At first glance, Team Apache may seem very similar to Longbow 2-it's an up-to-date Apache sim with 3Dfx'd graphics and all the trimmings. But Mindscape have taken a completely different approach to Jane's/EA, placing much more emphasis on fun rather than authenticity. While Longbow 2 is a far more realistic impression of helicopter combat, Team Apache is based on the premise that while we'd all like to be cool Apache pilots, most of us can't be arsed to learn all the ins and outs of the real thing. To this end, Team Apache has vastly simplified the targeting and weapon systems, but left the flight model pretty much intact.
Basically, your computer-controlled co-pilot selects targets for you, while you pull the trigger and fly the chopper. To hardened sim fans this may sound a bit lightweight, but Team Apache is no shallow shoot 'em up. The missions are tough, varied and, as the name implies, you'll need good teamwork to complete them successfully.
The game is set in two theatres: Colombia, where the baddies are footballer-murdering drug barons, and Latvia, where your foes are equipped with top ex-Soviet hardware. Before you start a campaign, you're given the option of managing the men in your team, each with their own personality traits and abilities. As the campaign progresses man-management becomes increasingly important.
The most striking thing about Team Apache is the graphics -they're lovely. The landscape is packed with houses, cars, trees and cities, and the helicopters are all beautifully modelled. There's a full range of special effects like dynamic lighting and lens flare, and fantastic attention to detail in the form of things like flickering shadows from rotors, and ripples in the grass from your downdraft.
Team Apache also has the best weather modelling we've seen in a sim, with forked lightning and lashing rain. But the best bit is that all this happens smoothly on a pretty modest PC with 3D card, and jerkiness is kept at bay even in the middle of a city. Needless to say, graphics of this quality make for a great sense of immersion and realism. And while it's not actually as authentic as Longbow, Team Apache does a better job of convincing you that you're playing in a real world.
When it comes down to it, the choice between Longbow 2 and Team Apache depends on how you like your realism. The former is a better sim, which is why we've given it top billing, but Team Apache is a better all-round game.
Download Team Apache
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
If Mark Hannis Is Reading These Words, let me tell you that you're a son of a bitch. About five years ago I lent him a copy of a rather smart flight sim called AT AC and I've never seen it since. I've barely seen Mark since either, so I can only assume that the two of them are very happy together somewhere, living a life of luxury at my expense. Anyhow, I mention it only because I'm reminded of the old MicroProse title as I sit watching one of the chaps from Simis take me through a demo of Team Apache, the latest entry into the once barren but now thriving helicopter simulation genre. That and because I enjoy settling old scores in public.
Team Apache, according to the developers, is not being pitched at the hard-core simulation crowd - the kind of people for whom power-to-weight ratios and four-blade rotor handling specs are as sexy as any naked supermodel. Nor is it taking the NovaLogic road and classifying itself as arcade, arcade. The company line is that heavyweight sims are boring, and lightweight arcade games are too unrealistic, so TA is attempting to slot into a middle ground.
The actual helicopter dynamics are said to be spot on. And while this is a boast that just about every helicopter sim makes, Simis are backing it up with graphics that compliment the engine. It supports just about every 3D card there is and even at this stage we have to admit that it does look very smart indeed - especially the level of detail they've put into city areas. The buildings are some of the finest outside Sim City, and the streets are alive with everyday life, with civilian cars and trucks going about their business, oblivious to the death and destruction you're unleashing all around them. The similarities to the aforementioned ATAC come mainly because you're not just limited to a pilot's role. Between missions you have to manage your team's resources, keeping the supplies and equipment stores up, assigning repair crews to different tasks, and taking care of your troops, all of whom have individual statistics and emotional levels. It's up to you to pick the right crews for the right missions and to make sure that spirits are kept high. The last thing you want is a manic depressive pilot who starts questioning his role in life's grand plan right in the middle of a heated battle with Colombian drug lords.
The one area that Simis may have to look at is their attitude towards the heavyweight simulations. Early press releases seem to imagine the majority of the populace think hard-core sims are boring. But nothing could be further from the truth. Team Apache has enough potential realism within it to be able to take on any of the 'established' sims. It would be a shame if a prejudiced attitude towards the competition were to end up alienating them from a larger audience.
