PS3 Reviews: Apache: Air Assault Review

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Apache: Air Assault Review

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Graphics:

 

7.5

Gameplay:

 

8.3

Sound:

 

7.7

Control:

 

8.1

Replay Value:

 

8.0

Online Gameplay:

 

8.4

Overall Rating:       8.0

 

 

Publisher:

Activision

Developer:

Gaijin Entertainment

Number Of Players:

1-4

Genre:

Flight

Release Date:

November 16, 2010

Gran Turismo 5 isn’t the only simulator that arrives this month. The other is the under-the-radar yet still worthy of attention Apache: Air Assault. Developed by Gaijin Entertainment and specifically catering towards flight aficionados, this is a game that boasts a steep learning curve, a few disappointing environments, and a lot of “oh what the hell did I do wrong now?!” moments. But then again, such complaints – with the exception of the lackluster backdrops just mentioned – are often associated with simulators, and really aren’t drawbacks for the fans. In fact, they’re big-time pluses and exactly what they desire. The most surprising part of Apache is the featured realism, which is both demanding and satisfying. We also get a co-op mode that greatly adds to the experience as well as a campaign that, while almost entirely devoid of story, delivers on depth and intricacy.

The graphics are sort of an odd mix. On the one hand, the helicopters are meticulously defined and even refined in presentation, and some of the special effects are both authentic and fulfilling. On the other hand, what we see on the ground often fails to impress and the drab, washed-out landscape can’t really be called “eye candy.” This dichotomy confused me at first, but then I realized that despite the rather bland backdrops and environments, you don’t think much about it when playing. The view from either inside or outside your complicated war machine is actually quite fitting – visibility is appropriately limited from inside the cockpit – and while the animations of the ground soldiers and the cut-and-pasted grass from 1995 might be jarring, the good stuff comes to the forefront. The effects, almost everything about the helicopters, and the attention paid to realism is most appreciated.

As you might expect, the sound effects go stride for stride with the graphics in terms of authenticity, with a few minor stumbles. I’m not certain that a 30mm cannon sounds quite so tinny and some of the impact effects sounded a tad underwhelming but for the most part, the combat effects hit the mark throughout. When battling for air supremacy with enemy fliers, the sound really takes the necessary steps to immerse the player: for instance, getting nailed with a missile is a very unpleasant experience, and much of that is due to the sickening crash. The classical soundtrack fits the action but is a touch too repetitive in all modes, and the voices over the radio are hit or miss. These last two issues are my biggest complaints just because they tend to detract from the overall experience, which is indeed enjoyable. Still, the balance is decent – and it can be tough to balance the music with the effects in such a game – and each helicopter sounds exactly as it should. That’s what matters most.

When you first start, it’s very much recommended to try the Free Flight mode, which allows you to get accustomed to the tricky controls. It’s not “free” in the literal sense of the term; you will have objectives to fulfill but at the same time, it’s not part of the campaign. You can also fiddle around with different helicopters, see various maps, and try to satisfy diverse objectives. Also, if you wish to switch the controls to Realistic after completing the first mission (where your only option is Training difficulty), I suggest returning to Free Flight to familiarize yourself once more. The Realistic setting, as you might expect, alters the controls and doesn’t make things quite so easy, which means you need an even defter touch on the stick to succeed. Herein lies Apache’s main appeal: the quality simulation elements that require skill, attention and above all else, patience.

There are 16 scenarios in the single-player campaign, and you also have the option of co-op, which is great if you know someone hardcore enough to accompany you. You’ll have both primary and secondary objectives and if it’s your first time through, and you’re not such a whiz at flight simulators, I wouldn’t touch the difficulty. Keep it on Training. But if you love these types of games because of the exhibited authenticity, then you have no choice but to ramp it up to Realistic or Veteran, which admittedly is where this simulator shines. You can choose to invert any of the given controls (throttle, camera, gunner camera, etc.), alter the sensitivity of your pitch and yaw, and toy around with your helicopter’s healthy array of deadly possibilities. For instance, there are the manual gun views- hitting R3 puts the chopper in an auto-hover, and you can switch to either Direct View Optics (DVR) and take control of the 30mm cannon, or try the Forward Looking Infrared camera (FLIR), which shows the enemy’s emitted heat signals, which is most helpful.

