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Comanche: Maximum Overkill

aka: Comanche: Operation White Lightning

Beautiful Graphics, Horrible Simulator

The Good
Comanche's Voxel Space graphics engine was revolutionary at the time of its debut in 1992. Coded largely with "386/486 flat mode assembly programming," it provided incredibly realistic terrain at high frame rates even on a 66MHz computer. The smooth, textured landscapes had to be seen to be believed, and were reason enough to play the game.

Sound and music were very good for their time. There was a healthy variety of camera views and weapons, including rockets, Stinger and Hellfire missiles, a rotary cannon and even an artillery mode where your target's coordinates were uploaded to ground forces which promptly destroyed everything within a hundred yard radius. You could also command your wingman to attack a designated target.

The Bad
Comanche often feels like a graphic showcase with a helicopter game slapped hastily on top. Though the back of the box proclaims it to be "The most realistic helicopter combat simulation ever made," it's probably one of the least realistic, and can't honestly be called a simulation. The game lacks any semblance of a physics engine, and the AI is so horrendous as to be practically nonexistent. Enemy helicopters smash into you with abandon, then fly away as though they never saw you. Missiles double-back on themselves and wind around steep cliff walls. Mobile SAM launchers speed through narrow canyons like Ferraris and never seem to run out of ammo.

All these idiosyncrasies are generally funny, but at times very frustrating. Though you cannot target enemies outside of visual range, they can apparently detect you through solid mountains and will launch scores of missiles at you with uncanny accuracy. Your wingman is a complete waste of space, unable to attack anything without your specific direction. Your missiles always seek the currently selected target, so if you keep changing targets they'll wander all over the map. Even more absurd, if you target your wingman and order him to fire a missile, it will double-back and destroy him!

The campaign missions are very repetitive - you must basically kill anything that moves, which typically means about a dozen helicopters and as many tanks. The terrains and times vary, but otherwise you're playing the same mission over and over. Gameplay usually devolves into button mashing as you try to shoot down enemy helicopters before they crash into you.

The Bottom Line
Comanche is a fun shoot-em-up, but should not be mistaken for a simulator. It has beautiful Voxel graphics and fast-action gameplay, but the pre-school physics and laughable AI ultimately place it in the arcade shooter category. Apache and Gunship 2000 provide a much more satisfying simulation experience, albeit without the fancy graphics.

by SiliconClassics (861) on July 23rd, 2007

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