Choplifter HD is a remake of the Atari 2600 classic Choplifter. I have never played the original game so I have no nostalgia for the original game or have any idea how well it represents the original game. There is not really anything wrong with Choplifter HD. Everything works fine, there are no serious bugs, most of the missions are not actively painful, but there is nothing really good about it either. There is only the singleplayer campaign, no co-op or multiplayer, and there is no story to speak of. I just got bored with the game and, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not finish it. There just is not enough variety in the mission design or gameplay and what they have is not good enough to keep you interested.
Choplifter HD is a pretty simple side scrolling shooter. The game is primarily two dimensional, but occasionally you turn your chopper to face enemies in the foreground. You choose from three different helicopters, which unlock as you gain stars from completing levels. The copters all play the same but each one has different stats that make them unique enough that there is a difference. You have a machine gun that overheats a limited stock of missiles, and a boost that makes you move faster at the cost of extra fuel. There are around 30 missions and three mission types in Choplifter: pick up all the guys, shoot all the things, and escape the level without dying. In each mission you fly around shooting at enemies and keeping an eye on both your fuel and health gauge, and that is pretty much the whole game. That might be alright except that the escape missions are pretty bad. They are extremely frustrating and difficult, really for no good reason. You just move across the screen and try not to die. The floaty controls for both flying and shooting make it even more difficult and hamper even the better missions. The other mission types are certainly more fun than the escapes, but not by much, and by the time you are halfway through the game you’ve seen pretty much everything the game will throw at you. There is just not enough depth to the gameplay to carry you through the entire game.
Visuals are Choplifter HD’s biggest weakest. The game looks bad, the textures are flat, the color pallet is bland and uninteresting, and the objects are blocky and ugly. It has the graphical fidelity of an early Xbox 360 game, and that is being generous. Even for a downloadable game, these sorts of graphics are unacceptable anymore. Perhaps the only good thing to say about it is that there are no framerate problems, so there’s that. The rest of the presentation is equally lack luster, with no story other than some recurring characters, and forgettable music and sound design. The only bright spot is the occasionally funny dialogue, but it misses more often then it hits.
There is some enjoyment to be had in Choplifter. The first two campaigns are fairly enjoyable and blowing things up can be immensely satisfying, but by the time you reach the third campaign you’ve pretty much seen it all and it becomes repetitive. A lack of mission variety really hurts the game, as the basic action really can be fun. In addition, the game ramps up the difficulty by throwing more and more things onto the screen until you have no idea what is going on. Choplifter is at its best when you are not horribly pressured and can move through a mission at your own pace, unfortunately by the time you get out of the tutorial, the game can no longer be played this way, and you are stuck with picking up passengers with timers and dodging homing missiles.
The question I came away from Choplifter HD saying was “Why?”. I just do not understand why this game was made. It is not a good enough game to stand on its own merits, nor does it come from a much remembered or beloved series. There are just so many better ways to spend your money, like on a copy of the original Choplifter or any other of the good and unique games available on downloadable services. The only sort of person who should buy this game is someone who thinks that the original Choplifter would be the best game ever if it had sort of funny voice acting.