Both of these options come in very handy and more importantly, they give you a break. Handling that beast can get pretty taxing and while it’s more invigorating to pinpoint targets from afar with Hellfire Missiles, sometimes it’s best to hit that auto-hover and shift to one of those manual gun options. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea if enemy aircraft are circling but that’s the point, isn’t it? This is a simulator so strategy always has to play a significant role. For instance, you don’t just take regular ol’ damage when getting struck by incoming fire; it really does affect the machine’s ability in the air. Just try completing tough objectives when one of your engines is out on either Realistic or Veteran difficulty. If you like, you sometimes have the chance to land at helipads where they can refill your ammunition and repair your armor. However, doing so can be iffy and landing felt like too much of a chore; you’re always this close to crashing.

Also, there are checkpoints – of a sort – but you only have 4 chances to finish a mission on either Training or Realistic difficulty (on Veteran, you’ve got one shot and that’s it). Along with the multiple helicopters offered, different campaign objectives, and fairly intense co-op (online or offline), sim fans could really lose some time to this one. But there are a few issues, I believe- firstly, although I’m not the greatest at flying games, I’m convinced the controls aren’t always spot-on. There were numerous times when the earth seemed to be a giant magnet, and my chopper was going to go down regardless of what I did. Sometimes, I would just release the controls entirely and even that didn’t seem to help; down it went. Secondly, the AI felt erratic; occasionally, they’d pelt the snot out of me and other times, they’d miss at point-blank range many times in a row. It was a little weird, to say the least.

Thirdly and lastly, without a compelling story or even a few interesting characters, the campaign lacks a good deal of punch. It does put the focus squarely on the gameplay, which may have been Gaijin’s intention, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling a little blasé. That being said, Apache: Air Assault is designed for a very specific group of gamers and if you’re in that group, you’ll likely be happy with the result. Having authentic control over one of the most complex flying machines on earth requires a particular mentality but if you’ve got it, the rewarding gameplay is here. It really is quite satisfying to complete a particular mission, knowing you’ve learned a great deal; your patience and observation paid off and you felt it. That’s what a good simulator imparts. Still, that learning curve is bound to chase some people away, as will some of the lackluster backgrounds and non-existent story.

It’s simple, really- if you want a focused, in-depth flying simulator that puts most all emphasis on intricate gameplay, your game is right here. If it sounds too daunting…well, it probably is.

The Good: Realistic controls are well implemented. Attention to helicopter detail is great. Patience and skill is sufficiently rewarded. Multiple difficulty modes allow for both authenticity and accessibility. Different objectives add variety. Co-op is a big plus.

The Bad: Bland, washed-out environments. Steep learning curve. Controls don’t always feel exactly right. Thin storyline component.

The Ugly: The uninitiated who sits down and thinks it’ll play like Warhawk. …the result is oh so ugly.

11/17/2010 Ben Dutka

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Comments (32 posts)

Temjin001
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 9:43:06 PM
Reply

Now if only it had the Air Wolf soundtrack from the TV shows =p

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Qubex
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:25:23 AM

Now that brings a lot of memories back and watery eyes... wow... I can hear it so clearly in my head.. I loved that show as a kid... man, you just set off string of emotions there....

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Highlander
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 10:18:46 AM

That would be coolness. Of course, you can download an MP3 of that music, loop it and play it in the background whenever you like.... ;)

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Bugzbunny109
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 9:51:06 PM
Reply

I know that this is off-topic; but when are you writing a review for AC Brotherhood? I saw IGN's review and was unsatisfied with it especially because I feel they are baised. Ben, I want to hear your input on the game because I don't feel that Brotherhood deserves an 8 [ign].

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:37:10 AM

It'll be up tomorrow night.

And no, it doesn't freakin' deserve an 8. IGN = teh nutty.

