Multiplayer Focus of Comanche (2020)
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
The return of the Comanche is sure to pique the interests of rotary-wing flight sim enthusiasts. But those expecting a single player focused product were met with a new vision of online multiplayer driven combat. The name “Comanche” carries a history of nine games released since 1992. The newest game in the series is simply named Comanche. For clarification, I’ll be referring to it as Comanche (2020). Starting with the first announcement, it presented an online multiplayer experience centered around team-based, ability driven player vs. player combat. No single player was mentioned in the early announcements from 2019. The receptive and responsive Nukklear Digital Minds development team has taken feedback from its player base during closed Alpha and Beta sessions and is now actively developing single-player missions. These missions are rolling out during their Early Access release phase. While this is excellent news, it is the multiplayer part of the game that is currently the most complete. It is in player vs. player combat that the unique helicopters, challenging map design, and combat drones that define the newest Comanche title genuinely shine. With this game being in Early Access and open to changes, it would be difficult to call this a review of a final product. Let's call this an analysis for now. The information provided in this article may be outdated before the final version of the game is released. Keep that in mind.
Multiplayer Mode Explanation
Understanding multiplayer before discussing the hardware related details is vital. For now, two game modes are available. Each mode places two teams of up to four players against each other (4 vs. 4). Neither game mode uses non-player character units. Players will only be facing off against other players. Black Box is a modified version of the standard Team Death Match formula. As adversaries and teammates are shot down in combat, their wreckage drops black boxes. Drones must be used to fly down and recover the boxes. Each black box recovered from an adversary’s helicopter counts as a point for the allied team, while retrieving a fallen ally’s black box denies the opposition points. The team with the highest amount of gathered points wins.
Infiltration has each team attacking or defending a pair of objectives. The attacking team is tasked with positioning themselves to fly drones into a military facility and arm an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device. If the defending team is unable to stop the activation of the EMP or disarm it before it detonates, the attacking team wins. If the defenders don't let the attacking team arm the EMP or if they disarm the active EMP device then the defenders win.
Comanche (2020) features a decent weapons selection that is tied to specific helicopters. The primary weapons of each aircraft are their main cannons, which range from rotary cannons, rail guns, scatterguns, and ‘light’ guns. Secondary weapons include unguided rockets and various types of unique missiles complemented with countermeasures: chaff, flares, and smoke screens; to disrupt the enemy or break the lock of incoming guided missiles. The advanced abilities further define each variant and how they can be used in combat.
The stars of multiplayer are the Comanche helicopters themselves. The original prototype Comanche is only one of five variants in the game. There is a story related reason as to why these variants exist, but that can be discussed later date. To put it in terms of an arena like first person shooter, the variants act as “characters” with special abilities and weapons only these “characters” can use. The same is true for the drones as well.
The drones are an unexpected addition. They are much smaller than unmanned combat aerial vehicles like the RQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reapers known around the world. They are compact enough to be carried inside of the helicopters and can be flown into buildings to attack personnel and interact with computer systems. Like their rotary-wing counterparts, each of the four drones also come with their special abilities and unique weapons.
Players are able to select any helicopter and any drone they have unlocked before multiplayer matches start and during the matches after they are destroyed or crash. The Comanche variants are also available for testing in the single player Flight Tutorials, but not for the campaign. Unlocking each drone and helicopter is done through the use of in game credits and blueprint tokens that are earned through game play. On March 12th, 2020, it was stated that Comanche (2020) would not include micro transactions in the FAQ section of their official Discord server. This has remained true as of the time this article has been published, meaning that the only way to gain in-game credits and blueprint tokens is through gameplay.
The overview of the five helicopters and four drones is as follows:
Prototype: It is an all-arounder that acts as the starter helicopter for all players. Its aim assistance program for the main cannon is excellent for landing air-to-air hits even while maneuvering harshly. Can fire missiles at medium and close range. Has flare countermeasures. The multiplayer version of the Prototype is different than the single player version, which has even more extended abilities.
Circuit: a drone that utilizes a light machine gun and sticky grenade launcher. Its agility is one of its best strengths. This is the first drone players have unlocked from the beginning of the game.
Ghost: This Comanche can visually cloak and not be detected by radars at medium and long-range though it can be passively detected when they are close to other helicopters. Uses a high rate of fire rotary cannon and unguided rockets for ambushes. Can deploy chaff to disrupt missile locks.
Shell-Shock: a slow, armored drone equipped with a shotgun and sticky grenade launcher. It excels at close-range combat and can cause massive damage to other drones in a single shot.
Rhino: A heavily armored attack helicopter that uses a shotgun like Scattergun and Stampede jet thruster system to rush its enemies and destroy them at close range. It can fire a heavy-hitting missile at medium range. Its sonar ability can detect cloaked enemies to unveil them for allies.
Bug: a drone equipped with a shock pulse weapon that temporarily stuns and decloaks all enemies within 10 meters. An ability that automatically triggers when the drone is left idling. It also has a self-destruct sequence that yields a large blast.
Eve: primarily acts as a support helicopter that can repair other friendly helicopters. This is done by launching specially designed missiles at allies that deliver nanomachines to repair them. The Lockdown ability that regenerates its own health while blocking out incoming damage and a shock pulse that decloaks hidden enemies.
Curie: a drone equipped with a repair beam rather than a solid projectile gun. When used on allies, the beam restores their health, but when used on enemies, it acts as an energy weapon. The Detection Mines act as an early warning device. When enemies enter their range, the mines explode and ping the location of the damaged enemy.
