Talk about deforestation...
Longbow 2 is the ever so anticipated sequel to Longbow, the "Simulation of the Year" in 1996. Both sims have far exceeded most, or all, of the present competition, but they have yet to earn themselves the perfect A. While many aspects of Longbow 2 have been improved upon, such as sound effects, multi-player support, mission dynamics and marvelous 3D acceleration, it still forgot about that one tiny detail that is the ultimate deal killer for me when it comes to flight simulations: TERRAIN!
For the most part, the graphics are very well done. When I say this, keep in mind I'm talking about 3Dfx acceleration. Unfortunately, I'm sorry to report that everyone else is going to get shafted out of the awesome lighting effects and intense night missions that the 3Dfx chip has perfected. However, for those of you who are lucky enough to have such support, you will experience amazing effects that are truly revolutionary to all flight simulators. Jane's has taken the full potential of the 3Dfx chip and used every trick in the book to provide you with the most realistic rocket fire, exterior camera shots and missile tails available on the PC!
Terrain, on the other hand, is the biggest flaw in this game, as well as the whole Jane's collection. Throughout the entire game I never saw a single sign of nature! No bushes, trees, animals, NOTHING! The only thing that's out there are enemies. Quite frankly, the game gets really boring after constantly shooting stuff on a flat plain. The textures for the ground are repetitive and there are hardly any mountainous regions. Without any canyons cliffs, mountains, rivers or trees what's the point? It's like shooting spit balls at ants on the sidewalk! This is a huge mistake that Jane's has made for the second time. It is much more crucial in a helicopter sim to have greater landscaping detail than in a jet sim because helicopters are obviously closer to the ground, therefore requiring more detail. This missing piece cuts the fun factor in half and hopefully Jane's will take measures to correct this in the future.
Multi-player support is a strong aspect of Longbow 2. Jane's did not incorporate any objective-based team games, but you are able to fly cooperative missions and battle head-to-head. The one unique aspect about Longbow 2 multi-player is that you can fly with someone in the same helicopter! During the mission, one person can fly and the other can take the guns. It is a truly great feature which lets you get the feel for the demanding teamwork involved with flying these multi-million dollar high performance machines. I highly recommend you play this style on a local network where you are within earshot of your partner. Messaging is too clumsy in any action game, and flying with a partner will give you taste of how the military really does it.
As you all know, Longbow 2's biggest additions are the new choppers. Now, you can fly the AH-64D Longbow, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and the UH-60L Black Hawk. These new choppers add a lot to the game play. I thought Longbow 2 would be like many other popular "combo flight sims" that deliver multiple aircraft to fly in the sense that the only real difference you feel in each aircraft is a different cockpit and maybe more or less maneuverability. Quite the contrary! Since the three helicopters are used in three very different ways (Longbow for Assault, Kiowa for reconnaissance and Black Hawk for transportation of troops/cargo) they take the game to a different level. Instead of just sitting in front of the screen and shooting anything that's not on your side, you're forced to carry out different objectives. It adds variety to the simulation and is a noticeable difference from the original title.
Longbow 2 is not a game for everyone. If you are an owner of the original Longbow or Longbow Gold and you weren't very impressed, I doubt that you will find that much of interest to you in Longbow 2. But for all you simulation fanatics at heart, this a must for your collection. Despite my criticism about the landscaping, Longbow 2 is a great simulation and is especially visually stunning for 3Dfx card owners. I also recommend you read the Longbow Gold review if you're interested in its sequel because, technically, they are very similar.