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Highlander
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 10:23:01 AM

IGN = teh suckage

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Axe99
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 2:43:38 PM

I wouldn't read too much into IGN's reviews, they've really gone off the rails over the last year.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 10:16:08 PM
Reply

Can I blow up Activision headquarters?

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Jawknee
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:10:10 AM

No but you can probably blow up EA's.

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Alienange
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 10:43:49 PM
Reply

So the chopper controls are better than those in GTAIV? 'Cause those controls are NUTS!

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Killa Tequilla
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 8:24:25 AM

And harder but i love flying games frim choppers to planes so its easy for me. But flying in this game is harder than GTA IV.

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BikerSaint
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 10:54:19 PM
Reply

I love helicopters in games, but this gen, I think they're all hatin' on me lately.

I sucked so bad at this demo, I got that exclusive arm patch for the highest "Crash Test Dummy Award".

And the same goes for the helicopters in GTA4's
(Hey R*, you still owe me my coveted "Worst of Flight" trophy).

I think I need to go back to my old Genesis and get some more specialized chopper time in on my Urban, Jungle, & Soviet Strike games



Last edited by BikerSaint on 11/17/2010 10:55:30 PM

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Highlander
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 11:33:14 AM

Time for a game of Choplifter?

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eLLeJuss
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 @ 11:35:49 PM
Reply

Awwww i feel bad for this company. If they don't sell well they might get fired by activion too. like Bizzare creations.............

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Jawknee
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:10:32 AM

Budcat too or what ever they were called.

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Qubex
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:26:51 AM

That Bizzare Creations debacle is just depressing... what are these people doing. Not every game will sell in the millions... if you can get a hit 70% of the time you will always be making a profit, even it 1 or 2 are ducks...

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Qubex
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:30:59 AM
Reply

Ben, I played the demo extensively, and you are spot on when saying that once you nail down the controls, you feel you really are in control of a flying monster... with some awesome fire power. The cockpit view is my favourite... it feels and looks very realistic... A relative of mine that walked in and was watching the screen for a while thought they were watching a movie...

Anyway, from what I have played it I think the score of 8 about right. I would have thought an 8.2 with a slightly higher score for the replay value; nevertheless, you still have to master those controls to make it feel like a good game in many respects.

Q!

"play.experience.enjoy"

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:37:55 AM

Yeah, it takes some practice - it did for me, at any rate - but once something sort of clicks in your head, and your fingers start to do the right things, the rewards are cool. :)

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javon_27
Friday, November 19, 2010 @ 3:50:29 PM

i was actually very impressed with this demo. and you're right the visuals might not be the best, but what we're really after is the gameplay. I went straight to realistic controls first, and immediately fell in love with it. there were moments where I would crash because I was trying to do some crazy u-turn maneuver, but I blame that on my inexperience. But whenever I pulled that vertical spiral u-turn, and heard my co-pilot yelling out "yeah!", that felt great!

The landing really needs some kind of work, but i'm sure with enough practice, all it takes is the ability to stop at the right spot and hover, then slowly lower your altitude.

one thing about this game i hate, is that it reminds me that we don't have an ace combat game on PS3... wtf?

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___________
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 1:34:45 AM
Reply

wow, a flight simulator game that actually does not suck!?
dam, why do they always have to release the good stuff with my most anticipated games?
sorry, but nothings going into my ps3 for at least another 2 months!
just got assassins creed brotherhood today, MY GOD is the codex edition cool!
150 bucks, half the price of the GOW3 ultimate edition, has almost the same stuff only the HD collections of previous games, and soundtrack of previous games is missing.
WTF?
150 bucks less and you get almost the same kit!
so i was essentially paying 150 bucks for the GOW1,2,3 soundtrack and HD collections?
since when did $ony turn into M$?
codex edition even comes with its own playing cards, and a really sweet diary with aged pages, looks so freaking cool!!!!!!!
best limited edition ever!!!!!!!!

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SubjectiveTruth
Friday, November 19, 2010 @ 2:57:58 PM

And you were worried about the A.I. in ACII!

