Ka-52 Team Alligator
|a game by||Simis Limited|
|User Rating:||10.0/10 - 1 vote|
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For flight sim fans whose main priority is playability rather than encyclopaedic manuals and excruciating detail, Simis' chopper simulation Team Apache was really heaven-sent. A combination of gorgeous graphics and a control method that didn't require three years of full study, it still managed to convey the experience of piloting a state-of-the-art gunship through a violent conflict.
Now Simis are putting the finishing touches to Ka-52 Team Alligator, which gives you command of the most advanced Russian chopper in the middle of two major offensives: the Belarusian war and the Tajikistan conflict. The mission-based gameplay promises to deliver the same exciting mix of balanced realism and accessibility as its predecessor, putting you in the lead of attack formations of up to 16 helicopters. You'll also be able to interact with land forces and plan an elaborate strategy beforehand. While Simis have carved themselves a reputation for ease of play, they will also be including variable levels of complexity to cater for both newbies (and plain crap players) and the more hard-core audience.
Each mission has four stages: preparation, assault, counterattack and resolution, ensuring that you can change your plans midway and adapt to the enemy's moves. As you progress through the campaigns so will your team, which gains experience and promotions. At the start of each mission you can hand-pick your crew to suit the task ahead, keeping in mind that your people will burn out if you use them too often.
Boasting an all-new graphics engine, Team Alligator is capable of handling a vast amount of objects on screen at any one time, allowing a far more realistic landscape populated with villages, farms, forests and power stations, as well as all the ground-based artillery. Issuing commands to these land forces is vital for providing cover against enemy forces, which should ensure plenty of fun and frolics in multiplayer. Multiplayer will incorporate both co-operative and deathmatch modes, adding a Siberian setting for even greater variety. Reports of rolling in mud competitions and swamp exploration may be unfounded, but we're still gnashing our teeth in excitement. Team Alligator looks a dead cert to be the best helicopter sim available on the market.
Download Ka-52 Team Alligator
And suddenly the Russians are popular once again. First Flanker 2.0, then that first-person military shooter whose name I can't remember, and now Team Alligator. How long this state of affairs will last following the Grozny 'invasion' is anyone's guess but at least it's making a change from all those bloody F-22 and Apache sims.
Cry Havoc And Let Slip...
My personal favourite helicopter sim is Apache/Havoc. The one thing it did really well was to create that low-level 'treetop' experience. Does Team Alligator do it any better? Well, it certainly looks impressive. The vehicle and building models are very detailed (any owners of Voodoo 3 cards are in for a plethora of visual treats) and the terrain is very mountainous and gorgeous. But, while there are clumps of trees here and there, I have to admit that you don't quite get that forest-y feeling that Apache/Havoc offered. And from what I've seen of it, Gunship! is going to put them both to shame. Visually, Apache/Havoc has a slightly better world, TA has much better models. It's all very close though and it's not as if either of them look bad.
War, Huh Good Cody-All
Visuals be damned though. TA is bloody good fun to fly. The Alligator's co-axial rotor blades make the thing exceptionally manoeuvrable and Simis have done an excellent job of representing that in the sim. It's something of a shame that the only units you go up against in the game are Russian-built as I'd loved to have gone head-to-head with an Apache in this thing.
The excellent flight model is matched by an equally good battlefield model. While we're not talking Total Air War or Falcon 4 complexity here (or even the old drug-busting classic ATAC come to that - the last decent dynamic campaign engine seen in a helicopter sim), when you're out there in the middle of a battle, it feels like a real war. Guns are firing everywhere, tracer bullets light up the sky from all angles, the ground units actually fire on each other as well as you, enemy tanks move about looking for better positions as you'd expect. It's all very well done.
It's annoying that the game's front-end isn't up to the same standards. The mission editing options are very basic to say the least - about all you can do is move the waypoints around. There's no sense of the war unfolding in the campaign screens (a real-time map to show how your units are progressing, for instance). You just sit there staring at a pretty backdrop, waiting for a mission to pop up. The team management options are a nice touch and there's plenty of scope for issuing orders when you're actually 'in country', but overall this whole section could have been so much better.
Three's A Crowd
Other than that, Team Alligator is great. The training sessions are well designed, the three campaign areas, although a little small, give plenty of variety and, as I already said, it's a great machine to fly. While Gunship! has the potential to blow both it and Apache/Havoc out of the water, until we actually get to see MicroProse's beast you'll just have to choose which of these two appeals to you more. Both are excellent.