlike the latest Call of Duty: Black Ops, however, Apache Air Assault follows a storyline over a set of levels that are very loosely, if at all, linked to the other missions. In other words, the prologue introductions to the missions are definitely not an incentive for players to continue progressing throughout the game.
Undoubtedly, the biggest, and quite possibly the only, appeal of the title is the gameplay. Apache Air Assault is indeed the fully-featured helicopter combat game that the developers promised prior to the release of the game. In the end, however, the staple that holds the game together is what makes it fall apart. As enjoyable as the concept of helicopter combat sounds, the practicality does not translate as well as one would expect.
The biggest killer to the concept is not the controls but the learning curve. From the start, the game eases players into the world of helicopter piloting with an subtle yet informative tutorial. Unfortunately, players will find themselves stumbling over the controls long after the tutorial is even over as great patience is required to become comfortable with the controls. We could tell we were in for a turbulent ride judging from the fact that the default difficulty setting is “Training” with the second only being Realistic (which, we might add, is all but impossible without prior mastery of the controls).
With a variety of weaponry rigged on the Apache, gamers are presented with a variety of methods to complete the mission. Completing the full array of Apache AH-64D weaponry is the realistically modeled cockpit with real-time animated dials, gauges, and buttons giving the game an authentic look and feel. Even though the game is a pain to master, especially for players that are not enthusiasts of aircraft technologies, anyone can appreciate the level of detail put into the assets.
Because sound design is largely reliant on recording, and considering that the game is officially licensed by Boeing, the helicopter sounds are as realistic as they come. Taking away from the immersion, however, is the musical score which can come off as overly dramatic during the frustrating sequences. Voice acting is present in the game for cinematic sequences and, although rarely used, is well done. For those with a surround system or even a sound bar, the most enjoyable audio will result from the blazing guns and missiles.
Graphically, the game does not meet the level of quality of the helicopter sequences in Medal of Honor but the explosions and tribulations of the in-game assets are just as gratifying to witness. Bearing in mind that the title is also developed by a relative newcomer to this generation of consoles, with a background of primarily PC games, the graphical quality of the game is nothing to scoff. Apache Air Assault can arguably be considered the best-looking title to come out of the Russian studio.
Overall, Apache Air Assault offers players enough content across its 16 levels of multiple stages to warrant a purchase. However, because of the lacking variety in the missions and the all too quick repetitive nature of title, many gamers may find themselves growing tired of flying the Apache’s before they have even managed to get past the learning curve. Even for the hardest of hardcore aerial combat or helicopter fans, the game gradually loses its flavor. Fortunately, local two-player cooperative play is present to ease the irritation but, when it comes right down to it, one should consider a rental before purchasing it to see if it suites their tastes.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
– Steep learning curve
– Becomes too stale too soon