Release Date:February 16, 2010
Summary:Not the best war game, and definitely too hard for its own good, but it makes for a surprisingly good, gun-toting time.
In going along with the highest rated games in the iTunes App Store, here we have Air Assault by Snakehead Software, currently ranking 5th on the free apps chart, in terms of popularity. Normally, when rating free apps my degree of leniency is higher. After all, most free apps are of the silly, trite kind, have an interest half-life of a week, and generally disappear from my memory in just over two weeks, so rating a free app tends to be more of an exercise in restraint, of curbing my normally high expectations, then when I rate a paid app. Air Assault is no exception from this rule.
Considering it’s a free game, Air Assault is pretty good. Plenty of people have given it really low ratings in the App Store, to which I say poppycock, because any low rating would have been appropriate for a paid game, which this most certainly is not. The game immediately earns points from me just for having Flight of the Valkryies playing on the opening screen – too bad the game immediately loses these points by forcing you to read through a very unnecessary, and lavishly over-detailed background story on your brigade’s involvement in Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban and Al-Quaida even tossing in something about September 11, in some bizarre attempt to add a contemporary feel to an otherwise very generic feeling and looking military game. But despite such generic presentation, the game is fun, if excrutiatingly hard.
You have the choice between three modes of difficulty – Recruit, Soldier, Veteran – and I will bow down to anyone able to get past level two on Veteran. Heck, even on Soldier mode. I’m a lowly Recruit, through and through, and I don’t see my rank changing very soon, unless there’s a demerit to something like Bait, or curse words from a Sergeant’s mouth. Even though the background story mentions a little tale about Operation Freedom, it seems you’re the only one in this battalion, armed all by your lonesome with a mortar and a 50-caliber. Large hordes of helicopters fly toward you, dropping troops along the way, while they shoot you. Since there’s no one else to man the mortar, you have to constantly switch back and forth between the weapons, so you can kill the opponents on the ground, and the ones in the air. To make matters more challenging, as the level progresses, Chinooks come into play, unleashing dozens of foes, some of which are suicide bombers, screaming all the way until they hurl their bodies at your bunker – you’ll know them by their faster pace and red garb. Oh yeah, and they suck.
Aiming the mortar takes some getting used to, as you have to tap higher up on screen to send it to further lengths – this trajectory strategy actually makes sense, given a mortar’s firing mechanism. At least you never run out of ammo in this game – it seems you have a limitless supply, something I can’t say for many one-man troops in Afghanistan. Plus, you get a handy airstrike that comes every so often, annihilating all your foes onscreen, and leaving you with that nice, burnt orange and yellow afterglow of dying bomb fragments.
The game is oddly satisfying despite its shortcomings – the tiny men lighting on fire, the machine gun rat-a-tatting, the tiny screams and explosions, they all combine in some frenzied addiction to chaos, which I suppose, is just what you want in a free game.