|Genres:||Simulator / Flight Simulator|
|Game Modes:||Singleplayer / Multiplayer|
The flight modelling in Team Apache, an AH-64D sim from developer Simis Limited, falls at the high mid-range of the realism scale, while the avionics modeling is in the lower mid-range, however neither is the real focal point of this military simulation. As the name suggests, the focus falls on team tactics.
Let’s get into the avionics. You have no true control over emissions, and if there is a way to turn radar and jammers on or off, I couldn’t find it. This lack of detail in the sensors department is a good thing since the cockpit choices are somewhat lacking. There are three modes, each with their own quirks. The clear cockpit view doesn’t have any sensor overlays. The rendered cockpit lacks a full range of views. The virtual cockpit is too fuzzy to read the instruments well and the canopy reflections, while realistic, obscure the view sometimes. To cap it all off, there is no padlock view.
Aside from the iffy cockpits, the visuals of Team Apache are its strong point. Both hardware and software rendering modes are available, but the software-only graphics are fairly average. With a 3D card, however, Team Apache provides some superb frame rates and effective visuals, even on a mid-range system like a Pentium 200. Object modeling and textures are generally strong, though terrain, while nice looking, tends to be rather repetitive. Both locations, Latvia and Columbia, look pretty similar. This rolling verdure is spiced up considerably by trees, which can actually be semi-useful for concealment.
Where Team Apache really excels in its command element. Don’t mistake this for theater-wide command, like Longbow II. The missions are disappointingly hard-wired and the campaign scripted. The focus is on your role as team leader. This means you choose and manage pilot/gunner crews based upon their dossiers. These crews need to have complimentary skills, which improve with experience and success. Unfortunately, there are no number-based ratings for crew, so reading each dossier is essential to personnel management. If a crew member is scared, belligerent, slacking off, or not performing, you can choose to “have a talk” with him in the crew quarters, selecting between a “soft” or “hard” approach to improve his morale and performance.
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Light resource management is also a part of Team Apache. Replacement supplies for damaged equipment and new munitions must be managed, and even maintenance crews can be manually assigned to specific tasks or given a break to improve performance. This relationship of rest to performance is also important in helicopter crews to an unnerving degree. Half your team must always be resting, and over-worked teams are hopeless. Inexperienced teams are also fairly useless. Until they earn their chops, they’ll be lucky to hit air if they fire. Even then, crew AI can be a bit iffy, with gunners failing to properly target and wingmen disobeying or ignoring orders. This does lessen with crew experience, but it makes for some frustrating early missions. The same weak routines were also apparently used in the single mission mode (where crew experience issues have no place), making some quick missions a little tough.
To create a true command experience, Team Apache adapts some conventions that take a little getting used to. Target acquisition is given to the gunner, leaving you to merely point the helicopter in the proper direction and pull the trigger. A special “sighting” routine has also been included to increase the sense of realism. This places a strong emphasis on observing the situation, to the degree that if you’re not pointed at a bogey, you might not spot him initially. Similarly, if you blow into an area at top speed, enemy units simply may not appear until it’s too late.
As expected with this emphasis on leadership, a wide range of wingman commands is provided. Overall, the AI is a hit and miss, with enemies tending to charge right in rather than work together. Mission structure is always interesting, with a good mix of rescue, escort, search and destroy, SEAD, and other duties. Though the lack of dynamically generated missions is a disappointment, it does allow the developers to craft very interesting and often complex missions with multiple levels and variable tactical approaches.
Overall, Team Apache is a good choice for novice pilots. It’s got a respectable emphasis on accuracy, while still keeping the fun factor in check. Too many flight sims have had the opposite approach, opting for a hyper-realistic representation of the aircraft while having only so-so gameplay. Team Apache, on the other hand, finds a great balance.
System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win98