After playing EECH quite exclusively for sometime, made Longbow2 a challenge to review, to say the least. For this virtual pilot, I’d have to say it’s been about a year since I’ve even put the CD back into my drive. This doesn’t mean that I’ve uninstalled this legendary helicopter sim though. Yes, Longbow2 has sat on my hard drive for over 4 years now. It’s weathered through 2 O/S upgrades and 3 FDsisk ops. When Pappy asked me to review Longbow2 just last week, I was more than happy to fire it up and it didn’t let me down.
I was introduced to Longbow2 quite accidentally, back in 97’. As a bundled package that Janes offered with 688(I), I installed Longbow2 as an afterthought to 688(I). I wasn’t really impressed with the sim at first, since this was my first flight sim to speak of. It was very intimidating to a newbie not interested in stressing my brain, but my curiosity got the best of me.
The manual is a rather beefy publication chalk full of information for the flight sim novice. Broken down into helicopter flight theory, Apache specifications, combat helo tactics, campaign histories and enemy identification tables. Good reading for someone on a boring guard detail … smile. I quickly upped the difficulty after a few weeks of playing and then I was hooked.
Installation was no problem for my 250AMD, circa 1997 rig back then. Some intense map decompression is necessary when changing combat areas. This was the only annoyance that was experienced, but gave me a chance to get a drink and snack before the mission. My more recent AMD 550 rig and the newer 800+ Pentium rigs can load these maps in a matter of seconds, but for older machines … A 60-90 second load time may be experienced.
The selection screen is entertaining laid out over an airbase backdrop that takes the confusion out of what a pilot might misconstrue for some of the options in the sim. These selections also loaded flawlessly and quite fast. Pilots can choose to get familiar with the sim by going to train in one of 3 helicopter types … The Apache Longbow, Blackhawk or the Kiowa Warrior. A rather patient Texan will guide you through the many phases of combat helicopter training. It’s not only great for newbies, but is a good refresher for the already accomplished virtual helicopter pilot.
You can also choose to jump right in to an instant-action mission, which throws you right in the center of a heated battle already in flight.
Campaign play is quite extensive and dynamic. There are two different areas to fly in when selecting the campaign. Either Azerbaijan, Iran or the National Training Centre, at Fort Irwin, California. Both offer a difficult and realistic aspect of a helicopter pilots tactics in these different terrain’s. You can choose from four different flights in each mission screen during the campaign. If you don’t want to fly the mission handed to flight-1, you can switch with another group and take their mission. You can also select whichever helicopter type you’d wish to fly during these missions as well. For instance, If you feel that the Kiowa is not enough fire-power for your recon mission, then you can use an Apache, if it’s available.
The Mission-Planning screen is also very powerful and informative, giving overlays of an enemy units last know locations, terrain detail and waypoint routes for each flight. You can change the load-out of any helicopter in each of the four flight groups as well as what types of helos are used. I could not say enough for this powerful mission editor. Short of EECH, Longbow2 has no equal mission editor available to the virtual pilot.
Creating your own missions is also possible with Lonbow2’s Mission Planner. Making training more versatile and entertaining for the novice or the established pilot in a virtual helicopter squad.
Unlike the Gunship or Comanche series, the campaign engine is rather dynamic. If you fail your flight, the campaign moves on without you. When you select your next mission, you’ll notice how your success or failure effected the area.
The flight model is adjustable for the meager pilot who might be intimidated at first, but is adjustable in the options screen. Some budget cuts have actually made some National Guard units use Longbow2 as a tutorial aid in the place of some flight hours, if that tells you anything about how well it’s modeled here.
The cockpit screens of each helicopter is exquisitely detailed and is set with one of the best layouts of any helo-sim. You can actually get a good view of the outside while being able to see your MFDs without having to pan around. Switching to the “virtual-cockpit” views give a rather shaky, but more realistic feel to the whole sim, but is harder to work with in the heat of battle.
Every mode of the Apache, Blackhawk and Kiowa’s MFDs are modeled in this sim. Janes doesn’t “skimp on the gravy” here. If you’re a true helicopter enthusiast, this is the sim for you.
Changing loadouts, not only on the Blackhawk’s pylon, but changing the door-gunner’s weapon is also quite satisfying when engaging smaller units while the AI carts yah around. Switching from the 50cal to a Gattling-Gun is a sadistic gamer’s dream ... mowing down small armored units and infantry.
The Kiowa isn’t as well loaded as the Blackhawk and Apache, but is worth its weight in gold when it comes to outrunning enemy helicopters and Fast Movers. This is definitely the helicopter you want to use for recons, when you have the nerve to be the smallest guy in “the ball-game”. Taking along an Apache as a wingman usually helps ease the tension.
Multiplayer options in Longbow2 is pretty easy to get use to. Early multiplayer sessions on a 28.8k modem made Longbow2 as frustrating as any EECH game is on a broadband connection now. Being able to get 4 or 5 pilots in on one mission was a thrill back in the day, but was hard to come-by successfully. One neat thing about Longbow2, which hasn’t been modeled in quite some time, is the ability for 2 pilots to “jump” into the same helicopter as pilot and gunner. Being able to watch the gunner move his head from one side to the other, while sitting in the pilot’s seat behind them, was quite entertaining to see modeled as my multiplayer partner scanned for targets.
Longbow2’s multiplayer options were also designed with “Death-Matches” in mind. You can go against an opponent with whatever helos you choose and with whatever weapon and radar restrictions you wish to select. This made for hours of laughs and “war-stories” at work, while my coworkers and I would weave tales of our prior evening’s escapades.
To call Longbow2 the helicopter sim of the 90’s is an understatement. The graphics crushed those of HIND, Comanche and Gunship back in the day. Unfortunately, Janes will probably never do a follow-up to the Longbow series, crushing the hopes and dreams of this reviewer. This helicopter sim is only 2nd to that of Enemy Engaged Comanche Hokum in overall game-play. As antiquated as the sim may seem now, it still has life for a few hard-core helicopter junkies who find new and exciting enominalies with each mission.
Add-ons and MODs were designed by a number of different groups during Longbow’s hay-day. Check out patches section for what we have available.