by Leonard (Viking1) Hjalmarson
- Pentium 90
- 16MB RAM
- VESA 2.0
- 97MB free HD space (max install)
- Joystick and throttle, rudder pedals for tail rotor
- SmartDrive to reduce load times
- Fast PCI video card
On January 16th 1991, four US ARMY AH-64A helicopters went into Iraq to take out key early warning radar sites, to pave the way for the coalition airstrikes to come. This marked the end of Operation Desert Shield and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. In 1989, AH-64A helicopters took out APCs in Panama in what was the beginning of Operation Just Cause. As a US Army promotional film dictates, Apache "rules the night."
I found installation to be a simple matter. You will have a choice of install sizes though its great if you have enough disk space to do a medium or large install. Similarly, Longbow will run fine with only 16 meg, but 32 is better. For max detail you will want a P166 or better to maintain a good frame rate when things get hairy.
Likewise, you don't really need the rudder pedals. I made do fine without them for the first six months of Longbow by programming the tail rotor to button H2 L/R on my F22 Pro. But when I finally added pedals I was nicely surprised by the added quickness of response. Mind you, if you plan on flying at more than 60K the tail response is progressively lost anyway.
A feature I was completely surprised by initially is the ability to remap the keyboard controls to any position you wish. This also makes programming the TM gear simpler in some cases, especially with the older FLCS and WCS stuff.
Customization is the name of the game these days, and Longbow is adaptable in spades! You may choose the flight model, graphics options, sound options, and general gameplay and keyboard preferences. You can even remap the kb if you like. Similarly, there are graphics options to customize Longbow for your CPU power, and you can tweak individual options, including variables like wind. Wnat a real challenge? Try putting er down down or lifing off with a driving wind in your face! Its a whole new ball game, and you will be wondering what in the world you are doing wrong if you forget that you selected the wind option!
Difficulty is impressive on the higher levels, and choosing CAT 2 is recommended for the average player. You can always move up the scale as your confidence and ability improve. There are three levels in total for enemy AI, though this is adjusted upward somewhat in the Flash Point add-on. Yep, it gets tougher!
The Longbow box actually contains TWO CDs. The second is filled with actual footage of the AH64A & AH-64D in action. Videos can be watched from the training grounds area with a virtual VCR.
There are 5 videos in all, covering topics like the radar system, the Hellfire missile, and the Apache in general. There is a host of data available to you. When you are at the airbase you may also access the Janes Reference Manual. You can access detailed information about the AH-64A & D, along with data on all the enemy and allied forces' weaponry.
Graphics to the Max
Graphically, Longbow has been well compared to Sierra's Silent Thunder: A10 Tank Killer II. Flying NOE at 40 feet or so, the terrain does convey a sense of speed. In fact, Longbow uses a new graphics engine built for the simulation, and no other chopper sim looks so good.
As you fly along, hundreds of hillsides and other masking terrain features, so conducive to unnoticed activity, come along for the pilots delight. Apache is designed specially to take advantage of this situation: to pop up and scan, remask, then let fly with Hellfire missiles. Ths simulation allows you to experience sand dunes in Iraq, jungle hillsides in Panama, and mountains in the Baltics... what more could you ask?
Typically, its the small things that really add to the realism. Ground troops take pot shots at you with small arms, and a wide array of SAM & AAA installations, both mobile and stationary, and choppers like the Mi24 HIND & Mi28 HAVOK come to life in Longbow. As for object detail, Longbow sets new standards, more authentic than anything seen to date. For that "been there" feeling, choose the target view (F7) and watch a SAM site track you, finally launching the missile. Or check out the same view just before your own missile makes contact! You can see the parts flying off, sometimes soldiers running away, and the smoke, flames and blast is incredible! Or when your own Blackhawks touch down, watch soldiers running into battle.
And what would a state of the art simulation be without cut scenes? After each landing, whether intact or not, you will view appropriate sequences. Of course, crashing in enemy territory gives you a slightly different scenario!
