by Joel France
previewed on PC
Announced the evening before Gamescom, Comanche is set to be a fresh take on a classic of the same name from the early 90s. Revived over 20 years later — swapping single player missions for multiplayer dogfights — this game once again puts you in the pilot seat of a powerful attack helicopter, though there’s a few choice new elements to add to the experience.
It’s still early days in Comanche’s development, but we got the chance to see how the different types of copter available will affect how you approach the game. There is a stealth-focused craft capable of complete visual cloaking — the only way your opponents will have a chance of hunting you down is by checking their mini-map radar when they are close by. This craft’s firepower is, as a result, somewhat inferior to the more aggressive types. There’s also a sniper-like Cyclops, equipped with a powerful railgun with charged shots that can knock opponents out of the sky from across the map. These two were the only available in the current build, but developers Nukklear have plans to increase this roster as the game expands. Without a defined dominant strategy, you’ll need to work with your teammates to ensure you have all bases covered.
No matter what craft you opt for, you’ll be accompanied by a short-range drone that you are able to deploy at a moment’s notice. Far from being an AI companion, this drone requires manual piloting — in fact, the core gameplay of Comanche comes down to the interplay between these two very different vehicles. The main helicopter has the firepower and speed, whereas the drone has the size and handling to sneak into otherwise inaccessible areas. If you need to deploy the drone for an extended period, you’re going to want to hover your main chopper somewhere inconspicuous or, if playing as the stealth class, activate your cloaking ability so you’re undetectable. Once you’re safely covered, your drone can then be piloted into underground facilities and cave networks, which in the demo we were shown was crucial to winning the objective for the fight. The drones, whilst not strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the helicopters, are still equipped with some firepower to take out other drones. This creates a secondary battleground in these cramped enclosures, with the drone-on-drone combat having a distinctly close-quarters feel. The third-person perspective gives a lot more focus on positioning and ambushes rather than the pinpoint accuracy of the long-range chopper battles.
Along For The Ride
The developers are keen to get the players involved in the journey as soon as possible — with a closed alpha version being planned for release later this year, and public Early Access to follow shortly after. Comanche is a series that has gone through many iterations over the years, with control schemes ranging from a faithful simulation experience to unabashedly unrealistic and arcade-y. Whilst going through Early Access should never be taken as a guaranteed indication of a solid end product, in this case it makes sense to get a good sample of public opinion. Nukklear have aimed more on the simulation side of things for this reboot, but of course that will have to be balanced against the need for a multiplayer game to have streamlined, accessible controls. Ultimately Comanche looks like it could be a lot of fun, ticking boxes for fans of arena shooters and flight sims alike. What remains to be seen is if the depth of the gameplay on offer can be fleshed out enough to keep the experience fresh long term.