LHX Attack Chopper. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Steven Anzovin
Jet jockeys who are tired of flying fast metal can get an entirely different experience with this copter simulation from Electronic Arts. This complex flight simulator offers you the experience of flying four different helicopter gunships: the McDonnel-Douglas Apache, the Sikorsky Black Hawk, the Bell/Boeing Osprey VTOL aircraft, and the still-classified LHX (Light Helicopter Experimental), the DOD's newest and most lethal warbird.
Piloting a chopper is a lot harder than fying a fixed-wing aircraft, as I quickly found out. Getting off the ground was easy, but it took about ten minutes to move forward in a purposeful way. In order to fly, you must develop a sharp sense of three-dimensional movement--especially axial rotations--that you don't need when flying a plane. And, as with most military flight simulators, you have to pay attention not only to avionics, but also to the bogeys on your screen and in your sights. The first few missions will have you sweating bullets as you try to remember the keyboard sequences for activating radar and IR countermeasures and arming your missiles, all the while keeping your bird off the ground and out of range of SAMs, AA batteries, and fire from enemy aircraft.
Besides information on gunship avionics and armament, the LHX manual contains a basic course in chopper combat tactics. By the time you've memorized everything in it--and you'll have to memorize it, if you expect to survive the more difficult missions--you'll not only be familiar with the heavy ordnance used by the U.S., NATO, and the Warsaw Pact, but you'll also know to take out enemy tanks, jets, gunships, and fortified installations. Other missions include POW rescue, medevac, and supply and escort runs; each mission can be attempted in three combat theaters and at five skill levels.
The combat theaters are among the few minor flaws of this otherwise painstakingly detailed simulation (along with the manual's unrelentingly macho tone). The game;s scenarios--Libya, Vietnam, and East Germany--reflect outdated political situations. A combat scenario for Iraq would've boosted this game's appeal, but you can hardly fault Brent Iverson and the other LHX programmers for being no more perceptive about Saddam Hussein than U.S. military intelligence. Memories of U.S. gunships flying over the sands of Saudi Arabia certainly won't hurt interest in LHX Attack Chopper. For a taste of what it's like in the cockpit of a real combat chopper, this game is a call to action.