Apache: Air Assault Review
Apache: Air Assault is a hardcore simulator that every fan of flight sims should be excited for. But, could it possibly be too hardcore? Missions will take you through windy deserts, frozen mountainsides blanketed with snow, lush green jungles and the glistening waters of the open sea. Forgoing cutscenes altogether, Apache relies on textual debriefings before each mission, which is a bit of a letdown this day in age. Then again, you'll be too busy struggling for survival to care.
Each variation of the Apache helicopter, of which there is only a handful, has its own distinct look and handling. The attention to detail is impeccable and upon viewing the overwhelming amount of buttons and switches in cockpit-view, you'll notice the detail is borderline obsessive.
Apache starts you off easy with routine fly-bys over deserts and mountains, occasionally taking out an enemy convoy or gunning down soldiers. Things quickly ramp up after a few missions and you find yourself protecting a fleet of ships in the open ocean from an onslaught of enemy speed boats, racing against time to destroy enemy bases, as well as gunning down enemy choppers as they shower you with a barrage of missiles. Since helicopters aren’t nimble, nor are they heavily armored, expect to hurtle toward the ground more times than you can count.
Controlling your helicopter can go from simplistic to maddening in flash. The right stick adjusts your chopper's altitude and turns you left and right, while the left stick is responsible for all forward, backward, and lateral movement. Anyone familiar with first-person shooters will catch on easily enough, although these are only the training controls. Maneuvering becomes insanely difficult upon switching to the realistic difficulty, which makes the controls feel more loose and floaty due to the need to stabilize and compensate for momentum. The additional frustration could have been easily been eliminated by giving players unlimited continues during missions, but instead, offers only three.
The entire campaign is co-op enabled, which is a worthwhile addition and makes the game much easier. Instead of letting both players command their own helicopter, one player controls the helicopter, while the other becomes the gunner. Squad Operations mode focuses on two to four players joining up and tackling another set of 13 missions. Players have the ability to solo these missions, but they're designed to be enjoyed as a multiplayer experience. Surprisingly, competitive multiplayer is nowhere to be found, and would have been a fitting addition since the game focuses on air-to-air combat.
It would be a disservice to not mention the epic soundtrack. From the main menu through every mission, the heroic, orchestrated scores fittingly amp up each situation, whether it’s the slow build-up when scouting over a deserted area, or a fast and thrilling climax after an enemy ambush. If anything, the game had me pressing forward only to hear the next missions’ amazing composition.
Fans of games such as H.A.W.X., that rely on fast paced arcade controls might find Apache a bit too slow for their tastes, especially with the odd omission of competitive multiplayer. Still, it manages to fill a void in a genre that combat flight sim enthusiasts haven't yet experienced on next-gen consoles.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]