Imagine yourself behind the controls of the worlds most sophisticated and powerful attack helicopter today, the Comanche RAH-66. Novalogic has done a superb job with the new release of Comanche 4 and you can easily feel like you’re in a real cockpit as soon as you start playing. To summarize the game up front, if you like fast paced action and 1st person multiplayer shooters, Comanche 4 should be one of the top five games on your Christmas list this year, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a big fan of flight simulators. Multiplayer support will satisfy the need of every gamer to blow their friends out of the sky time and time again and watch their chopper explode in the air with the smoky remains crashing into the ground below.
The game comes with a moderate amount of information including two key-maps for the keyboard and function keys, as well as a well-detailed manual with game play and vehicle information. If you’re like me, the only time you’ll be looking at the manual is during the time the game is installing. The included keyboard maps showing the entire key commands gave me the first impression that the game would be like every other flight simulator and would have me fumbling at the keyboard just to get into the air. This wasn’t the case at all and in fact, after playing the training mission for fifteen minutes, I was a pro Comanche pilot.
The keys can also be remapped to your preference from the options menu if you prefer something different. Even so, I recommend using a flight stick to play and if you haven’t invested in one yet, this game should be enough to convince you that it’s worth getting. Using the flight stick just adds a lot more realism to the game even though force feedback is not supported. The game is really a lot of fun using a joystick since I only found myself using one or two commands on the keyboard from time to time such as wingman commands, preset flight altitudes, or landing gear, but you can map those commands to your joystick buttons also.
Depending on your preference, there are three vantage points that you can fly in, 1st person, cockpit view, or 3rd person. I prefer to play in the 1st person view so that I have a complete view of the landscape. The default controls use the mouse and keyboard just like every other first person shooter out on the market today so you won’t need to go changing and setting up any keys to get started playing.
What I really like about the interface is that this simulator focuses on the combat and action and it turns out to be so simple to control that it is a lot of fun to play. You really do forget about the controls and flying becomes a second nature after playing a couple of missions. For the more hardcore flight sim fans out there, the game has some realism settings including slip control, cyclic range, rotor damage, and enemy difficulty that can be turned on or off and which let you control additional realism features and movement of your chopper. I was disappointed to find that there are not very many animated weather effects in the game such as wind, rain, or snow. More night scenarios would have been a nice addition as well, as it would increase the realism of the game and add a new aspect to the game play, especially for stealth missions.
The graphics are sublime and the first thing I noticed was how great the water looks. The only thing I didn’t see on the water were surfers, but everything else from waves, reflections, to sandbars and even the light blue green shallow water were impressive. When you’re shooting at a pirate speedboat on the water, you can see the waves splashing up on the side of the boat and your bullets hitting the water. Now just imagining how good the water looks, I don’t need to tell you that the terrain, building, and vehicle details are just as stunning. For those with less robust graphics cards, the video options menu lets you configure the detail level of just about every graphical aspect of the game from textures to water detail.
What players will find really nice is the capability to switch between 1st and 3rd person views, a feature that is almost taken for granted these days but surprisingly isn’t supported in a lot of 3d games. 3rd person view is especially useful for navigating between tall trees when you’re flying low to the ground to avoid enemy detection, or for flying through canyons.
For those with heart conditions, take your medication because you can find your blood really pumping especially when you’re flying low to the ground at high speed while firing a hellfire missile at a tank and continue flying through the explosion. Some of the maps will have you dropping into deep, narrow canyons and it takes some tricky maneuvering to keep going a full speed but it sure is exciting. On top of that, you’ll find yourself using the joystick top-hat or spacebar to give yourself some extra torque to pop up over a hill just long enough to take out an enemy and then drop back down behind the hill. What’s gives you the chills is popping up over a hill to target an enemy and finding your radar lit up with red dots and anti-air missiles headed your way.
The single player game will keep you playing for quite a while with 6 campaigns plus a training mission. For those tough missions you will have a wingman and you can send him several commands including just following you, attacking your target, defending your target, engage enemies, and others. While playing the game, you can land at a helipad and customize or reload your weapons load-out which lets you size up the right arsenal to get the job done. Just remember to put your landing gear down first or you’ll hear yourself smacking into the asphalt with nasty ‘thud screech’ noises. Sound support is also excellent and EAX, EAX 2, and other 3d sound formats are supported, and definitely add that necessary dimension to the game. You’ll hear your rotor speeding up and slowing down, and the roar of missiles as they fly by you.
The only thing missing is a skirmish mode where you can create your own mission and select some computer enemies to go up against. However, you don’t really need that since one of the best features of the game is a fairly robust multiplayer mode which lets you play LAN IPX, LAN IP, or on NovaWorld. Right now NovaWorld unfortunately is not functional, but Novalogic is determined to have it working again as their first priority. Multiplayer modes include co-op missions with up to 4 players, or death-match and team death-match with up to 16 players. Now this is what I’m talking about, an awesome combat based flight sim with multiplayer support. What else could you ask for? I was also delighted to see that a mission editor is included so I expect to see people developing their own maps for multiplayer action.
I can simply say that this game is action packed from the start and the graphics are spectacular. Once you have it installed, you’ll want to leave it installed because it’s instant fun anytime, especially against some friends in multiplayer combat.