|Team Apache (c) Mindscape|
Please Take Note of the following revisions to this review:
1. Team Apache DOES fully support Voodoo2 technology, as well as the original voodoo 3Dfx chipset.
Well, let me start by saying I had played the beta for this game when it came out, unknowingly. Because of this I had known what to expect so this will be a review of rather in depth detail because I've had a lot of time to look into the finer points of the game. I should warn you that I am a sim freak, so I will nitpick the little details.
The graphics in this game are very very nice. They have gone to great lengths to create an air of realism not found in many chopper sims, save Longbow and Longbow 2, which were excellent in this respect. The texturing of the terrain was very attractive, and realistic, as was the cockpit layout/art. I recently went to an air show where the apache was a featured contender, and got the privilege of looking into the cockpit. Team Apache is an identical replica. (I even dug out my photos/books and of for this one.) Because of the 3DFX enabled graphics mode, the special effects were excellent. They didn't lose much visual impact upon switching to my riva128 card for direct 3d either, except surprisingly the smoke effects of one weapon, the LAU-30 rockets looked like, honestly, crap. This shocked and surprised me because smoke effects in other parts of the non-3dfx graphics engine were very nice; ie upon destroying a tank. Explosions and flames were up to par for this sim. Now that I've covered almost everything else, onto the chopper itself. The Helicopter you fly in the sim is the AH64-A Apache (which is odd because it is the oldest version of the much modified Apache), however the texturing and layout of some external details fit that of the AH64-D Apache, which is the more advanced helicopter you get to fly in Longbow/ Longbow2. While this in itself was trivial, the camouflage texture on the helicopter was rather untrue to real life, seeing as the Apache (no matter what variant it is) is a uniform color, either black or dark, dark forest green, not mottled as this game illustrates. Some other nice effects available in the D3D version of the game, was that when you got close to the ground, your rotors sent up a cyclone of debris that was picked up from the ground, and the glass effects of the cockpit. When looking out from the inside, and in from the outside, the cockpit glass looked very realistic. The enemy vehicles/helicopters were just as detailed as yours, and when you blow up an enemy tank, the people who were driving it will sometimes run away from it trying to escape. (Yes, you can kill them too!) Moving onto finally the graphics engine itself. The game comes with excellent video mode support in the following modes: Native 3Dfx (there's a snag with this one I'll refer to later), Direct 3D Primary Hardware (looks very good), Pentium 2 software Renderer (looks pretty good, but some special effects are downgraded and the smooth outlines of vehicles, buildings are lost) and lastly Direct 3D RAMP. D3D Ramp was a strange thing, it wouldn't work properly on my computer. The engine itself must have been really well programmed because I never once had a lag in screen/frame rates.
Gameplay was something of a strange thing for me in this game. At first I was disappointed I wouldn't get to see the game run in 3Dfx, but when I saw Primary D3D, I was suitably impressed. I began to pay attention to the finer points of flying this version of the much publicized Apache. The flight model was rather unsophisticated, though by no means unrealistic or outdated. The real Apache is capable of performing rolls and loops and other games have properly emulated this into their flight engine, but Team Apache wouldn't let me loop my ship, no matter how hard I tried. There are difficulty settings which effect the performance of the enemy, and the enemy is very cunning. Usually they will try the straight on attack method, but occasionally you can get into a turning fight with another helicopter which gets rather interesting because if you drop out first, they will be on your 6 faster then you can blink or fart. I played one of the training missions first, and saw a city in the distance.. I flew there and was surprised to see the amount of detail in the city; there were civilian cars scattered around, and lots of pretty buildings and even a few monuments. This is where things got interesting. I flew slowly up to the first, largest monument in the city and it appeared to be blank, so I flew around some more and came across a second monument. This monument was not an obelisk like the first, I flew right up to it, and well.. just look at my screenshot below. "UH-HUH" is all I'm going to say. =P The game was basically a bit above arcade level, meaning you have to have some skill in flying or understand how helicopters fly to succeed in the game, but it was certainly much easier then Longbow, or even the original Apache by Interactive Magic. (Another fave of mine) This game certainly suits those who don't want to spend 4 hours reading on how to take off, but don't want to fly something with a Gravis Gamepad. Your life will be made much easier in this sim if you have a proper flight control system. ie, you have a good joystick, no those gravis ones, and even a throttle control because the stupid keyboard controls detract from the realistic nature of ALL flight sims, not just this one. The basic layout of this game's controls (other then flight/weapons controls) was rather awkward I found. The game comes with a very good campaign as well, you can fly in Columbia or Latvia, but I wont get into that because I would go on forever.
