There’s something very, very macho about helicopters. These machines represent the height of military technology, but are as cool as a neon-lit sports car. If you’re not all that into the machismo or you’re one of those female things that big gun gamers don’t know too much about then Hellfire might come across as a bit too studly.
Not that the game apologises for its brazen attitude: on the contrary, it revels in it. If you can see through the shallow depths of its gameplay there’s a lot for the right kind of gamer to enjoy.
It kicks off beautifully: a loading screen showing two over-muscled gunships bearing down upon a verdant, rolling landscape.
Quite unexpectedly, this visage begins moving as the game finishes loading. The choppers bob on the updraft, the blades cut the air and the landscape rolls beneath these armoured war machines.
These introductory aesthetics may not seem important, but they convey the quality of Hellfire’s production.
Once in the pilot’s seat, the controls come naturally - you tip forwards and backwards to accelerate and slow down, while tilting left and right handles the direction. A small altimeter is positioned on the left to control height, though this is the first chink in the game's armour.
The helicopters really don’t gain much height. The majority of missions are focused on ground warfare, but it would add a lot to the gameplay if you could take to the skies and fly freely. As it is, this inherent grounding makes the vehicles manoeuvre more like tanks than helicopters.
The missions generally involve taking out different groups of enemies - including other helicopters, gun turrets, tanks, and warships - and then rescuing POWs.
Destroying POW prisons sets the captives free, while a careful landing gives them chance to climb on board and head back to base.
The environments are wide enough that you’ve got to hunt for your prey, though contained enough so you’re not spending all your time flying. In short, it's a good balance between freedom of movement and not being too big to waste your time with needless searching.
The missions aren’t particularly varied. Even the ones set out at sea are pretty much identical to attacking a base on land, so Hellfire doesn’t win too many points in terms of diversity.
The raw shoot-‘em-up gameplay is damn good fun, however, and as long as you fit the profile (secretly macho, love big guns, think blowing stuff up is clever, bored of Chopper) then you’ll drink deeply from this bloody well.
It should be emphasised this is very much a 3D shoot-‘em-up, and doesn’t come close to being a simulation.
Indeed, a few extra tweaks to the flying mechanics and some extra controls would actually do this shmup a big favour, as even for shooter fans it does get a little stale rather quickly.