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Choplifter HD Review

One of my favorite classic games on the old Atari, Choplifter finally got its long-overdue sequel in Choplifter HD. What I first thought was going to be another undercooked franchise reboot turned out to be something special. It’s a well-done mishmash of old-school and modern game design that rewards players who take the time to understand the complexities of the game. It can be hair-pulling difficult (requiring multiple retries) yet it’s fun and addictive nature had me playing for hours on end, trying to unlock everything in the game as well as perfect my run-through of each level.

Choplifter HD casts players as an ace pilot who is put into different missions where he must pick up injured soldiers and civilians with various attack choppers. While the original game was more of a defensive game, Choplifter HD gives players a large variety of firepower to help with their missions. On the surface, the game may look like a traditional 2D shoot-em-up, but Choplifter HD actually adds depth to it’s gameplay by allowing players to face the foreground in order to perform actions like dodge missiles, attack enemies in the foreground, as well as the ever helpful quick turn. Later levels become an exercise in hand-eye coordination with players switching their aim from left to right to foreground in order to survive.

Players will go on over 30+ missions that have them going on rescue, attack, and escape missions all over the world. In rescue, players have to traverse the level and save the pockets of injured or stranded civilians and bring them back to safety. Attack levels have players flying their deadly attack choppers into enemy territory and basically destroying everything that opposes him/her all while picking up civilians and bringing them back to the base. Finally, there’s the escape missions that require players to go from one end of the level to the other through overwhelming enemy forces with no refuel or repair stations that are usually scattered over other levels.

Hell, there are even zombie missions that have players either blasting away hundreds of zombies or saving civilians from becoming an undead delicacy. Scoring is based on the player meeting certain performance criteria throughout the level. These include time, enemy soldiers killed, vehicles destroyed, animals killed, hidden objects found and civilian rescued. Beware though as the majority of points are deducted when civilians are killed. The more stars players achieve at the end of the level, the easier it becomes to unlock new choppers, upgrades, and levels. I really loved the fact that I was advancing even though I kept replaying some levels as I was always unlocking something new each time.

While gameplay is varied and fun, I did have issues with some of the more difficult levels as there were no mid-level checkpoints or save function. Once a player dies,they have to restart the entire level. This proves to be quite annoying during longer missions with multiple objectives.  Also, I was quite surprised at the sudden increase in difficulty during the first campaign; what started out with me fighting guys with RPG’s ended up with battles with AA guns and heat-seeking missle launchers. Not to mention the deadly tanks, fighter jets, mortar crews and other enemy types that players will meet over the course of the campaigns. Needless to say, it was an eye-opener. Oh yeah, and a number of the escape missions were  insanely difficult; some of the levels I had to replay at least six to ten times just to get the highest score possible (or survive).

Because of the score-based mission setup, I found myself playing certain levels over and over to get the coveted five stars and beat others scores on the online leaderboard. It reminded me of getting addicted to, and playing Geometry Wars, Strikers 1945, R-type, and Tetris, trying to best other people’s scores online. Definitely a big plus for old-school gamers who grew up playing in the arcades.

TECHNICAL PRESENTATION

AUDIO – One of the weaker parts of the overall package. While the game has some really funny dialogue, the voice-overs are quite weak and hammy. Though I did appreciate the sound effects like explosions, gun fire, and of course the various chopper sounds. It felt like each of the choppers had their own distinct sound. inXile Entertainment’s team must have an ear for details like that. The soundtrack wasn’t much to write home about, but overall the game’s audio presentation was okay.

GRAPHICS Choplifter HD’s visuals worked well as it immersed me in the game world. Yeah all the action was on the main 2D plane, yet it’s the war, or the zombie outbreak, or the destruction happnening in the background that really gets players believing that they’re part of the adventure. Also, the detail in the game’s environment and choppers were phenomenal. Water would ripple and make waves whenever the chopper would fly over, chickens and other animals would fly or run away in fright of the chopper, planes and other choppers on the aircraft carrier (which are intricately detailed) would move as they would in real life.

PROS:

  • Addictive, old-school gameplay
  • Seemingly unending unlockable levels, upgrades, choppers
  • High level of detail
  • High replaybility
  • Genuinely funny
  • Awesome game crossover cameos
CONS:
  • No mid-mission saves or checkpoints
  • Sudden increase in difficulty
  • Screen can get too busy/hard to focus on chopper
  • Escape Missions
  • Unstable civilian AI

FINAL THOUGHTS:

inXile Entertainment hit the bullseye with Choplifter HD. Its combination of old-school with modern gameplay design, along with an amazing level of detail and unlocks make for a great downloadable game. Sure there’s a number of hiccups like having no checkpoints or mid-level save and the escape missions, but those are few and far between. Players who don’t often purchase games from the PlayStation Store or Xbox Live Arcade may want to start by getting Choplifter HD.

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About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming. http://jtmgames.com/

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful blogs online. I most certainly will recommend this site!

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