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Just a Peek - Chopper Twins: Enemy Engaged

by

- April 12th, 2006

Piloting aircraft has always been a dream of mine. Thus far I've taken the control of several small planes (all with the permission and under the watchful eye of the real pilot), had a go in an F-16 simulator, and recently tried my hand at hang gliding (it was a tandem flight, but I did get to take control for a bit).

Flying real aircraft is costly however, even learning to hang glide can cost you several hundred dollars, and unless you are well heeled, you likely won't get into the cockpit of any of the more exotic flying machines. So, for most of us, using a flight simulator is the way to go.

I've always gotten a huge kick out of flight simulators; I've bought a flight sim on whatever computer system I was running at the time, from my TRS-80 to the 8-bit and 16-bit Ataris. I remember loading up airplane sims that featured rough, wireframe graphics with frame rates that ticked me through takeoffs and landings, and I was amazed at the sense of realism the sim imparted. Of course, back then that realism was equally fueled by a healthy dose of imagination as much as pixel manipulation. As much fun as those old simulators were, I never did find a really good helicopter sim.

Copter sims are different animals than airplane sims in that, like its real world counterpart, a helicopter requires a bit more active participation by the pilot than an airplane. Zipping along at 200 feet above the deck is about the same experience in a copter and an airplane, but a plane can't stop in mid air, dodge an incoming rocket with a sideways slide, launch a Hellfire while drifting backwards, or turn on a dime and skedaddle if needs be. A good chopper sim lets you do all of that and then some.

Even now, finding a good, inexpensive helicopter sim for the Mac is a challenge. Lucky for us, Feral Interactive has remedied this situation with its offering, Enemy Engaged (EE), which lets you pilot one of two (count 'em) of the world's most advance weapon systems; the RAH-66 Commanche and the KA-52 Hokum.

If that's got your interest piqued, read on.

Load up EE, grab a nice USB joystick (I use a Saitek Cyborg 3D Joystick), and get ready for some intense action. The only thing missing is the seat-of-the-pants vibrations one gets when flying a real chopper, but crank up the speaker volume and you can get close enough.

As is typical of most Feral Interactive games, EE has loads of options, letting you pick the type of copter and missions you want to fly. You can pick between single player and multi-player, the single player mode let's you fly solo skirmishes or campaigns in one of several theaters taken from the real world, while the multi-player mode lets you engage the enemy with up to 16 other players, either via a locally hosted session or through GameRanger. You can also adjust graphics, controls, and so on and so forth until you are blue in the face.

So, yes, you can fiddle and tweak just about every option, from weapons selection to cloud cover to visibility, but what really matters is the game play: Is it worth your hard earned dollar? Is it any fun?


EE desert action

I've been playing EE for a few months and I can tell that it is a lot of fun, once you get past the fairly steep learning curve.

Newbies may get put off by the sheer volume of options and choice and required knowledge needed just to get airborne. The Situation Map, for instance, gives a commander's view of a particular theater in which several mission may be progressing at any one time.

If you want to fly a skirmish, for example, you are presented with a fairly complex mission map, ground control and other radioed voices are squawking at you while cryptic icons flash status. Mouse over the icons and more information is flung at you; vehicle type and status, mission objectives and more all going on in real time.

It's like taking a high school grad, handing him a helicopter, and then depositing him in the middle of a war zone (sounds like what the Army did during the Viet Nam War, but I digress).  It can be very confusing and a bit intimidating if all you want to do is shoot down some bad guys.

Controlling your chopper is equally daunting; nearly every keyboard key has at least 2 control options assigned to them, many have 3. Trying to remember them all  while flying in formation and dodging enemy fire is tough; and it quickly makes you appreciate the skill and courage of real combat chopper pilots.

Still, if you take the time and go through the manual and included strategy guide, you'll be rewarded with game play that is as intense as it is fun.


Coming in over a tanker

It helps to use a joystick with good control options, like the Cyborg 3D. EE also supports controls systems that include foot pedals, which will greatly increase the sense of realism you'll get while flying missions.

The graphics in EE were convincing enough, even on my humble 800 MHz G4 iMac, to give the illusion of actually piloting a chopper, or, at least, a decent copter simulator. There was no jerkiness and only a few spots where the views outside the cockpit was less than stellar (when flying low over cities, for instance).  You'll also find that there are not a lot of  pixel-munching trees and other ground clutter, which does detract from the realism.

Still, the scenarios are in deserts, so ground clutter is not needed. Those of you with better machines will likely enjoy the full power of EE's graphic engine.


Through the cockit

At the end of the day I think you'll find that if you are looking for a really good helicopter simulator that's loaded with options, Feral Interactive's Enemy Engaged may be for you. Once you get around the steep learning curve you'll find that taking a Comanche or Hokum into a virtual battle is as intense as it realistic, and isn't that the whole point?

Review Item Enemy Engaged
Manufacturer Feral Interactive
Price

Street Price

US$29

US$18.99 (Amazon)

Minimum
Requirements
PowerPC G3 600mhz processor and Mac OS 10.2 or later
350 MB of free disk space to install
16mb graphic card memory
DVD drive

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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