THE AH-64A Apache Advanced Attack Helicopter. Think about it for a moment. It flies at nearly 200 knots maximum. It can climb 1400 feet in a minute. It carries 16 hellfire anti-tank missiles, 1200 130mm cannon rounds, and four pods of 70mm rockets. If that isn't enough to freeze the blood, or rather vaporise it, the pilot's helmet responds to what the pilot is looking at and points the guns at it.
It sounds like an extremely unlikely nightmare, but it's real, and Digital Integration has finally brought out it's long talked-about simulation. Tomahawk is the follow-up to Fighter Pilot, which we still rate as the best flight simulation around for the Spectrum. But Tomahawk takes the genre to new levels of sophistication with a variety of options and levels of violence which will surely delight simulation lovers and militaristic Rambo-freaks alike.
The chopper is easy enough to fly in training mode, but the landscape you see is very detailed, and since helicopter gunships are all about getting down low and hugging the surface, you'll rapidly discover the delights of cruising eight feet off the ground at 100 knots. Trees and buildings are the least of your worries - there are mountains and pylons which present even more hazardous obstacles.
Then there's the enemy. Dotted around the playing area are tanks, field guns, and an enemy helicopter. Once you get into the proper play mode - even as a trainee - life gets hairy as those blaze away at you whenever they can. They also produce rather impressive explosions if you knock them out.
The control panel is fairly cluttered, but you won't need to look at all the instruments all the time. The controls are responsive, and there's a twin joystick option if you want to put all the controls onto sticks.
Manoeuvres are quite different from flying aircraft. Helicopters tend not to like looping the loop, but the instruction booklet details hair-raising stunts such as torque turn and auto-rotation, where you reduce the revs and drive the rotors with air passing upwards through them. You can even land a helicopter with the engine completely cut out.
Options include four levels of difficulty, day or night flying, crosswind and turbulence effects, and cloud. The last is great fun. You can select a cloud base from 50ft to 1000ft. At 50ft nearly every object on the terrain can only be seen when you're low enough to hit it. On the other hand, it's tremendous fun dropping like a stone out of the sky in front of the enemy to zap him.
The wireframe graphics are effective and appear well-regulated. Targets appear as dots on the horizon at first, and since there are plenty of bushes and trees about which look identical at long range there's a realistic feel to the business of hunting them out. You'll rely on the cockpit instruments to close in, but once you have visual contact the best tactic is to fly by instinct and keep a sharp eye on the altimeter.
Digital Integration has produced a superb simulation, with plenty of action for games lovers; simulation addicts can forget about the warfare and just slink off to a quiet corner of the map and practise aerobatics and low-level flying. It's the ideal mix, and we recommend it without reservation.
Publisher: Digital integration
Joystick: Sinclair, Kempston, Cursor