Realism just merrily flew out the window.

8_1Somewhere between hardcore helicopter simulation and arcade chopper games sits nestled AHX-1. Designed to mesh the pure action of the latter with the intellectual elements of the former, it winds up being all things to no people. But oh does it ever look good! Everything from the opening cutscene to the slick menu system and nicely textured terrain shows professional polish. Briefings offer quick but pertinent information to set the stage for each mission. You can read up on a lot of intel for over thirty missions encompassing three theaters of war.

Once past the glitzy screens leading to combat, the game unravels in the wake of a pitiful flight model. Response to collective adjustment wavers from instantaneous reaction to lengthy delays. Even with all options set for maximum realism, flight remains inside the action envelope, limiting the possibility for erratic or defensive maneuvers to those of the arcade classic Afterburner. The ground collision detection scheme sometimes triggers long after a collision actually occurs, leaving the player to fly around leisurely waiting for the inevitable crash sequence to kick in.

The actual missions look as if they could be enjoyable, if this chopper could only fly right. There are a lot of targets out there to annihilate, and since one of the options is to carry an insanely unrealistic amount of ordnance, this could have been a lot of fun. Still, with names like “Follow that Car”, you begin to wonder if maybe a few 12-year old whiz-kids were locked in a room for a few weeks and this is the fruit of their labor. There are some limited multiplayer options, but they don’t mean much.

A Terrain Generator, which renders real-time environments from actual terrain photos, proffers murky, pixelated landscapes. Hearkening back to the original Comanche-style graphics, the behind the scenes process may be technically astounding but ultimately yields mediocre results. From the simulation fan’s perspective, the game falls short of passable, even if the premiere helicopter simulation, Origin’s AH64D Longbow, had never existed. In the opposing perspective of the action fanatic, AHX-1 halfheartedly mimics too many simulation elements to be noticed.

System Requirements: Pentium 166Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 50 MB HDD, Windows 95/98/NT

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