Couldn't hurt a fly

Gunship 1 logo

HELICOPTERS are not flown like aeroplanes. This is why choppers have their wings on the roof, spinning around at 280 rpm. The angle at which the blades hit the air - known as the collective - controls the amount of lift. By using the joystick you control the overall tilt of the rotor blades - the cyclic - and this moves the 'copter forwards, backwards, left and right.

This is made easier on the Amiga by having an overlay which reminds you of the controls needed. Then there are all the weapons to control and select, because not only are you expected to fly the thing without crashing, but you have to shoot lots of people at the same time.

Before you climb into your $8m dollar chopper you select your duty assignment and determine the level of difficulty by specifying weather conditions and troop strengths.

After a short briefing you can decide whether or not you want to be chicken and call in sick. If you choose to accept the mission, you have the opportunity to become a hero, earn medals and probably get killed in action.

Start the engine, engage the rotors, increase the collective, put out the cat and cross your fingers.

After checking the map you can select your target and head off in the right direction. You have the usual split cockpit display with slightly more than half the screen taken up with dials and warning indicators.

The view out of the window is a solid 3D display, but not to the standards we Amigans.

For a computer with such capabilities the landscape is bland and slow. Enemy planes are simple prisms which move casually past you. All in all it is very disappointing.

The manual, on the other hand, goes well beyond the call of duty with details about everything and anything.

Four battle scenarios and a training mission are supplied. These tastefully chosen warzones range from shooting communist guerrillas in South East Asia to invading Grenada all over again.

Sound effects are satisfactory helicopter-type noises and simple biffs and bangs whenever things explode. The opening-credits are well worth seeing and hearing - look out for them next time you are in a shop. And give a good test before parting with your money because my review copy, which by all accounts was a full release version, crashed several times.

As for realism, well I have never flown a helicopter, so apart from the crashes I cannot be sure. Everything seems to be sensibly done, but after playing Gunship for a while I have no urge to actually go out and fly a helicopter.

Gunship 1 logo

Microprose £24.95 joystick and keyboard

If 'cyclic' and 'collective' mean absolutely nothing, then the chances are you have never pitted your wits against a helicopter flight sim. In a real helicopter the pilot uses two joysticks: the cyclic, which controls the pitch and roll of the aircraft, and the collective, which controls the angle of attack of the rotor blades, so governing the lift.

In Gunship - a simulation of the American AH 64A Apache helicopter - the player uses a joystick to control the cyclic and the keyboard to control the collective. There are a number of missions to attempt, set in various parts of the world and with different divisions of the American air force. As with most games of this nature, diving straight into missions is not a good idea until you have put in some flight practice and can handle the 'copter confidently despite the weather. Fortunately you can swing things slightly in your favour while training: for example, by making crash-landings impossible or minimising cross-winds.

Once you are competent, it is time to attempt a mission with a difficulty level equal to your ability. You have a whole range of weapons to choose from, including guide anti-tank Hellfire missiles, FFAR rockets and a 30mm chain gun. The cockpit is equipped with all the latest gadgetry including TADS (Target Acquisition and Designation System) and radar and infra-red warnings and jammers.

Missions usually feature both primary and secondary objectives, so if your 'copter is not shot to pieces on the first, you can go for the second. The Apache is lightly armoured, so can take a little flak without crashing into the bush, but it is still vulnerable, so it is always advisable to land at base for repairs if things start to look bad. Should you complete a mission successfully, the chances are you will be awarded a medal and maybe promoted.

Gunship has plenty going for it: the missions are numerous and varied and it is high on lasting interest. The politics are dodgy, but if you are not worried about zapping gooks you will find the game entertaining, challenging and packed with action.

Sound is disappointing: the attack helicopter sounds more like a diesel bus struggling up a one-in-four than the real thing, and explosions are not outstanding. The graphics are fast and smooth, though, and are certainly very colourful. Take the plunge, set everything on 'realistic' and volunteer for some of the more hazardous missions, and you will find that Gunship is action-packed enough to keep you coming back for months.

Gunship 1 logo CU Amiga Screen Star


Even with all your F16s and Falcons or Interceptors, to my mind, there has been no flight simulator that has even come close to Gunship. less reliant on having dozens of attractive graphics and lots of exterior views, and more reliant on having realistic action, Gunship on the 64 has much more in the way of atmosphere and excitement than any Amiga flight sim to date. Until now.

Gunship is now available, after months of waiting, even after ST and PC versions were released, on the Amiga. At last owners of Mr Commodore's 16 bit dream machine have the chance to take an AH-64 Apache up for a spin over five different war zones and through an infinite amount of missions.

The world outside your 'copter is viewed in first person perspective, as usual, and that is how it stays. There are no outside views, there are no missile-eye views. There are no zoom facilities. There is not even a chase plane option. But that is a much more sensible way to generate atmosphere. It is a bit hard to believe in a flight simulator if you are pouncing around outside your plane, zooming in and out, not really flying. In Gunship, you are restricted to three views: look forward, look left and right, and that is the way it should be. After all there are not external views on a real chopper, are there?

This flight sim is fun. The controls are a little sluggish, but I get the feeling that is how they are supposed to handle; after all, this is a low-level combat chopper, not a Fiat Uno.

The graphics are great. The clever use of shading mixed with filled vectors gives the game a very solid feel, especially where the enemy craft is concerned. Tanks look like tanks, AA guns look like real AA guns, small frightened people look like real frightened people.

The design of the game is identical in every detail to the 64 version, right down to the loading sequence. The missions follow along the same lines, the five areas you fly over are identical.

What you have here is the same brilliant game, but adapted to suit an Amiga, with better sound, graphics and playability. So who can complain?

Gunship 1 logo

Microprose, Amiga £24.95

The AH-64 Apache returns following a highly successful tour of duty on the 64.
Using four set locations around the world Gunship recreates the Apache's role as an anti-tank/ ground attack helicopter engaging hostile ground forces and bases.

Building up from rookie training missions in the USA, things can really hot up in the South East Asia, the Middle East, or the main battlezone - Central Europe. By arming up with Hellfires, FFAR rockets the Apache wreaks havoc wherever it goes. Tanks, SAMs, infantry, bases anti-aircraft guns and hind helicopters provide for cannon fodder and any lucky pilot can start to rise through the ranks from rookie Sergeant to veteran Colonel.

Phil King Piloting a helicopter isn't the easiest of tasks (just ask Mike Smith) and in this sense Gunship is realistic. Flight sim fans will definitely enjoy getting to grips with the large array of controls and instruments, and the challenging combat should provide hours of absorbing fun. Technically though, Gunship is disappointing - the 3-D graphics are slow to update and sound consists of average effects.
Robin Hogg While the speed of the game is adequate, the frame update lags behind and the sound effects are not satisfyingly raw or powerful as they could have been. Of course, Gunship has massive long-term appeal and lasting interest. On the simulation front, it provides more than enough challenge for simulation fans. Saying that, I personally was expecting more than just a ported across ST game.