While big budget AAA titles often get the most recognition in the gaming industry, games that offer classic gameplay with modern sensibilities have found a comfortable niche as downloadable titles. Choplifter HD, a spiritual sequel to the original 1981 Choplifter, is the most recent and one of the most satisfying downloads available today.
Choplifter HD is based on a simple premise. As a helicopter pilot you are tasked with flying into dangerous environments to rescue civilians and battle any enemies that cross your path. Controls are suitable for this style of gameplay offering a comfortable balance of responsive flight and the floaty feel of a helicopter. The right stick combined with the L2 and R2 buttons fire your weapons and the face buttons activate your boost. The real challenge from Choplifter HD comes from the proper use of the L1 and R1 buttons. The entire game takes place in a 2D environment, but enemies can appear in the foreground as well. The L1 and R1 buttons turn the chopper 90 degrees so a player can battle these foreground enemies and turn their chopper around after rescuing civilians. While early stages may seem relatively easy, battling groups of enemies firing RPG’s and homing rockets from the main stage and the foreground can get ruthlessly challenging. Fleeing is always an option in Choplifter HD, but earning 5 star rankings on each stage will only be achieved by players who can comfortably balance rescue and battle.
Rescuing civilians may sound like an easy task, but it is much more difficult than I ever expected. Most civilians are located in hot zones surrounded by dozens of enemies trying to destroy the players chopper. A few seconds of careful flying coupled with some well placed missiles are more than enough to clear out most hot zones, but one must be careful to not kill any civilians in the process. Once the battlefield is finally clear, a player has to carefully lad his chopper and wait for the civilians to board. Some civilians who require medical attention appear with a timer above them and must be brought back to base before the timer expires. Running into obstacles, getting hit with rockets, or even landing too hard will kill civilians who are seated in your chopper, so a bit of finesse is required to bring everyone home safely.
Some may be put off by the difficulty of balancing rescue and combat, but I felt the difficulty was fair. Most choppers can take a decent bit of damage but the fragility of the civilians I was trying to rescue always kept me on my toes. In combat I also had a bit of trouble aiming and firing my weapons while dodging missiles and bullets, but that was due to my rough flying skills as opposed to the difficulty of the game itself. One early level I kept coming back to had me battling hordes of zombies who thankfully had not learned to fire those pesky RPG’s. Let me say this again…..I was battling zombies from a helicopter. AWESOME!
For $15 there is plenty of fun to be had with Choplifter HD. Earning 5 stars on a level is challenging and satisfying. Choplifter HD will also support DLC with a pack of choppers being offered for free shortly after release. Choplifter HD is available for 1200 Microsoft points on Xbox Live or for $14.99 on PSN.
4 out of 5 Stars