'Beats the hell out of Choplifter'
We as human beings are fascinated by things that we can't do. This explains the recent outbreak of alien sightings, or at least television shows about alien sightings. We can't get out of our own galaxy, but it is fascinating to think that others can get in. Another example is flight. It was determined at some point in our evolution that all we needed were big brains and nifty thumbs (as well as big noses and nifty glasses...whoops, that's only me). Unfortunately for us, wings were not considered to be a necessity. This fact alone has historically pissed off more kids than anything short of the Santa Claus fiasco.
To make up for our biological shortcomings, we spend a lot of energy on building things that allow us to remove the shackles of gravity and get a bird's eye view of life. This fascination with flight has led to the creation of a veritable plethora of flight simulator games, most of which present a confusing and warped view of aerial acrobatics. Digital Integration, who brought us the award winning Apache, have constructed a strong, realistic, and ultimately rewarding (if not quite fascinating) game with this Russian helicopter simulation.
The game puts you in the role of pilot of the Hind Mi-24 combat helicopter. Four modes of play are available: Quickstart, Training, Single Missions, and Campaign. Quickstart is the arcade mode, the furious action of combat without the logistical elements of planning. Training allows you to perfect the fine points of operation, namely flying without crashing and shooting without missing. The Missions are more complex, incorporating navigation aspects, while Campaign mode presents the greatest challenge by tying several missions together into one. The Hind is equipped with a fairly impressive arsenal of weapons, ranging from air-to-air missiles to rockets to cluster bombs. You are also able to retrieve and deploy troops.
The key in Hind is flying (duh). There are three modes of flight available, all of which incorporate the collective (up/down), the cyclic (pitch/roll), and tail rotor (yaw) controls. Novice mode lets you fly around without concern for air density, induced drag, and other confusing terms that will kill you. Stable mode is more difficult, being totally realistic without secondary effects such as vortex rings, dynamic rollover, and other confusing terms that will kill you. Realistic mode is as complete a replica of actual flight as a computer will allow, and it is confusing enough to kill you. I highly advise spending a great deal of time in Novice mode before trying to fly in the other modes, unless you are a certified helicopter pilot or have access to one.
The graphics are at times excellent and at times lacking. The definition of buildings and other background sprites is polygon-based, which makes it difficult to identify exactly what you're about to smash into. There is also an obvious graphical letdown in distant enemy targets. A feature in the game allows you to view all pertinent enemy vehicles up close, but this doesn't do much good when you're flying into them at 300 km./hr. Luckily, a target tracking system identifies each target by voice, so you are told what it is you are about to destroy. The best graphics are found in the alternate views available in Hind. My personal favorite is auto-tracking an infantry man, firing off a few sidewinders, switching to "target view," and watching the pesky little peons try to scramble away from certain doom. Hind also allows you to set the level of complexity of texture to speed up gameplay.
The sound is pretty realistic, though the incessant hum of chopper blades can be a little unnerving. The Mission briefings include a very scary and serious Russian commander voice, who often orders you to "decimate all enemy forces, comrade." The music is your typical war thing, heavy on the strings and snare drum.
The only real problem with Hind is also a big plus: the realism. The point of flight simulator games is to recreate flight as closely as possible, something that Hind does a good job at. But mastering the controls of a combat helicopter takes years to accomplish, and frankly, we don't have the time. The Novice flight mode is fairly easy to understand, but when the leap is made to Stable or Realistic modes, one feels as though one has jumped from a Schwinn 10-speed to a Porsche 911. I thought I had mastered the art of flying without crashing until I made the leap myself. I soon discovered that I had left Kansas and had indeed strayed from the yellow brick road of safe and rewarding flight. I proceeded to crash the multi-million dollar aircraft into everything from the ocean to the kitchen sink (an impressive feat), and made a hasty retreat to the loving arms of Novice land.
Overall, this game is not for the weak hearted amateur. The realism of Hind gives it an edge over similar games, though the graphics could have been given more attention. If flight simulation turns on your afterburners, then you should give this game a peek, comrade.