When a new combat helicopter simulation arrives on the market, everyone asks if it will be a Longbow 2 or a Comanche 3 killer. But with Mindscape's Team Apache, we see a very different construction from both the accuracy-obsessed sims and the arcade-style helicopter games. Pilots fly the Apache AH-64A, which is not the same machine as the AH-64D Longbow. Therefore, the game does not depict advanced Longbow 2-style weapons and avionics systems. Team Apache is not about the technical. It’s about people. It’s about gaining victory in battle by managing your pilots’ and gunners’ strengths and weaknesses. It's about … Elvis (yes, there is a broad diversity of personalities). Many of the pilot/gunner characters are quite humorous. I had to laugh at some of them. My favorite was a shy panicky southern guy named R. Mackie, with the call sign of Jester. When you first meet Jester in the pilot selection interface, you hear "I may be the Jester, but I ain’t no joke." Generally, Jester’s personality is shy. But when a firefight ensues, he doesn’t mind crying out "They’ve got our range!" Oh, the horrors of war. He kind of reminded me of a virtual pet at times. He requires special care, but the reward is great. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that you get to fly and fight your heart out in a quite lethal chopper.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
When I first loaded the game, I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the Instant Action mode and wreak havoc. After more than a few disappointing copter crashes, I thought, If real Apaches are this tough to fly, pilots must be on the endangered species list. So I buckled down and ran through the detailed training courses. It wasn’t long before enemy choppers were dropping from the sky and vehicles were exploding into flames at the touch of my joystick.
After training, the player chooses from the typical sim modes of play: instant action, mission, and campaign. Multiplayer is also supported. While Instant Action is self-explanatory, missions allow customization of weather, time of day, mission type and number of Apache teams. Campaigns take place in two theaters. In Columbia, Apache teams battle drug lords while in the more urban Latvia, Apache teams must prevail over Russian-built armor and tactics. The campaigns display strong geopolitical thought and the in-game newspaper reads like a Tom Clancy novel at times. The campaigns are also where the player becomes immersed in the resource management aspect. Beyond simply planning a mission, the commander has to oversee supplies, maintenance, and weapons loadouts. There is also the very challenging task of managing the pilots and gunners which may include having a talk with them or even giving them ice cream at the risk of slowing important supply deliveries. Morale must be maintained or performance will decline.
The friendly AI held formation and obeyed orders well unless they were battle weary. Enemy AI on the ground was a little too good and enemy choppers were easy targets whose incoming missiles could be thwarted by a simple chaff release. A little too frequently, I was downed by small arms fire from the ground. The Apache was created in part to counter Vietnam-type tactics like this. In fact, the design requirements state that the aircraft must be able to survive hits from .50 cal machine guns, 23 mm shells, and even shoulder-launched SAMs. To avoid fatal damage, I found myself flying at altitudes of several hundred feet. To reward a chopper pilot for flying high would seem to go against basic combat helo dogma.
I am a night person. I loved the nocturnal missile coronas and gun flashes. Customizable weather choices of overcast, fog, thunderstorm, incoming storm, snow, and rain were far beyond anything I have seen. I experimented with the time of day and weather settings and to my surprise, reaped some gorgeous effects. Morning light lit up the eastern sky, burning down on plains and leaving shadows behind mountains. Wow! Flying over the roads of finely detailed cities in any weather condition was a graphical thrill. I also found a number of subtleties like the blue-lit 3D cockpit and glass reflections.
I forgot to mention another outstanding graphical effect that I experienced quite often: crashing. Defeat never looked so good. Depending on the angle of impact, various parts of the chopper would crack off as the frame burst into brilliant flames, impacted, and slid forward. Not once did I experience any slowdowns on my P266 with Voodoo 2, even with the detail settings maxed. Nice graphics don't have to drag down the game speed!
Due largely to the variety of pilots available in campaigns, the voice communications were far from redundant. As time passed, only the control tower voice heard at each takeoff became a bit annoying. The weapons and flight sounds seemed a little better than the voices. The powerful engine sounds from a team of six Apaches was quite enthralling. I often experienced crackling sounds at takeoffs that usually dissipated as time went on. The patch fix I downloaded and installed from the Mindscape site did not help. Besides this, the overall sound quality was average.
Windows 95, minimum processor speed P133 (166 recommended), 16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended), 250 MB hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM drive, SVGA card w/2 MB RAM (3D accelerated video card recommended), Windows 95/DirectX-compliant sound card, mouse and joystick, modem: 28.8 KBPS for two-player play
There was not too much and not too little. All the essentials were available. I found a brief history of the development and deployment of the Apache, specs, detailed campaign summaries, designer’s notes, and the usual explanation of the game interface and controls.
Team Apache is quite a beautiful game in every respect. Teamwork is the key to this fun sim with a strong role-playing factor that sets it apart from others. Team Apache breaks new ground by challenging the player's leadership and personal skills. Those who have been flirting with crossing game genres will likely find Team Apache appealing.