Sound in Team Apache was very good on the whole. There is a control tower you can talk to, and your wingmen as well. The noise of your helicopter was also very convincing and if you happen to be lucky enough to have true dolby surround sound (c) then you will surely need to change your pants when you press "e" to start the engine for the first time. The tutorials were fully given to you by speech, which is another thing I wanted to get into. Most sims have a help file or some other way of explaining to you how your helicopter works, but not many have what Team Apache has. Their tutorials should be the envy of other games. The tutorials were to begin with, all done in speech. They explained EVERYTHING, every last damn detail. It was great! If you want to get into flight sims, just download the demo for Team Apache and do some research on the net, because this sim is similar (no pun intended) to others and will explain a lot to you about controls/general layout.
In summary, this game has excellent graphics, in almost any mode you run it in, with support for resolutions of up to 800x600, and the engine itself is excellent, causing most people little grief or lost time worrying about frame rates. All you need is a good primary card, with at least 4megs on board. It will appeal to those hardcore simmers and even the less avid aviator. No one should be intimidated by this game, and if you find the enemy to hard, just drop their power on the slider bar. :) The game has overall a very realistic, authentic atmosphere and creates its own little miniature universe for itself and you. While multiplayer is included, I didn't get a chance to rate its engine or quality. In other words, get it. Its good. =)
Overall Rating: 88/100
I tried running it on all the different settings for overall visual effect and 3DFX, of course, won hands down. The Direct3D was just as impressive though it ran somewhat slower. The software renderer was uninspiring and pixelated, but this is 98, if you don't have hardware acceleration, tough nuts. This game continues the high graphical level of achievement we have seen from recent flight sims such as Longbow 2 and F-15. The missile trails and fog were nicely done, however the explosions were weak.
It was there. Ambiance to some level. You could sometimes tell which direction the sound was coming from. Speech was pretty good, though the training instructor was semi-irritating at times. The weapons sounded reasonably realistic, though once again, explosions were less than effective.
STEEEEEEEP Learning curve. (Make sure and read the README file with the game, it's pretty helpful for jumping right in) This game is definitely one you need to pull out a good joystick and get your keyboard layout set out in stone. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to get my brand new Saitek X36 operational to really try out this game, so I had to make do with my old Logitech Wingman and the keyboard. As with most helicopter games, control is everything. It handles realistically, hich would create major challenges for anyone not used to flying a state-of-the-art helicopter. Just as in Comanche 3 and Longbow 2, it takes a lot of work adjusting prop speed and pitch to keep altitude while going forard at the same time. However even to someone who has never played helicopter simulators, it should'nt take more than a good 20-30 minutes to get accustomed to it. Flight sim buffs of Longbow 2 and Commanche should eat this game right up. Beginners beware... not an easy game to learn.
Fun Factor: 16/20
Well, you're limited to two different campaigns, Latvia and Colombia which somewhat limits the scenery leaving you to fly in open jungle land or open snowy land. The quick start missions are poor, but the training missions are pretty informative (read the README file after you install it for some quick keystrokes). The campaigns are good and something I haven't seen done before is introduced in the campaigns. You have to wait for a mission. This is somewhat interesting at first but it's annoying if you want to get right in and flying. You also get the ability to oversee maintenance of your squadron's helicopters, making sure to arm them properly and monitor the workload on your crew chiefs. The level editor looks pretty good and should allow you to make your own levels to wreck a little havoc on.
Overall Impression 8/10
Excellent Graphics and superb realism make it a game for the diehard flyboys. Steep learning curve will keep newbies from jumping aboard it. A few minor issues don't take away that much from the game and if you're looking for another helicopter sim to add to your collection, this one's definitely worth a look.
Overall Rating: 84%