Sounds in the Night
Sound in Longbow, as with graphics and gameplay, are top notch. Rotor sounds, while possibly lacking absolute accuracy, are terrific and realism is increased with the FPK add on). Hellfire missiles, rockets, and the 30mm chaingun, all produce great effects. Voice in the cockpit is likewise appealing, and the instructor in the training missions sounds like a downhome Texan. And when you foul up, his voice and inflections get similarly foul!
With reference to training, the simulation is worth the price for this feature alone. Andy Hollis is no slouch when it comes to simulations, but in this area he has set the bar a notch higher, giving other designers something to reach for. Training is so well done, one wonders whether Andy has secured some secret NATO contracts as a result! It simply is fabulous! The instructor will lead you through everything from simple explanations of flight, how the cyclic, collective, and rudder systems work, to weapons and avionics systems. The former head AH-64 instructor from FT Hood, Texas assisted in design; it shows!
When its time for action, the introductory mission will not get you sweating. The first mission is a cakewalk, and its a good thing because you will appreciate it later. The variety of missions and objectives are tremendous: recon, search & destroy, being told to hold fire unless fired on, and many other variations will be thrown at you. Even though you know the simulation is NOT essentially dynamic, you may forget! From the detailed mission briefings, to the final landing back at your FARP, the sim keeps you on the edge. And not only that, you have the option to record your flights and replay them later!
If you like a challenge, you will like the ability to re-fly a mission that was a failure. At high levels of realism, at least until you have plenty of action behind you, you will occasionally find yourself dead! On the other hand, if you like a challenge or are on your second time through the campaign, fail a few missions and get a whole new direction to the campaign, with even more challenging missions!
In addition to the campaign structure, you can also play single missions which are randomly generated based on your choice of mission objective, terrain, and enemy intelligence levels. There are about 200 possible missions in the single mission area of Longbow; this random generation feature is another stroke of genius, and it adds another great training ground!
The instant action mode is another option, as well as historical missions. Janes and crew have recreated twelve actual missions which were flown by the US during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Just Cause, six from each venue. You can fly in the sands of Iraq in the first mission of Desert Storm, taking out early warning radar sites. Operation Just Cause takes you into the Panamanian jungles, with heaps of hillsides for masking, searching for Noreaga's Learjet in a hangar at a heavily protected airbase.
Janes Longbow offers what is without question the most authentic flight model yet seen on a PC. Origin based this model on the information from JANE'S & McDonnel-Douglas, makers of the real McCoy. Furthermore, they had actual active duty AH-64A pilots to offer feedback! When you flyon the realistic settings, you might as well by flying the real thing!
In Longbow you will also have control over your wingman, artillery strikes, and airstrikes. Hmm. Is there anything Janes forgot? Your wingman is a necessary companion in many missions, carrying extra weapons, covering your rear, and taking on those bogies who have been lying in wait for you! You will need to learn to make good use of your wing, or your success rate will be dismal. Toward this end, there are a host of commands available to you: attack my target, give me your targets, weapons hold, weapons free, go home,form on my wing.
In a simulation of such depth, its difficult to cover everything. The kitchen sink is NOT missing in Longbow, and all the different IHADSS modes are intact. Multiple camera angles are offered, and the pilot may set up PFZs (Priority Fire Zones) just like in the real machine. Data linking targets is not present, but is added in the FPK add-on. And don't worry; the manual is detailed and well organized. If the standard manual is not enough for you, there is an official Strategy Guide you can purchase to help you along.
Flash Point Korea
There isn't much else missing on the realism level, but Flash Point does add a few items to the inventory. Specifically, FPK adds the ability to shut down each engine individually, and the ability to manually activate the fire extinguisher. You can also set the burst rate of the 30mm cannon, just like in the real AH64, from 10,20 & 50 rounds. For more info see the Longbow Gold Review.
Finally, the only other thing that IS missing from this sim is multi-player options, to be added at a later date. Dont sweat it, though, because Longbow was designed from the ground up to support MP. With the Flash Point add-on, reviewed separately, you can practice the two seat CPG thing to prepare for the multi-player mode.
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Last Updated January 20th, 1997