This is from the March 1996 PC Zone.
I’ve got even less to say today than yesterday so apologies again for the brief post. On the up side for anyone reading this, at least this only takes a minute whereas it took me several hours to play through it all…
Today’s first mission, has me taking out targets in the middle of a town. This certainly puts a lot of little squares on my radar but otherwise is much the same as ever.
We’ve gone from the radio alpahbet for mission codes to bird names today which gives me hope that there aren’t going to be too many more missions. I mean you can’t just use any bird – I can’t see there being an offensive phase blue tit.
We run out of bird names and move onto planets or confectionary as the missions keep on coming.
Until finally we get to the end. The CIS withdraw and the peace treaty is signed.
I get a medal and I think I deserve it for getting to the end. There really was no major difference in any of today’s missions. I suppose it goes with the flight sim mentality – people will play the latest MS flight sim and fly a 747 across the Atlantic and the like and compared to that this is exciting stuff. Each mission here is just an opportunity for another flight with a bit of an incentive of a few cutscenes but I just don’t understand the appeal. Learning to fly the Apache was quite entertaining and the first few missions were ok but the novelty wore off quickly and I’d swear that each mission was getting further away from my base each time and really testing my patience. It took a full ten minutes to fly to the furthest point in the last few missions and the same to fly back again with nothing happening for most of the time – this is not my idea of fun. I’ve taken to listening to audio books at the same time as playing this game in fact. Clearly this is a good flight sim but even more clear is just how much I detest the genre which is a pity given whats coming up next.
Next: AH-64D Longbow – Flashpoint Korea
It seems to be a long time between each post at the moment but I forced myself to have an extra long session on Longbow this afternoon in an attempt to finish the game. Now that I’m coming to write the blog, I really don’t have that much to say as things just carried on much in the same manner as whats gone before, so this post will be heavy on screenshots and light on text. I’ve taken a screenshot of the mission briefing each time so every mission is spelled out anyway.
First up its another go mission where I go out and destroy a target. This is going to more or less be my mission every time from here on out. I get another medal for my efforts.
The next mission proves more difficult and I have to confess that I started using the cheat options from here on out with the unlimited ammo option.
I certainly destroy more targets with no limits on ammo and get high gives when I get back. My score doesn’t advance though so I won’t get any medals or promotions this way.
Next up its a convoy to destroy. My gun makes short work of them when I get there. The biggest problem I have with these missions is the time it takes to fly there and back – its just plain boring as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure for someone who is into simulator games this isn’t the case but above anything else this its what’s stopping me giving this game a real go. If I fail a mission, I have another 5 minute flight just to get back to my target which I can frankly live without. I’ve been trying (and suceeding for the most part) not to use cheats but the unlimited ammo option is just too tempting.
Next its a command post to take out. The terrain is getting ever more hilly each time I go out on one of these missions and the command post is in a flat valley over the top of a small range.
Next, another tank convoy. I get to fly in daylight which is a rare occurance. I can’t quite decide if I prefer the day or night graphics. I think the filter in Dosbox must help quite a bit as I’m looking at these screenshots and things aren’t quite as nice but its quite convincing in the game itself.
There’s another news cutscene showing our raid on the tank convoy. The guys pretending to be soldiers in the 3rd screenshot must have been practising for ages to look that unconvincing .
The war moves now into Eastern Ukraine which means a new set of scenery copying itself from the CD drive.
The terain is more farms and incredibly flat. If anything the first zone is the most interesting to look at. I gather the terrain is based on the real areas though and the hills all appear as they would in real life which is pretty impressive in itself.
This mission is a bit different as I’m sent out to take out helicopters instead of ground targets. None of these are as well armed as I am and there is no dogfighting involved. I just get within range and let rip with my cannon – as ever I don’t even have to aim.
The war is going well for the US and we get a news report of a CIS convoy being destroyed while trying to cross a river.
There are rumours of the CIS having missiles with chemical warheads – where have I heard that one before? We get sent out to destroy them anyway and this is shown in another news clip.
My briefing room has changed to a comandeered building now instead of the tent.
My new location is shown as I take off since I’m now in a village.
We take out an enemy airfield which gets shown on the news.
Then its an ammo depot before moving location once again.
The new location is particularly flat and boring and its seas of green or brown. Each location is less interesting than the one before it seems.
A few missions later, we’ve captured the CIS commanding officer and negotiations are ongoing for a CIS withdrawal in return for handing him back. The missions carry on though as I take out another “chemical weapons” convoy. I really thought this was going to be the games last mission. They have been working the way through the radio alphabet code – the last 3 were missions x-ray, yankee and zulu so I figured zulu had to the end but apparently not so I get to carry on flying more another day.
