Choplifter HD Hands On
Developer: inXile Entertainment / Publisher: inXile Entertainment / Played on: Xbox 360 / Release Date: TBA / ESRB: Teen [Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
There was a time when you didn’t have to sit through twenty minutes of cutscenes to play a game. You didn’t get 280 minutes of motion capture with your shooter because you bought a goddamn shooter – you bought it to shoot guys. Based on 1982′s Choplifter, Choplifter HD from inXile clearly understands its roots, because this game is all about action, skill, and simple but challenging gameplay.
Choplifter HD plays similarly to, well, Choplifter. Every level is a large 2D corridor filled with enemies and stranded souls that require rescuing. Your job is to fly out there, pick them up, and carry them back to base without running out of gas, blowing up due to enemy fire, or knocking them off of your helicopter by bonking against the ground or other obstacles. It’s a premise fitting a retro game, and likewise hits the sweet spot between simple, challenging action and the maddening drive to earn the top ranking on every level.
Of course, the devil is in the details, so here’s how all of Choplifter HD’s systems work together. In addition to the 2D plane your helicopter moves in, there’s a foreground that can contain additional enemies. You can rotate your heli to shoot into the foreground, but that limits your mobility. Speed is one of the factors that contributes to your end-level ranking, too. Coming in under a par time, killing enemies, and rescuing people all contribute to a point tally that earns you stars, which in turn unlocks new levels and equipment. In the beginning levels, it’s fairly easy to rack up 5 stars. Before long, you’ll be clipping rock outcroppings, smacking into anti-air rockets, and (my favorite) accidentally swiveling your tail rotor into a group of hopeful survivors, turning both them and your score into a cloud of red mist.
The fact that you can accidentally vaporize your human cargo is a good indicator of this game’s tone. From what I saw, this game has a fantastic sense of humor. The chatter between the pilots and bases is hilarious and I laughed out loud when my co-pilot announced that it was “time to pin the bullet on the terrorist.” An unexplained zombie level will also send you against the undead hordes, and if you land too long near a swarm, they’ll start to climb on your helicopter and drag it down. This might sound odd, but there’s nothing quite so adorable as seeing a swarm of zombies cling on to a helicopter as it swoops through the air.
Even though I didn’t play the full version of Choplifter HD, it already scratched the same itch as Trials HD and Geometry Wars. If you’re the type that will spend ten minutes trying to earn the elusive fifth star and see some explosions along the way, keep an eagle eye on Choplifter HD.