Choplifter HD Review
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On 01/18/2012 at 12:00 PM by Mike Wall
This is one series that may have been better off in the past. Click through to see our first video review!
Choplifter HD is nothing if not true to its name; the game is essentially a dolled up version of 1982’s Choplifter, offering few innovations besides the modest graphical paint job. It’s a return to the 80’s – in the same sense of a Corey Feldman movie marathon – it’s shallow, devoid of humor, and awkward. Hardcore fans of the series might be pleased to see such a devout remake, but newcomers will be less than satisfied with the outdated mechanics.
Choplifter HD’s premise is basic: fly a helicopter to save wounded allies and avoid enemies. Pilots will also have to manage their fuel intake, account for passenger capacity, and of course protect their chopper from incoming fire. While Choplifter HD is unoriginal in its premise, the controls are rather unusual. Unlike other agile 2D side-scrollers, Choplifter HD is clunky due to the momentum and weight of the helicopters. The slow moving choppers not only serve to be an annoyance, but become seriously problematic when matched against the ever escalating difficulty present in the later levels. Fans of the series will be pleased to see a return to foreground combat, in which players can use the right/left bumpers to turn into the foreground to take on additional opponents, adding another layer to aerial bouts. Unfortunately the field of vision is not taken back far enough to support this foreground combat, often making it difficult to see enemies and objectives.
The combat in itself can be somewhat thrilling as players will be able to use both a mounted machine gun and rockets to decimate their foes. The machine gun in particular is a pleasure as players will use the right analog stick to line up their shots via laser scope. The rockets while visually appealing can be rather bothersome to line up as the auto-aim often forces the rockets to crash into undesirable targets.
The diverse array of enemy opposition is actually one of the highlights of Choplifter HD. Every time the player feels they have gotten the hang of dealing with one unit a new terrifying one is introduced. Unfortunately Choplifter HD doesn’t understand that less is sometimes more, as the game continues to add enemies at an exponential rate. From levels 10 and up the player is pitted against such a condensed focus of enemy fire they are left with only two options: to either pitifully crawl through the level as they take out the opposing threats from a safe distance, or opt to ignore the opposition all together, simply flying through the level as fast as possible.
The real problem with Choplifter HD lies in its inability to tie these elements together effectively. Each element implemented in Choplifter HD contradicts the last: from the timed rescued events to the enemy polluted levels, this game creates a despairingly large gap between engaging the enemy opponents while finishing the level quickly. At first this dichotomy serves to ramp up the difficulty which leads to some interesting sequences, but in latter levels it only serves to dilute the action.
If the gameplay is not insufferable enough, the repetitious level design is sure to drive you over the edge. Choplifter HD attempts to create the facade of diversity by using different threats that range from simple foreign disasters, to terrorists, and my personal favorite zombie attacks. At the core of it all it is really the same thing: travel to the end of the level pick up the wounded and bring them back. Occasionally the game will switch things up. There are missions where the goal is to escape an attack, but all this really entails is hightailing to the other end as fast as you can – which is what Choplifter HD basically boils down to anyways.
Oh and let's not forget the pertinent failed attempts to create humor. Your sociopathic copilot, the narcissistic news anchor, and the countless mindless meat-sacks that you pick up will all attempt to cultivate some sense of witticism and fail miserably in the process. In One particular level the pilot goes on to make Arnold Schwarzenegger references. Well in actuality I shouldn’t say references because that would imply that that the jokes changed. No instead he opts to spew out his mouth “get to the chopper!” for ten minutes straight; this is just some of the original witty banter that awaits you.
Choplifter HD is a mildly interesting 80’s throwback at its best and a masochistic headache at its worst. Old fans of the series may be happy to have another Choplifter title in their hands, but the truth is this game – just like the rest of the series – is stuck in the past. Everything from the old jokes to the uninspired combat system is outdated. Worst of all the series attempts to mask its shortcomings with an insane skill curve. While I can respect a game that provides a high level of difficulty, I cannot respect a game whose difficulty is not indicative of skill, but rather tentative play.