I’ve tried to like this game but it just isn’t going to happen. I can appreciate its graphics, gameplay and the effort that looks to have gone into it – this is probably a classic in its own way but I simply don’t enjoy flight sims. This sort of game requires someone with a lot of patience who really wants to learn the skills required to fly an Apache and neither applies to me. It does all feel very realistic (as far as I can tell) and the missions have been well judged in terms of steadily increasing the difficulty but I’d swear that I’m doing the same mission over and over. The targets may change but you never get close enough to see them most of the time anyway. I must be near the end so I’ll soldier on but I’m seriously considering not bothering with the expansion pack, especially now I’ve seen the bit on the back of the box where it says it adds 140 missions.
My progress in this game is speeding up each time I play it but I still didn’t get that far last night. I’ve been messing around with scummVM soundtracks again. The FreeSCI project was merged in about a week back and I’ve been having a look at forcing some digital soundtracks in starting with Space Quest 3. I’ve done all the early parts of the game and it works pretty well so I’m all set to start adding all these games. You can’t actually save yet though which is going to stop me from finishing the job right now.
To get back on topic, I complete the mission I was struggling on first time around and even get a medal for my trouble. I don’t bother trying to engage forces unnecessarily this time around.
The next mission is more of the same – fly into enemy territory and investigate some artillery. Again I don’t attempt to engage anyone but stay low and just get in and out.
This gets me a promotion. Clearly stealth is the way to go in this game.
Its another similar mission to follow. I complete all of these missions on my first attempt but there isn’t much to go wrong as long as I stay near the ground.
I get something a bit different at last and I’m sent after a radar site to destroy. I’m also given permission to take out anything I feel like along the way but I’ll concentrate on just getting in and out with the mission done.
Its pretty easy stuff again. I take out everything at the radar site using hellfire missiles from about 3 km away. At that distance, I can’t even see them and when I fly over there is no evidence there was ever anything there. I just have to fly back out again and I’m careful to avoid trouble on the way back.
An element of the game I do like is that when you fly over hills instead of sticking to valley bottoms the various SAM sites and the like in the area start to track and lock onto you. I have to limit my exposure and attempt to stay in valley’s as much as I can. This sort of combat is a world away from the likes of Wing Commander – its far more tactical and serious.
There is a news flash when I get back showing that the war has started with the US making their first strikes into occupied Ukraine. My next mission is another one taking out a specific target but I didn’t attempt it last night.
From these early missions, I’m already concerned about how many (or few) variations on missions there are going to be in this game. Also, I’m spending most of my time simply flying from point to point. There is some interest in this, avoiding SAMS and the like but it’s a bit like playing Wing Commander without the auto-pilot.
I’ve no idea how many missions there are – I don’t know if I’ll finish the game this weekend or still be at it in another month. I’ll consider the game complete when I finish the campaign and will be ignoring the other missions. I’ve read something about it using a branching mission structure which should keep the numbers down but I can find surprisingly little information on the web about Longbow.
At the end of my last post, I said I was going to have a look at the individual missions in Longbow next but frankly I didn’t like the look of them so I decided to go back to the campaign instead. This appears to be the place to start as the first mission just involves a fly-through of some nav-points and I’m not authorised to fire.
The scenery is a bit different here and kind of pastoral with farm fields and the like. It looks a bit less realistic than I expect from this sort of game – I guess I’m used to seeing the images from satellite photo’s used in modern versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator. This looks more like an oil painting of a landscape but it’s still impressive stuff for an unaccelerated game.
There is a really cheesy cutscene when I land showing me shaking hands with my CO after a successful mission. Quite a few of the cutscenes have real people superimposed on the CGI background and its amazing how bad the acting is when these guys don’t actually have to say anything. Even the bloke waving in a plane on the newsreel at the start was just completely over the top. It’s so bad that its hard not to believe that it’s deliberate but it does feel out of keeping with the ultra-seriousness of the rest of the game.
Mission 2 involves a quick probe into enemy territory to check out a convoy. I’m authorised to fire this time if they fire on me first.
It’s a night mission, so its on with the infra-red. The first time I attempt this I just follow my nav points, fly through and land at the end. Nothing launches at me so I consider the mission done.
I get a lot of gesticulating when I land so I guess this wasn’t good enough. I try again, I actually have to fly off my route to investigate a certain area. On the way back a couple of targets fire at me. I attempt to shoot them back but end up going after the wrong target at which point every enemy on the map takes offense and I’m shot down.
I’ll try this again tonight. I’m sure these missions are dead easy but I still don’t know what I’m doing. I am learning though so I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later. I have a feeling this game is going to take me a long time, but that if I ever get any good at it, I might really enjoy it.