Jane’s AH-64D Longbow


One of the great chopper sim classics.

The greatly anticipated sim from Jane’s Combat Simulations, AH-64D Longbow, is the closest thing the lay man could get to flying the famous attack helicopter in 1996. You might remember Jane’s ATF (Advanced Tactical Fighters), which was the initial game in EA’s Jane’s Combat Simulations series. While an undoubtedly good product, Longbow nonetheless is the first game to really take advantage of the wealth of information that the Jane’s label carries.

Look no further if it’s an accurate flight model you’re looking for. Actual stability derivatives from McDonnell Douglas, the original manufacturer of the AH-64, were used in designing the game, coupled with partnerships and on-hand interviews with active AH-64 pilots. Accurate avionics and complex weapons systems rule when played on the maximum realism setting, and the sense of ‘there’ is further enhanced by the relevant radio chatter and diverse mission design. Ground effect, weight effect, transitional lift, altitude effects, wind, and turbulence have all been modeled. Missiles, rockets and cannon fire are all accurately implemented, and they work according to the strengths and limitations of the real aircraft.

7_1There are over two hundred missions in all, with many crammed into the quick mission generator and the rest made up of campaign missions and special assignments recreating historical engagements. The missions will take you through Korea, Panama, Iraq, and the Ukraine. But this isn’t a lone wolf action game, mind you. You can call in artillery and air strikes on most missions, and you’ll have a useful (if not very bright) wingman tagging along with you. Your wingman will hardly ever get in the way of the action, and you can issue orders in a fight.

Even though the flight model is really great, Longbow is first and foremost a combat simulation. Numerically, there are lots of enemy vehicles on the virtual battlefield, but they seem to be spread out rather thinly. And while there’s quite a bit of activity out there, the mass majority are too stationary and dumb to be confused with sentient combatants fighting for their lives. After destroying three of their comrades beside them, the remaining tanks just sit there waiting for the same to happen to them (in grand contrast to what’s depicted in the introductory CGI clip).

11_1On the other hand, air threats are much more potent and their AI is more believable (AAA, SAM’s, and other aircraft). In fact, it’s probably some of the best around. There doesn’t seem to be any “cheating” going on (super human skills, omniscience, etc.), and the resulting experience is quite uncanny at times. They run, hide, are not possessed by suicidal glee and in fact sneak up on you from time to time. Yet you can increase your chances of outwitting them by using the right tactics. Rather than flying into the thick of it, you need to fly your chopper around and ambush them.

Longbow possesses the right combination to please a wide scope of sim and non-sim fans. Everyone from the rank novice, to the action crowd, to the hard core guys can enjoy this game. Those interested in the intellectual aspects of military hardware will also find enjoyable diversion here. Longbow is a milestone. It has great graphics by ’96 standards, excellent realism and good gameplay. Unless you despise helicopters, are on the fringe extreme of realism fanaticism, Longbow will delight and entertain. Be sure to download the official strategy guide!

System Requirements: 486-DX/66 CPU, 8 MB RAM, SVGA Video, MS-DOS / Windows 95

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