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Posted on Jul 2, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Enemy Engaged 2 Review

By Ryan Stepalavich


Passed Inspection:
Easy to pick up and play. Real-time dynamic campaign keeps the action flowing. Frantic combat with minimal wait time.

Failed Basic: Clunky mission interface. Multiplayer doesn’t add much. Lackluster terrain graphics

It’s been about seven years since the hit chopper simulation franchise from Razorworks has graced fans with its presence. Now they have come to show the world once again just how great Enemy Engaged 2 can be. What’s the miracle addition to their latest title? What mystery ingredients have been mixed into the batter of aeronautics excellence? In all honesty, not much, and that is just the way it should be.

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Enemy Engaged 2 places the virtual pilot at the controls of the recently cancelled RAH-66 Commanche, or the Russian Ka-52 Hokum, the mightiest of the mighty hovering gunships of our time-shy of the AH-64 Longbow, of course. The gamer is then thrust into three theoretical future campaigns: a second Korean War, a "War of Independence" between a Taiwanese/American Coalition and the People’s Liberation Army of China, and a ground-pounder in the sweltering, dusty sands of Lebanon.

It is in the campaign work that Enemy Engaged 2 becomes such a revolutionary title and a true successor in the franchise. Traditionally, in combat simulations, each mission in a campaign is incredibly stopgap in that win or lose, even in so-called "dynamic" campaigns, the gamer is pulled out of the war to re-assess and regroup. This often leaves the gamer without a sense of impact resulting from their success or failure. If the gamer failed to strike a tank column en route to a local outpost, what happened to the outpost? There’s never a sense of impact directly resulting from the actions of the gamer. With Enemy Engaged 2, the emptiness is left behind. It has to be made clear here, that if the pilot succeeds or fails, the campaign does not stop. The gamer is instead brought back to the map overlay, and is prompted to select another mission. Combat continues, even while the player is trying to select a mission.

The dynamic nature does not end there. At any one time, the pilot will be asked to select one of several missions. These vary in range from recon missions and ground strikes to air patrols and everything in between. Each mission has an "expiration time" – a time limit to select the mission before the AI accepts it instead. Once a mission is selected, the remaining missions will continue to tick down their expiration time, and eventually, will be commandeered by the AI. This means, come hell or high water, the missions are perpetually in cycle, keeping the action fresh, and the action does not stop. There is always something going on, even when the player isn’t exactly doing much to help fight the good fight.

The campaign also reacts to the results of the pilot’s efforts. For example, if the pilot is en route for an airstrike, and is ambushed by a small group of BMP-3s, thereby failing the mission, it is entirely likely that another mission will be generated to recon the area where the player was shot down. It is an incredible sense of instant results and gratification, even in failure, that keeps the gamer going.

The only thing holding the player even moderately back is the mission interfaces themselves. It took quite a bit of tinkering to actually master selecting a mission type, picking the proper airbase to take off from, and getting to the action once again. A little tweaking in the "user friendliness" of the interface would lend well to pilots, as a more intuitive mission selection method would get the pilot back into action within seconds instead of minutes.

The campaigns are enormous, and with the truly dynamic nature of the mission structure, can keep the pilot playing for hours upon hours. The overall size of the maps reach over tens of thousands of miles. While, normally, this could lend towards a lot of "down time" where the player is spending most of their time flying from waypoint to waypoint, the AI intelligently assigns missions to helicopter squadrons that are most conveniently or efficiently located, and there’s always the time lapse function, which accelerates to four times normal speed. As such, there’s plenty of diversity to explore and experience, including cities, deserts, forests, and mountain ranges. Rivers and bridges are spotted across many of the sections of the maps, and yes, the bridges are very destructible.

Because of the sheer size of the maps, it makes multiplayer seem like an afterthought. Granted, there is nothing more satisfying than forming a Commanche wing with some friends and raising holy hell with the opposing force, but when attempting to fly in a "pickup" match, the experience isn’t greatly enhanced compared to the single player campaigns. The campaigns, in all actuality, are identical between multiplayer and single player. Because the maps are not any smaller, the player can’t expect any direct player versus player helicopter combat at a regular interval.

Controlling the helicopters themselves is incredibly intuitive and simple. Button placement seems natural, so even a keyboard-only simulation gamer could feel at ease with the controls. The physics are accurate, but not to the point of aggravation. Indeed, there are multiple physics and avionics difficulty settings, so even the unseasoned novice can simply start a mission or free flight, for combat-less entertainment, and immediately get airborne. There is a distinct difference between the Hokum and the Commanche, of course. The Commanche feels light and nimble, able to make quick strikes and get back to base. The Hokum, on the other hand, is a big burly bear of a chopper, and the physics and controls certainly reflect that.

Graphically, there’s a stark difference between the units and the environment. The units – helicopters, tanks, anti-air, jets, etc – look fantastic. Indeed, Enemy Engaged 2 requires a DirectX 9.0 compatible video card to show off all of the bump mapping and reflectivity effects against the gunmetal of the Commanche and Hokum. Everything, including the weapons, looks sharp and clear, and the explosion effects are appropriately eye-popping.

The terrain, however, leaves a bit to be desired. Ground textures are somewhat blurry, and the polygon count on the mountain ranges makes the summits look like something out of a Lego construction set. Trees are slightly on the 2D side, and can be an irritant when trying to ogle at the scenery while en route to the combat zone.

But really, when all is said and done, Enemy Engaged 2 isn’t about the pretty mountaintops, it’s about slamming the enemy helicopter into the mountaintops, and "ooh"-ing and "aah"-ing at the plumes of smoke that result from such assaults. Enemy Engaged 2 is a simulation for the masses. Everything is in place for it to be one of the best around. The combat is fresh, the campaigns are never the same thing twice, and when equipped with the dynamic campaign structure, the game will never get old.

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