Choplifter HD Review

by on January 17, 2012

Choplifter HD ReviewGame: Choplifter HD

Developer: inXile Entertainment

Publisher: inXile Entertainment

Available On: Xbox LIVE Arcade, Playstation Network (Xbox 360 Version Reviewed)

There’s always that one game that gets forgotten. Personally, for myself, it was Breath of Fire 4; with such a solid background and storyline, upon hearing about Breath of Fire 5, only good, positive thoughts passed through my mind. So playing the genre killing, story murdering monstrosity was heartbreaking. Not to mention the fact it put many off both the series and genre. However, it seems inXile Entertainment obviously felt the need to bring Choplifter back into the limelight, a game many of you may never even heard of. Originally designed for the Apple II back in 1982, we now have an HD remake of it right on our doors, or more specifically, marketplace. I’ll admit now, I haven’t played the original, not only because the game wasn’t hugely popular when it was released, but not having been born was working against me too. So my takes on this are purely from the HD remake alone.

So for those who missed it the first time around, here’s the lowdown; the game focuses around an unnamed pilot that you play, who flies a Helicopter. Sounds great, except your job is to aid the army in a number of deployment and rescue missions, going up against both opposing armies, as well as hordes of zombies.

Choplifter HD - Zombies

That really is it, using this, and very vague mission Intel to attempt to differ one mission from another, you’ll fly back and forth across the levels, saving civilians and mowing down the enemy. Whilst it seems this is sticking to the original’s roots, it’s rather lacklustre. While I admit, downloadable games and those without much backing behind them don’t usually need Final Fantasy levels of storyline to keep players interested (take Angry Birds, for example), there still seems to be an element missed here. There are odd quotes such as ‘First day on the job!” in the very first mission that tug at your brains imagination, but on the whole it doesn’t offer anything in terms of extended storyline.

Possibly making up for the lack of interest in the storyline is the graphics. It’s obvious a lot of work was put into making the game look and feel as real as possible. Even with added elements like the Zombie Outbreak levels (which I find hard believing were in the original), the graphics keep the entire game grounded. From being able to choose different styles of detailed helicopters to how the backgrounds looked, everything had a bit of research put into it, and it’s paid off.

The one area that does fall by the wayside for myself is the menu design system. Either not properly tested, or done for a reason I can’t put any of my fingers on, every menu is incredibly sensitive to a slight knock from the controller, allowing you to be clicking on things you didn’t even mean to. Add that to an awkward layout and tiny text and I found myself just mashing through the buttons trying to get into the mission I was supposed to be in. This could be a personal issue, but what is it with developers and their minuscule text these days? After playing on an old, 15” square plasma, I thought it was just my screen, but since moving into a house and having the joy of playing on a large, 32” wide screen HD TV, I still find myself scooching up to the TV to read anything the game is telling me via text. You’d think there was a budget on font sizes.

Choplifter HD - Swoop

Rocket fire, bullets and enemies all look standard, with nothing to make them stand out, but the style of the game, aiming mainly for interesting backgrounds, as that’s what you’re looking at most of the time, they fit. Whilst the small issues with the game are only small, there’s enough of them to be apparent, and not just go unnoticed, or let slip. However the actual in game graphics are nice, and allow you to forget about these problems whilst actually playing, just to be brought back to hell a little bit later. Annoying for some, a non-issue for others.

Whilst not much is known about the music behind the game, as is the norm for most small titles, it focuses mainly on its effects rather than actual music. With regular yelling from both enemies, friends and zombies alike, the game can get rather confusing. One point I had both a team mate shouting sarcastic comments at me because I hit a mountain, civilians telling me to rescue them whilst enemies yelled at me with added gunfire.

A bit of a mess, and hard to follow at some points, but it all simulates reality. Throughout this mush up of sound coming from all directions I had to keep a clear head and prioritise the best actions to take. Whilst no musical score written by a famous composer, I felt immersed in a world, and that takes a lot to achieve, but with the menu being bog standard filler music, not really setting a right or wrong scene, it’s an area of the game that comes with a resounding ‘meh’. A place where a lot of games fall down and Choplifter HD certainly casts its lot in with the rest.

Whoever taught you how to fly a helicopter should be fired immediately and replaced with Barney The Dinosaur. The games 2D mechanic allows for some interesting, sidescrolling gameplay, controlling the helicopter to go forwards, backwards, up and down, as well as turning 90 degree angles with LB and RB to attack what’s raining down pain from rooftops on the edges of the screen. Using the left analogue stick to move, the right one, when pointed in a direction, gives you an aiming line to target enemies and unleash fire. Foot soldier’s go down with a single bullet usually, however tanks and turrets take a little more fire power to dispose of. Fire for too long and your gun will overheat, leaving you defenceless. Fly too far and you’ll run out of fuel, which is an automatic game over.

Choplifter HD - Snowy

Whilst the beginning missions are bog standard drop and collect, challenges kick in when you have to pick up injured passengers. If you don’t get back to base in time, or get them to a hospital, they die. Using any of the A, B, X and Y buttons allows you to boost through the course, at the price of almost double the usual fuel, but it may save the person’s life. Most stages have fuel points scattered around for a refill, otherwise you’ll have to be clever, and not waste unnecessary fuel. Sometimes you’ll be asked to defend a building or certain point from enemies or (usually) zombie waves, which can prove difficult. Sitting on the ground leaves you vulnerable to the many that will break through your gun fire, whereas hovering around quickly drains your fuel, depending on the amount of enemies, proving to be real challenges.

And now for where the game really goes to the dogs. I was already feeling the effects of early onset boredom after completing the Tutorial stages. Whilst the game is fun, provides a challenge at certain points and has an enjoyable level of gameplay, it is incredibly repetitive. Once you’ve done one or two stages, you quickly find yourself repeating the same thing mission in, mission out, with one or two added height threats to prevent you taping the left analogue stick down in one direction. Once you’ve figured out which enemies aren’t a threat and you can just fly past them as they’re all stationary, the levels become incredibly tedious. With no sign of achievements (maybe I was just really bad…) and the only thing to look forward to upon completion is playing the same levels again, it didn’t take much to convince me it was time to move onto another game.

VERDICT: Ever had one of those ideas that was great, but just never quite hit the mark? That’s what Choplifter HD is. A brilliant idea, with some fantastic, engaging elements to it, but ultimately it’s a 2D sidescroller that we’ve seen time and time again that doesn’t really push the genre, or attempts to, with the awkward aiming and interesting defence challenges; it simply falls by the wayside.

The game, whilst solid in places, feels like it was unfinished, as though the team got the mechanics down, then realised they had to make levels for these mechanics to work on. Whilst the first few levels feel exciting and engaging, there just wasn’t enough to keep me hooked, quickly repeating similar looking levels with similar challenges. The difficulty curve was almost non-existent, and felt like it was attempting to baby you with constant tips and sarcastic commentary the second you did something wrong. For those of you in love with 2D side scrolling action, you’ll probably love this game no matter what, and others may find it good fun, but otherwise you may want to avoid it.

6 Out Of 10

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