Chopper Attack (N64)
Chopper Attack is a port of the Japanese game Wild Choppers, which originally came out over there in late 1997. For the most part, Midway has left the North American version unchanged, except for greatly improving the control. Chopper Attack can best be likened to Electronic Art's classic "Strike" series. But you can bet that Chopper Attack won't even come close to achieving that status. Mature gamers looking for a realistic simulation will have to continue their wait.
The story is basically that a terrorist group is causing problems around the world by kidnapping Americans, stealing weaponry, and developing proprietary technologies. You're part of a special forces team who must stop and destroy this group. Because the group's main headquarters is located in deep canyons, you must use prototype choppers with powerful weapons to reach and take them out.
There are two modes of play in Chopper Attack: Mission and Free Battle. The Free Battle mode is essentially a practice mode in which you have lots of money to test out different weapons, participate in target practice, and learn how to maneuver your chopper. The Mission mode is an eight-level quest. You must complete each level before your chopper either runs out of fuel or you get killed.
Chopper Attack doesn't include much in the way of options. You can choose between the Left and Right control method, between the Normal and Expert levels of difficulty, and between turning the music and sound effects on or off. So what's the difference between the control methods? Well, in the original Japanese version, there was only the "Left" control method. That meant you flew forward, backward, left, right with the Control Pad while using the Control Stick to aim. Ouch! Thankfully, Midway insisted on adding a Turok-like "Right" control method before bringing the game to the U.S. So that means you use the C buttons to move and the Control Stick to aim. It can be difficult to aim precisely up and down, though. The Z button fires your standard Vulcan Cannon (you have an unlimited number of shots), the R button fires you special weapon (these are limited), the A and B buttons cycle between the special weapons, and the Control Pad changes the views. Finally, there is Rumble Pak support, but it's not anything special.
Before embarking on a mission, you can choose from one of eight choppers. They are rated in Speed, Armor Plating, Vulcan Power, Acceleration Capability, and Acrobatic Capability. (Press L on each one to view the ratings data.) Then you are briefed on your mission. Next you're shown the Area Map Data with pictures of what you have to destroy, how many enemies are lurking, and other intelligence. Lastly, before heading into battle, you must select and purchase weapons. Depending on what chopper you choose, you can carry anywhere from three to five special weapons. You can purchase various missiles (air-to-ground, air-to-air, homing), cluster bombs, countermeasures, and rockets. They can be purchased individually or in groups of ten. You only have so much money, so you can't buy everything.
After each mission, you get extra money depending on how many weapons you have left, how much fuel you have remaining, how many enemies you destroyed, how much of your shield is gone, and how the POW situation is. Money -- along with shield repairs, fuel tanks, gun power, and explosive traps -- can be picked up in battle, too. Destroy enemy land facilities to expose these power-ups. Then you must fly over the power-up so it makes contact with the chopper as it bounces upward.
All eight of the missions in Chopper Attack have different tasks to complete. For example, one mission has you destroying enemy radar, another has you rescuing POWs, and yet another has you protecting the President's plane. Throughout the missions, there are plenty of enemies to contend with. However, the remaining enemies you did not destroy on the previous stage will be carried over to the next stage! Now all of this sounds pretty good in theory, right? Indeed it does. Unfortunately, Chopper Attack doesn't execute on all levels as well as it should.
First of all, the game is very much arcade-action with very little simulation. Your goal on nearly every stage is basically to blow everything up. And although there are some varied mission objectives, the game often comes back to having you destroy certain things. Second, not only does the gameplay get repetitive but so do the surroundings. Chopper Attack uses kind of an angled-down perspective. So basically on each stage, there's a confined, squared area from which you can fly all around. The levels are all similar looking, with basic palette swaps and raised areas in different places. Third, in line with the action rather than simulation nature of the game, your job is basically just to shoot. Your really can't change the altitude of your chopper very much; the game automatically raises your height to go over mountains. You also have no control over your speed. The game feels too slow for starters, and you can only go two speeds: normal or stop/hover.
Graphically, Chopper Attack very much looks like a first-generation game. The choppers are modeled pretty well, but the landscapes are dull and the rest of the graphics aren't very detailed. There's also quite a bit of fog in the horizon to cover the pop-up, which is kind of perplexing because there doesn't seem to be that much on the screen at one time as it is. There is even an occasional problem with slowdown. You'll also notice an extreme lack of textures. On the plus side, some of the explosions are pretty cool, considering nearly everything can be blown up.
When I first turned on Chopper Attack, I thought the sound might be pretty impressive. The music at the title screen was fine and had great stereo separation. Well, I was wrong. The in-game music fits, for the most part, but the problem is that it loops and gets repetitive (and annoying) very quickly! Sounds effects are also very weak. The music, in this case, drowns out the sound effects. Some beefier explosion sounds would have helped a lot. You'll also notice a fair amount of voice in the game. There are different in-combat voices for the male and females pilots, along with some quirky comments from your captain. I get the feeling many of the comments are what the Japanese development team thinks Americans talk like. You'll hear comments such as "Are we gonna party tonight?" and "Be a wild man." and "What are you, yellow?"
Chopper Attack tries hard to fill a niche, but it comes off as a simple, boring, average game with hardly any replay value. I just don't think the game is fun. You may, however, somewhat enjoy the game. So make sure you give it a shot, because your country needs you.
Graphics: 5 out of 10
Sound: 4.8 out of 10
Control: 6.8 out of 10
Gameplay: 5 out of 10
Replay Value: 3 out of 10
Overall: 5 out of 10