Hellfire from Astraware is a helicopter combat action game, similar in gameplay to the Megadrive classics Jungle, Desert and Urban Strike games. You could also compare it to the more recent iPhone Blue Skies. Where it differs from those games, is that it’s all rendered in a full 3D environment.
People expecting a helicopter simulation are barking up the wrong tree, this is purely arcade style action. Because of this, and to keep it enjoyable, the controls of the helicopter are simple with tilt control motion for forward, back, left and right; two buttons for firing and weapon selection; and a slider that controls your crafts altitude. The helicopter will automatically hug the contours of the terrain while in motion, with your altitude limited to a few hundred feet. So apart from taking off, landing and avoiding the odd tree or building in your path, you won’t be using the altitude slider too often.
In the campaign mode you’ll be involved in various missions around the world. These are made up of number of objectives requiring you to destroying enemy aircraft, battleships, bunkers and picking up CIA operatives and dropping them back home. Each mission begins with a briefing which is presented with a google earth style zoom into the mission location, and an outline of your key objectives before launching you into the war zone.
Overall, the levels are pretty enjoyable with you shooting up buildings, gun turrets and engaging with enemy gun ships. There’s an auto lock feature, so as long as you are pointing in the right direction you’ll score a hit. You can select from two choppers: what looks like an American AH-64 Apache and a Russian Mil Mi-24 (I may be wrong!). There are three weapon types for each chopper, a standard 30mm AWS machine gun, Hydra missiles and AGM ‘Hellfire’ missiles for the Apache… and GHS-23, Rockets, and Swatter missiles for the Mi-24. It’s best to try and take down enemies with the machine gun first, and use missiles for last resort tactics. If you get hit, your health percentage at the top of the screen is reduced, and if it reaches zero you crash to the ground. If you hit objects, such as trees, your health will also take hit, but unless you are looking at your health read out you won’t necessarily know, because apart from coming to a complete stop, there is no feeling of damage to your chopper. If the chopper reacted to damage through reduced accuracy and controls, it would feel more immersive.
The graphics of the game look good. It’s created by the same team as GTS world racing and while the terrain looks great as it did in GTS, the chopper models are pre-rendered and feel a little stuck on, and not part of the game world which is low poly. I’m not sure why they chose this route, as I would have preferred a full 3D model… even if it was less detailed. This would allow for full damage to the choppers, better interaction with the scenery and would make the game more believable. I have to say that the best aspect visually are the skies which are photo real. Overall it has a blocky N64 look about it, but it runs smoothly for the most part and there is a good sense of speed when flying low over ground.
Presentation and graphics
A little rough around the edges here and there, but overall it runs smooth and looks good. I’d prefer Astraware to make a decision on either rendered or pre-rendered and avoid using a mix.
The music in the main menu has an action movie quality to it, like something ripped from the A-team or a Van Damn flick. The weapon effects sound great but the constant whirl of the helicopter can get annoying, and there’s no music in game to drown it out. You can play your iPod while playing though!
Controls work well, and it’s fun just roaming around blowing shit up, even if it is a bit short lived!
There are 16 missions in all across four difficulty levels of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and Colonel. The difficulty levels definitely add a greater challenge, but the missions themselves can get a bit same-y.
A good effort from Astraware, but with a bit more spit and polish, this could be far shinier action game. Hellfire is available now for the sale price of $2.99.