Abandoning any pretense at realism, Comanche 4 is all about arcade aerial combat.
From Comanche to Tachyon, Novalogic has modeled Boeing-Sikorsky’s RAH-66 Comanche, Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, General Dynamics’ F-16 Falcon, Russia’s MiG-29 Fulcrum, and GalSpan’s Orion space fighter with about the same respect for realism and authenticity. Now they’re back where it all began with the fourth and final installment in the series of Comanche games that began in 1992. There are no claims of realism on the box, which avoids the word “sim” entirely, calling Comanche 4 a shooter in the sky and a helicopter action game with a five-minute learning curve.
How refreshingly candid that the default controls are straight out of a first person shooter! WASD to move, space bar to jump (or, in this case, pop up over the terrain), 1-5 to select weapons, and mouselook to aim by pointing the helicopter fuselage, minus inertia or weight (you can actually ‘aim’ the Comanche in any direction while still on the ground). Novalogic lets you add a few layers of complexity over the interface, but it won’t change the fact that you’re controlling what looks like a helicopter but moves like an air hockey puck, skittering across the world on a slick invisible pillow.
Combat is right click to target, left click to shoot. This little one-two finger dance takes up about half of the learning curve. The other two and a half minutes are spent figuring out which weapons are best for which situations, although there’s really no point fussing too much over this. They bear only a passing resemblance to their real world counterparts, but no matter. This isn’t about simulating things. The cannon fires quickly but does minimal damage; the Hellfires are really slow, but they arc over obstacles; the Stingers are little firecracker hornets with tight homing; and the rockets are the best all around compromise.
Each mission is a thinly veiled excuse for lots of things to blow up, either because you shot at it or someone else shot at it. Comanche 4 offers a lot of situations in which you’re not necessarily the center of attention. Since you don’t always have to do all the work, this is a more cinematic game than the typical ‘you vs them’ action game. In one of the better missions, which demonstrates nicely just how much this engine can do, you’re providing air cover for a presidential limo and its armored escorts as they make their way through an embattled city to get to the airport.
The real star here is the new engine, which does a superlative job with water, foliage, explosions, smoke, natural terrain, and destruction animations. In fact, with so much attention on the graphics and so little meat in the gameplay, there are times this feels more like a tech demo than a full game. Comanche 4 is really just a high tech shooting gallery with detailed destruction animations and burning trees instead of mechanical ducks. It appeals to a man’s primal (well, juvenile, at any rate) need to blow stuff up. As such, it’s a spectacle and a success, even if it’s wanting as a game.
System Requirements: Pentium 100 Mhz, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB Video, Win 98/ME/2000/XP