Get to the choppa!

A big trend in gaming recently has been “what is old is new again” as we’ve been seeing a lot of classic franchises get HD remakes to fit in new levels, modes, and whatever else they couldn’t the first time around on top of a new coat of HD paint. Well, Konami and inXile Entertainment have gone a bit further by digging up a game from a by gone era that many modern gamers may not have even been born for, never mind missed playing it the first time around.

Choplifter HD is the spiritual sequel to the early 1980s Apple II, Atari 5200, and arcade game, Choplifter. In this game, you play a helicopter pilot and must save stranded soldiers and civilians from various opposing military forces as quickly as possible by clearing the area of enemy soldiers and touching down on the ground to pick them up before returning them to your base. In this sense, the main purpose of this remake is still very true to the original. But, aside from just rescue missions, there is a lot more here that proves this a far cry from the original Choplifter of 30 years ago.

Securing a hospital and staving off a zombie invasion (yes, there are zombies, much like in every other game out there), destroying a dozen AA turrets to clear a path for your forces’ military jets, or just hightailing it out of there in a mad dash to the finish line with a dozen soldiers in tow definitely deviates from the original game’s simple, fly along a straight line, arcade style and provides the mission variety that you need to have nowadays to try to keep people interested. Unfortunately, even this unique mission variety can get dull as the game does start to repeat itself well before you complete all 30 missions that will be available to you. If you’re like me, by the time you make it through the first of the game’s three major campaigns (not including the obligatory tutorial campaign), you’ll find yourself tiring of how the game really just ups the difficulty by throwing more enemy soldiers in your path, no matter what the objective may be.

Another interesting new element added to the game is how you can rotate the chopper with the bumper buttons to attack enemies now stationed in the foreground. This added depth of field, taking advantage of modern processing power, makes it sometimes difficult to tell if an enemy on the ground, as you of course spend most of your time in the air, is in the foreground or the main ground though. And when you combine this with a poor control layout as you try to fly, aim, change perspective, and fire all at the same time, there is almost too much going on at once.

Aside from your 30 campaign missions, the game does offer some limited replay-ability as you can unlock a dozen or so different helicopters, all with different weapons strengths, top speeds, and person carrying capacity. And going back and replaying a level with a new chopper can help you climb the online high score leaderboards. After all, it wouldn’t be an arcade classic if it didn’t have high scores. The game also features some solid visuals worthy of a modern console with a bright color palette and fun and entertaining banter between the pilot and co-pilot to help keep you entertained and break up what will become the monotonous task of rescuing downed soldiers.

When all is said and done, for $15 (1200 MSP), this isn’t a bad game, but it is not spectacular either. Choplifter HD fits into the mold of classic arcade games of the 1980s and much in that vein, can become tedious and repetitive if played for long periods of time, especially considering there is a good amount of length here for the price tag. But if you’re looking for just 15-20 minutes to kill at a time between now and when some more AAA titles begin to drop, this might be a decent distraction as it can provide some old-school arcade style fun in short bursts.

SUMMARY: The fun of this arcade classic remake fades quickly as repetition leads to boredom, but its unique objectives might make it worth looking into if you have some time to kill and cash to burn.

  • THE GOOD: An old-school arcade game brought back to life in an entertaining way
  • THE BAD: Repetitive missions can cause the experience to become boring quickly
  • THE UGLY: The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder you’ll develop if you leave too many men behind

SCORE: 6.5

Choplifter HD is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), and PC (Steam). Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.