After a long drought, helicopter fans have been rewarded with an embarrassment of riches, starting with Digital Integration's Apache and forthcoming Hind, and continuing with Janes' Longbow. Coming from Andy Hollis, the man who pioneered helicopter sims in Gunship, it should be no surprise that Longbow is a winner.
Longbow puts the Apache attack chopper through all its paces and then some, with numerous single missions, quick start custom flights, and historical missions drawn from the Gulf War and Panama, as well as two full campaigns. This is cutting-edge programming, featuring gorgeous graphics, good flight dynamics, a diverse mix of missions (escort, search and destroy, recon, etc.), and plenty of on-line resources (including an elaborate narrated, interactive tutorial). Ground and air threats are dynamic and fairly smart, and complaints on Usenet about targets not moving or responding correctly are unfounded. Numerous difficulty toggles allow you to take on as much or little accuracy as you want, with play ranging from as simple and arcade-like to as complex as it gets.
The difference between Apache and Longbow is the difference between the nimble featherweight and the hard-punching heavyweight. Apache features cleaner, more simple graphics that get good frame rates on mid-level systems, while Longbow pushes the limits, demanding beyond-state-of-the-art machinery to work well. Longbow has more chrome, more flourishes (such as cut-scene animations and extensive on-line resources), while Apache offers solid head-to-head play. Both flight models are good, though Apache's is more unforgiving. Longbow seems to tackle a more elaborate and complex range of instrumentation, and its tutorial is second to none.
Longbow is hard on your system, demanding a P-133 with 90 megs free on the hard drive, oodles of RAM, and a high-end graphics card for it to really work well. It is also shipped with a problem: the video drivers were written to Sci-Tech's Univesa, but Sci-Tech pulled the plug and refused to allow their driver to ship on the disk. Ergo, you'll have to dig up a copy of Univesa (try other games like U.S. Navy Fighters, or check out our Longbow download page), or it just won't work right. This has caused massive problems for many.
People with less than a hot rod system will miss a lot of Longbow's virtues, and head-to-head fans will be disappointed with its lack of modem features. Regardless, it's a fabulous piece of work, full of attention to detail and countless features. No serious sim fan with the right hardware should miss it.