Mediocre games are notoriously hard to critique. We’re hardwired for hyperbole: it’s easy to write thousands of words effortlessly praising the finer points of a blockbuster title, and a poor game is even easier. But when a game is neither, things get a bit more difficult: the game may not have glaring flaws, but it may lack any number of effervescent qualities that see it rise to the top.
Apache Air Assault is such a game, one that tempts this reviewer to trade in terrible clichés in an attempt to explain to the reader that this title might appeal to niche enthusiasts.
The game features two modes. The first is simulation mode, which simulates with alarming accuracy the terrible crash that would occur should anyone without the requisite license try to fly a real helicopter. The second is a training mode that effectively bolts learner wheels onto your chopper.
There’s no real story to speak of, just a series of missions. Granted, it’s a simulation, not a Mills and Boon novel, but the game would benefit from some narrative shaping. The missions are fairly predictable, and largely composed of flying to a destination, using your weaponry and flying back again. In training mode these are relatively easy to complete.
Perhaps it’s a very accurate simulation – at least the difficulty has the waft of authenticity – but you’re still in a lounge with an Xbox controller. That’s not the domain of hardcore simulation titles. This mode makes much more sense on a PC, where such enthusiasts are far more likely to have flight control peripherals and a setup conducive to realism. Trying to use a gamepad for an accurate simulation of helicopter flight is a rather bizarre juggling act that doesn’t quite work. You end up in a murky middle ground of console controls attempting to emulate a highly technical machine, and it’s just not quite right.
The game does feature a local cooperative mode with one player taking the controls and another bearing the arsenal. It’s fleeting entertainment but all too soon becomes another thing to do rather than a joyous must-be-repeated experience. Online multiplayer options exist, but no revolutions will be found here.
The game doesn’t break any graphical ground but in its defence, it’s rendering much bigger areas than more popular games that feature helicopter sections. It’s difficult to make things out on the ground, and you’ll find yourself relying on your targeting systems to identify enemies and waypoints.
It’s not a bad game but it is outstripped by developer Gaijin Entertainment's other offerings within the same market. Unless you’re someone who really must get to the chopper, there are far better flight simulators available, including the excellent IL-2 series. Granted, it’s not on consoles, but they really aren’t the weapon of choice for simulations.
Then you have to consider the appeal to everyone else. People who’d enjoy the odd helicopter gaming experience are probably better served by existing titles, such as the Battlefield series. The basic helicopter mechanics are present, but more importantly they are just more fun.
One for the rare flight simulation enthusiast who doesn’t own a PC.