I usually tend to stick to fixed wing aircraft, we also love tacking the challenging world that is rotary wing. I've spent countless hours in the DCS UH-60L, Mi-24P and Ka-50 modules, and they have proven to be extremely entertaining experiences. One of the main issues that I've noticed is that there are not that many dedicated simulators for helicopters, at least there have not been many in quite a while. This changes with Helicopter Gunship DEX!
This game is worth it just it is a dedicated helicopter simulator in the 2020s, a member of a dying breed. At the same time, it strives to drive that blurry line between simulator and arcade, making it much accessible and fun for a wider audience. That being said, let's take a close look at this title to see what it has in store in its early access form.
PRESENTATION AND GRAPHICS
The best way to describe this game, at least when it comes down to graphics, effects and sounds, is that it is they are extremely functional yet nothing special. The 3D models are precise, yet textures are low res and some of the helicopters are not as detailed as others. The same applies for ground vehicles and other assets. None of them stand out as ugly, but there isn't any remarkable either.
Sound design is good, with some minor exceptions, such as some gun sounds and missile launch effects being a bit "off". The main issue lies in the UI and control configuration for users with more complicated layouts. Some crucial controls such as the night vision toggle, MFD buttons and several mappings are missing and not set by default, not even on the keyboard.
This, to me, is the most glaring flaw in the project. It took me around 45 mins to have everything set up and ready to go, specially considering that I was using three different USB devices to control the game. Since there is no way of directly interacting with the cockpit and its systems, these mappings are essential to allow the player to utilize the sim-lite controls of their aircraft. This also includes some of the UI, both in-game and in the menus.
The UI is functional but basic in design, which does seem to be a side-product of this game's smaller budget. They focused their attention elsewhere for the moment, but I would strongly recommend spending more development time and resources on improving the intuitiveness of the UI as well as finding a solid design for it.
GAMEPLAY: WHAT MAKES THIS GAME GREAT
Until now, I have only criticized the game and its structure, style and graphics. Now, let's leave that behind so that we can focus on what makes this game worth playing: its gameplay. This title is so good to play that I can only compare its gameplay loop to that of the great simulators of the late 90s, such as Falcon BMS and even other simulators that got inspired by the great, which would be the case for Tiny combat Arena.
It is a perfect mix of realism and arcade that is extremely entertaining and, somehow, finds a way to get me immersed like no other title has done in a quite a while. Its flight dynamics might not be what some would consider to be "realistic" or "study-level" but the developer has treated each helicopter to a unique-feeling model that surprisingly fitting when compared to the performance they would get in other simulators. The amount of weapons available for use is pretty extensive and the systems you need to use do not have sim-like fidelity, meaning that they are simple to use yet challenging and engaging. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself using some of these systems (IHADSS, TGP, Radar, etc.) with relative ease thanks to them being built to resemble the systems on helicopters that I had previously flown in other simulators, specially the Apache.
Night missions were extremely fun to go through, the recon missions in particular. Using the IHADSS as well as the native TrackIR support made everything much easier and, honestly, kind of refreshing! Despite the lack of proper realism, it felt great to pilot the helos while wrecking havoc from above with my entire arsenal.
I will keep playing this title throughout its early access period, and I cannot wait to see what it has in store in the future.
About the Author
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000s, leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities, but only started being active around the mid 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034