See it in Action
Even though we first previewed Comanche 4 two months ago, a lot of the game has since changed. Originally, Comanche 4 was supposed to be an action-oriented helicopter game reminiscent of NovaLogic's very first Comanche game--that is, heavy on fun but light on simulation. Things change, however, and when NovaLogic dropped by our offices a few days ago, the build of Comanche 4 that we saw was markedly different from the one that we played only a few weeks prior. Thankfully, in the case of Comanche 4, things changed for the better. The overwhelming attitude at NovaLogic is a simple one: "We cannot ignore our sim fans." NovaLogic is a company that has spent well over a decade dedicating itself to the creation of military simulator games, and while most of these games were never considered to be hard-core simulations, they were all grounded on realism. As such, the decision was made to make Comanche 4 appeal to NovaLogic's original audience.
The game's difficulty will now be completely scalable to accommodate as broad an audience as possible, much like that of Comanche Gold. This interface, which will most likely be accessible from the options menu, is still incomplete, but it will most likely make use of various slider bars that'll let you tailor Comanche 4's realism to your liking. At the lowest difficulty setting, you'll be able to control the Comanche using the standard WASD keys that most first-person shooters rely on; your chopper will be able to sustain an inordinate amount of damage; and you'll have the benefit of an autopilot feature that will try its hardest to keep you from smashing your Sikorsky bird into mountains and hills. At the highest setting, however, you'll be responsible for controlling the cyclic and the collective of the Comanche, and you'll have to worry about keeping damage to your helicopter to a minimum. NovaLogic is also adding an interesting twist to this difficulty level. Since the Comanche is being designed for low detectability, stealth plays an important role in a lot of the missions. But stealth aircraft like the Comanche don't magically become invisible to enemy radar. You will be responsible for keeping your radar cross signature as low as possible. That means keeping the Comanche level at all times, opening your weapons bay doors only when absolutely necessary and heavily considering whether or not the benefit of carrying enhanced fuel armament management subsystem (EFAMS, which are external mounts for carrying weapons) is worth the risk of increased detectability. When the element of surprise isn't a necessity, you'll feel better knowing that you have a full suite of weapons with which to equip your Comanche. As you probably expected, this arsenal includes Hellfire antitank missiles, Stinger antiair missiles, Hydra rockets, and your beefy 20mm cannon. You can even use your laser rangefinder to call in artillery strikes against columns of armor.
The game's realism can largely be attributed to the close relationship between NovaLogic and Sikorsky. According to NovaLogic, Sikorsky constantly supplies the game designers with updated (albeit declassified) information about the workings of the Comanche. The most recent change to the design of the chopper, the new angled tail rotor, has been implemented in Comanche 4, as is evident from the latest batch of screenshots. Likewise, the cockpit camera angle will give you an accurate 3D heads-up display of all the multifunction displays and control inputs of the Comanche.
The game's difficulty settings aren't the only things that have changed since we last saw Comanche 4. The designers have tweaked a lot of the graphics settings and have added some snazzy new visuals as well. The rotorwash effect is now nearly complete, and hovering your Comanche close to the surface of an ocean or lake will cause water to ripple outward and clouds of mist to creep away from underneath the chopper. Likewise, fly over solid ground, and you'll notice dirt giving way to your rotors' power. Even grass and trees will sway back and forth if you get too close.
Other new graphical features include a robust lighting system that creates realistic shadows on the ground and reflections off your canopy--you can even spot your own Comanche's reflection off water surfaces if you look hard enough. A few months ago, buildings in the game would instantly turn to rubble when shot at. Now, they cave in on themselves and bellow forth a plume of dust as they collapse from a well-placed missile. Some explosions will send forth individual pieces of flaming debris that will bounce on the ground and react with other objects. Also added into this latest build are ground troops, whose animation, interestingly enough, was taken directly from NovaLogic's Delta Force: Land Warrior. While ground troops might seem inconsequential to a Comanche pilot, their addition not only makes the game seem more believable, but also goes a long way in making your life as a pilot a bit more miserable, since some of them will be carrying the deadly shoulder-carried Stinger SAMs that claimed the lives of many Soviet pilots in Afghanistan. The fact that you won't be able to lock onto them like you could a traditional SAM battery is even more of a nuisance, but it only adds to the realism of Comanche 4.
You'll be able to test your mettle against all sorts of enemies across 30 different missions, which range from urban settings replete with sprawling buildings to a remote snow-covered tundra, where you'll run across everything from Mi-28 Havocs to gigantic Akula-class submarines. There are a ton of air-, ground-, and sea-based vehicles in the game, and not all of them enemies either. In fact, there's one mission in which you'll have to escort the President's entourage through a hostile city to an airport, where he'll board and take off in Air Force One, which is modeled to scale in the game. The fate of the free world won't rest on your shoulders alone, however--you'll have wingmen to watch your back and lend a helping hand when needed. NovaLogic is making sure that these wingmen don't pose the same problem that the wingmen in Comanche Gold did, though, and for the most part, they'll stay out of your way in Comanche 4.
We were certainly impressed with the promise that this latest build of Comanche 4 held. Like the original game in the series, it'll be easy to get into and have scenarios that blend a fair bit of realism with a touch of flair. And yet, for those who prefer their flight simulators to be more conservative, Comanche 4 will have the option to become just that. As it stands now, the game is only six to eight weeks away from going gold, and you can finally expect to see it on store shelves toward the end of October. Needless to say, we'll review the game then, but in the meantime, be sure to take a look at our updated screenshots and our exclusive video trailer of Comanche 4.