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Lazytrappin
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 5:38:40 AM
Reply

Ben, could you do a review on a good gaming headset? Or could you recommend a good set to me? I've been looking at the Astro A40's but I would like a second opinion before making such a large investment. Thanks.

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Killa Tequilla
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 8:29:01 AM

Get a surround sound system. 7.1 channels is fine, heck 5.1 is fine. Actually theres an official 2.1 channel surround sound for Ps3. It's loud and cool. I like My sound loud so.... I prefer a SSS.

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Highlander
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 10:21:47 AM
Reply

Ben,

You mentioned that the environments look washed out. I remember that this used to be a major complaint in multi-plats that were ported to the PS3, it usually came down to the developer not doing a good job with the gamma correction and whether the PS3 was set for full or limited RGB color. Everything looked like the color saturation was too low and there was too much white, in all shades. You could generally alter the RGB setting on the PS3 and the brightness/contrast/color saturation of your screen to compensate (which is a major pain in the...). Is this the kind of thing you're talking about, or is it simply a poor color palette?

Last edited by Highlander on 11/18/2010 10:22:01 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:26:54 PM

Yeah, I know what you're talking about but this is more of an underlying structural problem. It's just outdated, at least so far as the ground-scapes are concerned.

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A2K78
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 11:30:50 AM
Reply

This game a sim? barely. From what I've seen of this game its come nowhere close to what both MFSX or Aero Dancing 4(Aero Elite Combat Academy) does in term of actually simulating the flight of an AH-64. To further add even the launching actions of a Hydra 70 rocket and AGM-114 look unrealistic.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:27:11 PM

Yes. It's a sim.

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Axe99
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 2:48:48 PM

If you're not sure, play the demo (on realistic - Training's for folk who aren't into Sims (nothing wrong with this, of course :))). Gaijin make some of the best flight simulator games I've played (the IL-2 series, and Wings of Prey) and they know what they're doing. I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive in the post, but the demo rocked my world :).

Top review Ben - for someone who isn't really into flight sims-style games, your coverage of them is very commendable :). As for the control problems, Choppers are pretty unwieldy beasts - because of the lack of a fixed wing, they're much more complicated to keep in the air. That's not to say the control problems aren't there, but I didn't have any issues with it in the demo (once I shifted to realistic it required a bit of thought, but at no stage did the chopper move unrealistically - when I got the pitch and revs wrong, it very realistically plowed me into the hillside, lol!)

Still can't work out whether I'm more pumped for this or GT5 (or AC:B!) :). Either way, it's one hell of a week :).

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 2:57:23 PM

Don't bother about him. He's arbitrary as a rule.

And yeah, flight games are tough for me to get into but I try to do my job. :) I'm sure fans of the genre will like this one.

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Axe99
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 10:38:39 PM

And do your job you do well :). At least now you can tear up some more Assassin's Creed ;).

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Nick Maim
Thursday, November 18, 2010 @ 12:54:04 PM
Reply

I'm not playing this. It will mess up my chopper skills from Bad Company 2..

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Axe99
Tuesday, November 23, 2010 @ 4:44:50 AM
Reply

Copy arrived in the mail today, and played the first couple of missions and messed around in free flight, and this game is EPIC :D. Well, for flight combat nuts that prefer things more simmy than Ace Combat/HAWX arcade stuff ;). Don't worry though, you've got plenty of targets to take down early, and I hear it only gets more frantic as the game goes on - the first two missions are well designed - plenty going on :). Playing on Realistic is a blast as well - never played a Realistic-style chopper game before, and taming the machine is heaps of fun as well.

Obviously, it's not for everyone, but for folk that are into flight combat games that are more sim-style (and we're talking sim-style physics, not full-on thirty minute flight flight checks and using a whole keyboard for controls like a full-on PC sim), this is a phenomenal game. Gaijin are one of my fave devs, on the strength of this, IL-2:Birds of Prey (also PS3) and IL-2:Forgotten Battles (on PC).

After playing this, it deffo highlights how shallow and 'casual' CoD is ;).

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