Horizon: A long-range variant that specializes in line of sight engagements. Using its railgun, it is capable of locking down entire areas of a map utilizing charged shots. Has the ability to fire missiles at multiple targets and deploy a smokescreen for concealment.
Helicopter combat consists of medium and long-range engagements with usually brief close range combat where a player’s aptitude with the chin-mounted cannon is a deciding factor. This is where becoming proficient with Free Aim is an absolute necessity. This can’t be stressed enough.
Free Aim allows players to fire on targets at unrealistic angles real world attack helicopters could not accomplish. Examples of this are included showing a high angle vertical engagement and a low angle engagement that also shows the game's ability to outline targets that are within line of sight beneath the helicopters:
Besides landing hits with the main gun at extreme angles, missiles also benefit from Free Aim's wide engagement envelop. When launched, missiles travel in a straight line away from the front of the helicopter to prevent self-shoot down. Within a second or two after the missile is fired, it then begins guiding itself onto the target it was fired at. All missiles in the game are able to make almost 90 degree turns. This makes over the shoulder missile shots possible at targets that are in range. This is off-boresight launch ability is usually reserved for 4th and 5th generation fixed wing combat aircraft that use helmet mounted displays, thrust vectored missiles and other technology.
The speed of the Comanches are essential for search and destroy as counter strategy in-game modes that rely on drones to complete objectives. Drones are only able to maneuver while the helicopters control them are set into auto-hover and are unable to move or defend themselves during that time. Quickly destroying a defenseless opponent is preferable over fighting them head-on. Alternatively, a keen-eyed player can destroy enemy drones before they slip into inaccessible areas with relative ease using missiles or with a decent aim from their cannon.
Drone combat is at its peak during close range, indoor battles against opposing drones. A more frenetic play style replaces the large-scale battlefield feel that the attack helicopters operate in. The confined spaces have drones hovering behind cover to defend from being shot at and hiding in dark areas to spring attacks on unsuspecting enemies. Of note are interactable control panels around objectives in Infiltration. These can be used by attackers and defenders to activate barriers. These obstacles include turning on multiple laser beams to block doorways or close doors to ventilation shafts to disrupt the movement of the opposing forces.
Diversity Promotes Team Play
It’s easy to see how the abilities and weapons of the helicopters and drones can be coordinated. Combinations of the Comanche variants compliment one another. Ghosts paired with Horizons as support for their stealthy operations in Infiltration. Prototypes and Rhinos being repaired by an Eve as they maintain a front line in Black Box. The same goes for drones. While fighting indoors, drones can work together to set up early warning detection and attempt to disable enemies that try to arm or disarm objectives. The drones are able to participate in helicopter air-to-air combat, but it requires players to get creative.
Drones shooting down helicopters with their own weapons will rarely happen, but specific abilities are useful. Here are a few examples: Curie’s repair beam can repair allied helicopters and drones. Quickly deploying Curie after defeating an opponent to provide self-repair or team repairs is ideal. In an observational role, drones can be flown into open areas to monitor enemy movement while the helicopter controlling the drone is safe behind terrain or hiding in clouds. In a sacrificial role, players can place drones directly in front of themselves, having the drone act as yet another potential target. This tactic forces the enemy using missiles to put extra effort into attacking the player’s helicopter instead of a drone with a valuable guided weapon.
Level Design Encourages Skill and Daring Maneuvers
The flight tutorial of the game has players flying through confined spaces while encouraging them to maintain high speeds for a reason. What would typically be considered high-risk, suicidal flying in a full flight simulator can give significant tactical advantages in Comanche (2020). Map design encourages players to fly through cave networks to sneakily reach objectives, twist around mountain tops for defense in dogfights, and come within close proximity to bring weapons to bear on unsuspecting opponents.
Each map has plenty of vertical terrain for helicopters to use for defense, offense, and maneuvering into position unseen. Some maps feature extensive subterranean areas that considerably aide players that take advantage of their skills to operate in hard to reach areas. A multi-million-dollar Comanche hovering in a cave behind a waterfall is not an uncommon sight! Cloud cover is a factor in this game. Clouds can aid helicopters that hide within them or behind them from being spotted visually or on radar at medium and long-range. If a guided missile has already been launched at a helicopter, it diving into clouds will not fool the missile. The missile will still pursue its target. Hiding in the clouds can also be good cover for players deploying drones to play the objective. Being hidden visually and on radar forces the defending team to come into close range to search. A nice bonus for players that are using drones; it buys them valuable time.
The Longevity of Hardware and Abilities
The performance and abilities of each helicopter and drone cannot be altered. This is a decision that keeps each of them viable over the course of the game’s lifespan. What frequently happens in other flight games is that aircraft that were available early on lose their usefulness as more advanced aircraft are unlocked later. The result is that up to half of the aircraft on the game’s roster are no longer viable in multiplayer game modes (when not factoring in player skill). This then leads to the same selection of higher tier aircraft being used over and over by all players to even the playing field.
This can be worsened if the game has some type of leveling up system or aircraft parts modification system. By omitting these upgrade systems, this guarantees that all Comanche and drone variants will see frequent use and push diversity in online multiplayer gameplay.
The next update during the Early Access period for Comanche (2020) is scheduled for April 2020. What is immediately known is that the second single-player mission will be released, along with a Command Wheel, improved graphics options, and other improvements brought on by community feedback.
About the Author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
The Director of Operations for Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870