Written by: Stoo

Date posted: March 1, 2001

The LHx might be star of the show, but it never saw action in real life. Here’s an Apache instead.

Aside from that ancient ancestor known as Gunship, LHX was one of the first major helicopter sims on the PC. It came at time when the PC wasn’t really regarded as a gaming machine, and in fact the flight sim was one of the few genres where it wasn’t outclassed by the likes of consoles or the Amiga. LHX serves as a good indicator of what the genre was like at the time, at least on the more “action-oriented” side as opposed to hardcore simulation. You’re given a selection of four expensive American flying death machines. Choose one to conduct various missions of US-heroics such as assaulting Russian tank columns, rescuing downed pilots and “collateral damage”.

It’s not difficult to pick up. Anyone who’s tried to play a more recent chopper sim and sworn vociferously as you crash sideways into a house again (whilst a virtual instructor screams abuse at you) will be relieved to hear that the controls here are heavily simplified i.e. pushing the “go forward” control doesn’t send you plunging earthwards. This means that within seconds you can be airborne and firing missiles at people. On the easier settings you can reasonably expect to return home in one piece, even if not a flight-sim expert.

Two of the choppers are gunships and thus totally dedicated to glorious destruction. One is the reliable old Apache, the US Army’s premier anti-armour platform. The other is the LHX itself, better known by its later name of Comanche. It was in development for about a decade and starred in many helicopter sims, but was then cancelled before entering service. So while I ‘m not going to go all political about defense spending here, lets try not to think about how many billions of dollars went down the tube on that one. Then you also have two cargo\troop carriers which are less powerful, but your mission might specifically call for their abilities. There’s the Blackhawk, which famously got “downed” in Somalia in that movie, and also the V22 Osprey. Now the latter is an interesting piece of kit – it can convert itself from a helicopter to a conventional aircraft in mid-air by tilting its wing-mounted rotors.

Cockpit view – I think I’m strafing a defenceless village.

As with most flight sims of this age the world you fly around consists of a flat tabletop with the occasional piece of basic geometry for a hill. The 3D models for units meanwhile are fairly simple but at least you can tell which arrangements of blocks are tanks and which are SAM-launchers. There are even individual people to drop unnecessary amounts of ordnance on. Oh and camels too.

Lovely adlib support meanwhile means lots of splange-type sound-effects and music. “Splange” being my technical term for what the adlib card sounded like when it tried to approximate just about anything in the real world. Of course, some readers might actually be too young to remember the pre-soundblaster days. You kids don’t know how lucky you have it these days…

In all honesty LHX isn’t even a challenge to modern helicopter sims, and is pretty much sitting on the limits of how aged a game I’ll include on this site. However it’s still fun to try a few missions. Also it serves as a museum piece, and should be of interest to flight-sim fans who might like to look into the history of the genre.