Choplifter HD is the latest in a long line of HD remakes of old-school games for current generation consoles. Unlike many of the other recent re-releases, however, I must admit that prior to this review, Choplifter wasn’t on my radar, and I’d never even heard of the 1982 original. For those in a similar boat to myself, what we have here is a rookie helicopter pilot assigned to rescue various targets in hostile war zones, in the guise of a 2D side-scroller/shoot-em-up. Does Choplifter HD carry success away to safety, or crash and become a prisoner of horrible gaming?
A Full-Blown War Effor - Choplifter HD features enough content to last through the duration of an entire war, when you take into account the different missions, environments and vehicles that are available for you to experience. The campaign will see you travel to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Arctic, amongst other locales, and you’ll be tasked with plenty of different objectives: rescuing prisoners, escaping invasions, destroying targets and even mowing down zombies. Unlike some downloadable games, each mission is a decent length too, making you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth.
Mechanical Engineering - Helicopters have a notoriously unsteady flying experience, yet Choplifter HD runs at a smooth click for the vast majority of the game. The graphics, whilst not awe-inspiring, work well, and special praise should be reserved for the sound effects, which make you feel like you’re in the middle of a warzone. The flying is praise-worthy also, as I never found myself frustrated with the controls or the response of my craft.
Multi-Tasking to the Nth Degree - If you find it difficult to focus on more than one task at once, you’re going to be screwed if you attempt to play Choplifter HD. At various times, you have to manage fuel levels, ammunition, armour status, passenger carrying capacity, and mission times, all whilst flying through a hot zone. A lot of the time you even have to manage all of these elements together. I understand that war isn’t easy, but sometimes it felt like there was simply too much on my plate, and this got overwhelming much too quickly.
Black Hawk Down - Not exactly known for their combat prowess, helicopters are more often used as support vehicles, leaving the actual fighting to jets and ground forces. Choplifter HD, whether intentionally or not, stays true to this fact of warfare by including frustratingly clunky combat. It’s incredibly difficult to aim using the right stick when you’re flying at speed using the left, and it’s even more difficult to avoid anti-air defences, RPGs and machine-gun fire, as well as environmental obstacles. For a rookie pilot, the obstacles are certainly stacked against you.
For the reasons outlined in the introduction to this review, I am unable to comment on whether or not Choplifter HD is faithful to the original entries in the series, or whether it veers wildly off course. What I am able to comment on is how well it stands up in today’s marketplace, and I have to say that although it isn’t perhaps the best-made game out there, it does have a certain uniqueness to it that affords it some novelty value. The gameplay is largely solid, aside from the combat, and the amount of content available makes it a worthwhile purchase in terms of value-for-money. The addition of star ratings for each level ensure replayability, and this is added to by the fact that you can go back and experience each level with the different helicopters you unlock by earning said stars. Helicopter games are somewhat of a premium in today’s gaming environment, and whilst it doesn’t set the world on fire, if whirly-birds are your thing, then Choplifter HD is worth a try.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*
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