When a new combat helicopter simulation arrives on the market, everyone asks if it will be 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 -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.or a
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.