Well, well, well... finally, a game that meets the standards of what is commonly referred to as a "simulation." Being a big fan of Jane's published editions about today's modern military equipment, they sure made a marvelous engine reproducing what it's like to fly a helicopter. Anyone who's tried to operate a helicopter knows that it's a hell of a lot harder to keep in the air than a fixed wing aircraft. They must have been programming for hours considering the calculations of collective control, rotor response in contrast to airspeed, and everything else that's wacky about flying a chopper. This is no easy task, anyone that plays this game, be warned: if you play with realistic controls, it's a little trickier than you might expect. I suggest you make sure you pay attention in class when you're instructed how to fly the thing!
Other than the terrain, all the other graphics were adequate. The enemies looked fine, but then again, the only time you really saw them was 2 seconds before they explode into a massive ball of flames (well, at least that was the case when they saw scene's chopper barreling down upon them). What really let me down was the terrain. Sure, EA put in "real satellite terrain", which may be fine for an airplane sim when you're 30,000 feet in the air anyway so you can't see a damn thin, but I want trees!!! I want cliffs!!! I want canyons to fly through!!! I don't know how many of you have played the game Comanche before, but that game wasn't realistic at all, and it was a blast! You got to fly through ravines, pop up out of canyons and blast everything away, or fly past a mountain and find 15 anti-aircraft batteries on the other side and get blasted back to where you came from! Such an extremely important detail that was passed over; it almost ruined the entire game for me. Longbow would have been much more fun with terrain you could do a little more with.
Finally, a game that doesn't have annoying, generic, crappy midi tracks playing endlessly. In fact, there's no music at all in the entire game besides the cut screens leading to your mission. As for that one track, yeah, I guess it's all right, but you don't hear it that much anyway so it doesn't matter. Sound effects are fine. I must admit that I really have no idea what it sounds like to have a missile being launched about 5 feet away from you, but I don't think it sounds like a spitball being blown through a plastic straw. The weapons being fired didn't sound very realistic at all. That's no reason not to buy the game, it didn't really effect the game play, but still, the sounds lacked.
The interface was set up a little odd. The Apache helicopter is supposed to be flown by two people. Since I personally don't like doing the jobs of two people at once, especially when I'm not supposed to, it was annoying switching back and forth between seats. Now, I can completely understand why they put in the option to change seats, but I think that they should have added an option before the mission where you decide to take the gunner's seat or the pilot's seat. From there, you can take care of your assigned responsibilities, while the computer handles the other position. As for controlling the aircraft, I have the benefit of both the thrustmaster joystick and throttle which is a great advantage over other keyboard flyers. However, the keyboard setup was well thought out, I tested flying with it, and in some cases, such as hovering, it was actually easier using the keyboard.
Although the chopper is fun to fly, that will only take you so far through the duration of 400 possible missions. With boring briefings that are text based, and absolutely no story line besides the same old "Well, the bad guys are coming closer again, so go kill them all now... and by the way, good luck!" the game left me expecting a little more from such prestigious companies. I would, however, like to comment about flight school. They have a tutorial based program inside the game where they have some hick army instructor's voice talk to you and train you in-flight how to fly your rock. I found these tutorials to be VERY helpful and an excellent alternative to reading their 1 inch thick manual. They also made an addition since the original Longbow: in this version the new tutorials go past basic flight operations and weapons delivery, but even onto strategies, tactics, and evasive maneuvers.
As far as I'm concerned, Longbow is one excellent simulation of how a helicopter flies. In terms of the physics of the chopper, both companies really paid attention to detail. However, the terrain flaws cut it off at the knees making it less interesting and limiting the user's creativity. One of the most important lessons of flying a combat helicopter is using the geographical features to your advantage. The sounds didn't effect the game play at all, and I liked the interface for the most part. I think that EA shouldn't have been so strict by keeping the missions in the actual theaters, and should have been a little more creative or interactive with a story line. Perhaps more of a Wing Commander story line, with the ability to win ranks, would have added a lot to the interest of the game besides the flying. My advice to you is: if you enjoy the most realistic thing you can get your hands on, go pick it up. You've got 400 missions of pure Longbow simulation coming right at you. On the other hand, if you just want to start flying within the first hour and blow things up left and right, while throwing down beer and screaming, check out another game, because you probably won't make it through 10 minutes of Jane's flight school.
People who downloaded Jane's AH-64D Longbow Gold have also downloaded:
Longbow 2, Jane's USAF, Jane's F/A-18, Jane's F-15, Jane's Fighters Anthology, Jane's WWII Fighters, Apache Longbow, ATF: Advanced Tactical Fighters
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