|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: January 10, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
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.
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.
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.
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.