Choplifter HD Review for Xbox 360

Choplifter HD Review for Xbox 360

How Do You Remake An Apple II Game?

Choplifter HD is a remake of an old Apple II game by Dan Gorlin (who, by the way, also had a hand in Choplifter HD). In the old Apple II game, you controlled a helicopter, and you were tasked with picking up passengers while simultaneously fending off the assault of tanks and planes that wanted to kill you. Though the original Choplifter’s levels were strictly two-dimensional, you had to rotate your chopper to face left, right, or toward the foreground to shoot at enemies. It was pretty innovative for its time, and for a game that was working with hardware even weaker than the original Nintendo, it was impressive.

So what is Choplifter HD like? Well, it’s a lot like the original but a whole lot prettier. Once again, you are tasked with navigating two-dimensional levels in a helicopter while all sorts of things try to kill you. You can move up, down, left, and right, and you still have to rotate your chopper to take out enemies in the skies and on the ground. The core gameplay is pretty much identical to the original Choplifter, but there are so many new bells and whistles in this remake that it feels like a totally different game.

Choplifter HD Screenshot

First of all, let’s look at the user interface. At the top of the screen you will not see a mini-map of your surroundings. Granted, the mini-map is just a line because each stage is a 2D plane, but you’ll be surprised by how helpful that line can be. All across this line are beacons showing mission objectives, people to rescue, refueling points, and more. You’ll always know exactly where you are and where you are going in Choplifter HD, which is more than I could say for the original.

Your two most important stats are your health and your fuel. If you run out of either, it’s basically game over. You can find refueling stations across all of Choplifter HD’s levels, but landing and refueling won’t necessarily be easy when you’re being pummeled by anti-air cannons. You can also fly faster by boosting, but this also spends more fuel. That being said, it’s a great way to get enemies off your back, and balancing risk via spending fuel versus taking strategic hits is the name of the game. Oh, and be careful when you land. Land too harshly and you can take damage and even kill your passengers.

Choplifter HD Screenshot

On the offensive, you are given a machine gun and missiles. Missiles home in on the opponent and produce large explosions, but you have a limited supply. Your machine gun, on the other hand, has infinite ammo but can overheat if you fire it for too long without letting it cool down. Unfortunately, I found that the machine gun overheated far too quickly. You can only fire it in short bursts while your enemies pepper you with a barrage of bullets.

The real fun of Choplifter comes from the variety of mission objectives. In the classic, you only had to rescue survivors while not getting blown up. While this is still the main goal in Choplifter HD, the game mixes it up a bit with some conventions that you would more likely see in a modern first-person shooter. In addition to air-lifting prisoners of war to safety, you also sometimes have to destroy specific enemies. These enemies can be on the ground or in the air, in the foreground or to your sides, or pretty much anywhere. Most of them have special attacks or behavior patterns as well. As interesting as this is, you will pretty much just blow your missiles on any relatively tough enemy you encounter. Since completing other objectives gets you extra missiles, you don’t particularly have to hoard them.

On top of these objectives, you will sometimes need to air-lift special operatives into the battlefield, which is far more difficult than taking them out. You’ll also be asked to defend strategic points with your helicopter, which isn’t particularly built for battle. Eventually, you’ll encounter objectives and missions with time limits, injured soldiers that will die if you don’t air-lift them back home quickly enough, scientists stuck in the middle of a zombie invasion, and much more. Add the complication that your helicopter only has limited passenger space, and you’ll find an incredible amount of variety on a relatively simple theme.

Choplifter HD Screenshot

As you complete missions, you earn stars, with five stars being the highest score you can get on any mission. Getting a five-star rating generally involves rescuing everyone without letting anyone die, completing all your objectives, and finding and completing any secret missions that might be on the map. As you earn stars, you unlock new helicopters that boast greater firepower, maneuverability, health, fuel consumption, and cargo space. Some of the later choppers end up being incredibly overpowered, which is actually a good thing since this game is sometimes excessively hard.

No really, I mean it; this game is hard in all the worst ways. It almost feels like an old school NES game in its unfair deaths and next-to-impossible missions. There are times when you will fly into a crossfire and instantly die. There are other times when enemy jets will blindside you out of nowhere, taking you down only a few seconds before you complete your mission objective. This is the sort of game that will have you reloading your mission after being hit by a single bullet; it’s just that unfair.

And that’s just the Normal difficulty.

There’s also a Hardcore difficulty, which increases your enemies’ hitpoints, and the Survival difficulty, which makes you guzzle fuel like a frat boy guzzles beer. Not only that, but you’ll also only get one life to complete every mission you accept. One life! I know the developers were going for a retro difficulty feel, but come on!

Choplifter HD Screenshot

I played both console and PC versions of Choplifter HD, and they are nearly identical in every way. That being said, I preferred keyboard and mouse controls. Every helicopter in the game is a little unwieldy, and being able to fine-tune my movement with the skills that I carried over from FPSes was a big help. Using an analog stick and bumper control scheme just made the game feel a little bit too loose to me. It’s not the worst thing in the world if it is your only option, but I would prioritize the PC version if you could.

In this day and age of HD remakes, we don’t always expect simple classic gameplay to carry over to modern versions of old games. However, Choplifter HD is an exception. Even though the game mixes up your missions quite a bit, even though you’re fighting zombies and terrorists rather than nameless tanks, even though the game has stats, leaderboards, achievements, and all the facets of modern gameplay we know and love, you are still playing Choplifter at the end of the day. Your goal is to pick survivors up, put them down, and not die in the process.

If you are the type of gamer who loves this type of simplicity and all the difficulty that comes with it, Choplifter HD is the game for you. If not, well then Choplifter HD won’t make you want to go out and try the Apple II version any time soon. As for the final value of the game, it’s fifteen dollars, which is just a bit over what I would want to pay for it, but then again I was a total newbie to the Choplifter franchise. Veterans who remember the original will probably find that price more than acceptable.

Choplifter uses the Unreal engine, and that sometimes makes small things like survivors hard to see. But the graphics are obviously a vast improvement over the Apple II version, so how can I complain? 3.8 Control
The controls feel a bit loose, but you can train yourself to get used to them. 2.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is pretty forgettable and the voice acting sounds like it came straight out of a B movie. 4.3 Play Value
It’s addicting, it’s difficult, and it updates the best parts of the original while staying true to its classic gameplay. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • In Choplifter HD, players take on the role of an up-and-coming rescue pilot asked to join the elite, international helicopter rescue team.
  • Pilots will be trained to command a variety of helicopters deployed on more than 30 different missions. Combining reality with elements of fantasy, missions will range from captured military prisoner extraction to saving survivors of viral outbreaks.
  • Pilots must bank, hover, touch-down, and sometimes even shake zombies from their chopper during lift-off in order to make their rescue and complete their mission.

  • To top