Enemy Engaged: Apache vs Havoc

It’s aerial East vs West in Enemy Engaged.

4_1In the small fraternity of helicopter combat simulations, Longbow is the trademark title that all later games are judged by, to which Apache Havoc does a pretty good job. As the title suggests, you have the choice of flying the AH64D Apache or its equally deadly Russian counterpart, the Mil MI-28N Havoc B. Equal attention has been given to both choppers, and both get thrust into various wars as part of several dynamic campaigns which ship alongside canned missions and free-flight practice missions (sans any tutorials – you’ll have to refer solely to the manual).

A huge world awaits pilots to fly and fight over. This is a great change from most helicopter sims, where it can be tempting to exploit the edge of the play field where there are fewer threats scattered about. That’s not an issue here. You could conceivably spend many hours flying over the terrain without ever seeing the same landmarks twice. In fact it’s unlikely that you’ll ever encounter play boundaries at all in normal gameplay.

The terrain also has many features that can be used for cover, such as river basins and roads cutting through tall forests. These work effectively both ways, so it might take quite a bit of maneuvering to get a favorable angle on a target under cover. The terrain system sports one very serious flaw, however. Across most of the map, the terrain textures are blended so finely that there is absolutely no sense of altitude and only a muted sense of motion. While tolerable in a jet sim, it’s a major problem in a helicopter sim, where flying low and sideslipping are the typical order of the day. The result is that you spend far too much effort chasing gauges to avoid smacking into the ground when you need to be focused on the tactical situation.

9_1Other design quirks conspire as well. The AI was quite primitive in the unpatched version, preferring to follow waypoints and return to base like an automaton rather than staying on your wing. The MFD displays are only visible in the “look down” view, which blocks enough of your (already limited) field of view to make using them rather impractical – a testament at how much of a resource hog that 3D terrain turned out to be in the day. Alternatively, enemy radar often has no trouble tracking you through terrain or structures.

Regardless of the graphics, terrain, or campaign, the most amazing accomplishment of Apache Havoc is its overall broad appeal. Almost every feature available in Longbow 2 is also represented here, yet the learning curve is mild enough that patient gamers can get into it over time. Throw in a believable rotary-winged flight model, fairly realistic weapons, and a very simple interface and what you have is a sim that really appeals to the center of the sim market without making hardcore players roll their eyes or having less-experienced players feel like the game hates them.

System Requirements: Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB Video, Windows 95

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