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Bohemia Interactive applies its creative talents to a rotary-wing sim.

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator franchise was one of the main civil aviation simulations that PC pilots could depend on for steady releases. Microsoft bailed out of the flight simulation market a couple years back, but now the developers at Bohemia Interactive may be helping to fill that void. Their Take on Helicopters ($50, requires Microsoft Windows XP or 7, Intel dual-core 2.4Ghz processor or comparable, 2 GB RAM, 20 GB hard drive space, 512 MB 3-D video card, could be pointing to a new avenue for them.

Don’t be put off by this product’s odd name. If you’re well versed in this kind of software, you’re already aware of Bohemia’s work on the ARMA series of military sims. A helicopter simulation is hardly a leap for this development house. Take on Helicopters (ToH) is an admirable attempt to take what some would consider a dry subject and spice it up with a sense of adventure.

In typical civil aviation sims, missions follow a predictable sequence: briefing, flight to target and conclusion. ToH doesn’t break that order, but it adds a story, characters and scripted events to the mix. The game’s campaign mode follows the story of Tom and Joe Larkin, pilots who’ve recently lost their father and have just assumed control of the family’s struggling helicopter business. Most of the game follows Tom as he takes on contracts to earn revenue for the business, including rescue, executive air taxi, aerial filming and cargo duties.

ToH lets you spend money on new helicopters, repairs and upgrades. A bit of intrigue enters the picture when you have to deal with clients who might be involved in illicit activities. Flashbacks to Joe’s former military career also add flavor. Although the game is not heavy on combat and the flashbacks are optional, it’s a good use of Bohemia’s expertise to add variety in the game. There’s little history in the game, but ToH gets some credit for creativity.

Bohemia claims the ToH engine is new and features greater fidelity than the engines used in its previous products. I verified the implementation of such features as translational lift, ground effect, torque and effectiveness of the tail rotor at varying speeds. ToH’s ground effect seems more realistic than other sims I’ve played. The collective must be constantly adjusted when trying to land in ground effect; in some other simulations it takes effect at a certain height, and landing is then accomplished with a onetime reduction in collective.

The environment graphics were somewhat muddled on my PC, although the choppers and the 3-D cockpits look good. In full realism mode, proper procedures are required to even turn the helicopter on (toggling battery, starter and engine switches). Numerous helicopters are modeled in ToH, and though they’re not identified by actual manufacturers, the designs are obvious enough that you’ll know which real-world craft are being approximated. Flying these inherently unstable vehicles in ToH is challenging, but I found the game quite enjoyable.


Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.