It's been said a lot over the last week or so, what with the iPhone 3G launch, but here it comes again: Chopper is a game that demonstrates the motion-sensing capabilities of this new platform beautifully.
Despite the repetition of that last statement throughout our iPhone coverage, it's an important feature to mention. It's this kind of careful consideration to fully utilise a platform's unique traits that turns good games into awesome games, and Chopper excels in making full and unique use of the Apple handset.
Putting hardware quirks aside for a moment, and resisting the urge to quote Austrian-accented lines from Predator about getting to the chopper, let's get to the Chopper. You're in the pilot's chair of an army helicopter; patrolling the area and carrying out an impressive variety of emergency, often dangerous, rescue missions. These missions range from picking up a diplomat who's running late, to rescuing a family stranded by flood and soldiers cut off from the base while patrolling strawberry fields.
Of course, it'd be a shame to lug all those heavy bombs and machine guns around if there was nothing to destroy, so war is declared early on in the game to provide the added conflict of enemies trying to shoot you down during missions.
As you've already astutely assumed, this smacks very much of the classic coin-op Choplifter. And a wise assumption it is, since Chopper was indeed born from the same gene pool, though refines the concept to new and impressive depths.
Visually, Chopper is a resounding success, combining 2D and 3D graphics to bring the vehicles and buildings to life. Also of considerable note are the stunning environments. Magnificent weather effects and superb parallax scrolling featuring a beautiful perspective blur to add real depth to the environment draws you into the levels in a most impressive manner.
As we already intimated, however, it's the controls that really make Chopper fly. The vehicle itself is controlled by tilting the handset: Backwards and forward for lift, and left and right to increase speed. The delicacy of the controls adds the kind of fluidity to the gameplay that's normally reserved for the Wii, and really cements Chopper in the iPhone's must-have list of launch titles.
Strafing and bombing are right at your fingertips as you tease the chopper around the stunning levels, and avoiding enemy fire is a difficult, yet very achievable and rewarding possibility. The tanks and rocket-launcher equipped soldiers get off some decent shots, and you also have to be careful not to take out your own civilians by become just a little too trigger happy.
Deft manoeuvring is your greatest weapon, which seems wonderfully fitting since the game casts you as a pilot, rather than a gunner. As Arnie might say, you're a rescue team – not an assassin.
There's ultimately little point in waxing lyrical about the intuitiveness of this remarkable controller – no amount of eulogising can compare to a few moments of hands-on use, so get over to the App Store and see what you're missing.
It's definitely not an easy game, but the challenge level is carefully refined to ensure there's little in the way of infuriating gameplay. Chopper's and all round success, with no detail overlooked and unerringly simple gameplay refined to new levels of quality.