The original Choplifter was a popular title back in the early days of gaming, popular enough in fact to appear on just about every system from the Apple II to the NES and even making an appearance in the arcade. Not having much exposure since the early 90’s, other than a couple of sequels that were made for handhelds, Konami and inXile Entertainment have brought the classic back to life, giving it the HD treatment that so many other games have gotten as of late, as well as adding a few bells and whistles that give it beautiful 2D/3D visuals, animations, and some extra charm across the board.
If you are one of the few who have never played the original game or one of the various incarnations, have no worries because if I had, it was so long ago that I don’t recall doing so. That said, The new 2D/3D side scrolling Choplifter has a basic premise to follow. You are a helicopter pilot and have varying missions that range from rescuing soldiers, escaping from war zones, and fending off…zombies. It’s not as dumb as it sounds. Honestly, it’s not.
Each helicopter you pilot is equipped with a machine gun on the front which aims with the right analog stick pointing a large red laser and missiles that home in on where ever the laser targets. Each chopper can hold a varying amount of missiles and the machine gun can only be fired in bursts, as continuous fire will cause it to overheat and knock out for a few seconds.
In each mission you and your helicopter gunner, a chatty fellow who will crack jokes which may or may not include “get to da choppa!” will fly over each war zone and look for the objectives displayed on the top status bar. Most of the time the objectives will be hostages that need to be picked up and brought back to the base, some with timers to add a little tension to the rescue, while other objectives include artillery or buildings that need to be destroyed, or soldiers protected. While flying to the left or right seems easy enough, there are three gauges that display your vital information; your helicopter’s health, fuel supply, and the level layout across the top, that help determine how you should handle each level and which objective you should tackle first.
In your journey of flying left and right across the screen, you are also given the ability to turn towards the screen, allowing you to shoot enemies that appear in the foreground, usually on rooftops. The enemies in the game are of course simple at first, a few ground soldiers that shoot pea guns at you, which quickly increases to enemies with rocket launchers, AA Guns, jeeps, tanks, jets, and even more, with the later stages ramping up the difficulty tenfold by tossing everything at you at once.
Choplifter HD is a game that is built around replayability. Within each of the 4 different chapters, there are multiple missions that allow you to earn up to 5 stars for each mission. The more stars you earn from killing enemies, saving hostages, finding hidden objectives- which includes an ego-maniacal news reporter, Scoop Sanderson in each and every mission- and keeping it all under a decent time limit, the more helicopters you can unlock that have better abilities than the default chopper that is used for the first time through each chapter.
Choplifter HD is a tough game as it gets further along, but make no mistake, it is still a fun game. It is a game that can be played in small bursts, a level or two at a time, or in long stretches, taking your time on levels, clearing out any and all enemies to make sure your passengers remain safe. The 1200 Points price tag might be a bit much for some, but the trials and content it provides is well worth it for those that love a challenge.
Title: Choplifter HD
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Release Date: January 10th 2012
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Game provided for review