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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chopper Simulators A Real Blast

Aaron Curtiss Los Angeles Times

Nothing erases a bad week quite like flying a heavily armored, heavily armed Apache helicopter over enemy territory, blowing up everything in sight.

Since no one in their right mind would let me within 100 yards of one of these bad boys, I have to get my jollies at home with virtual flight which is probably about as real as I’d ever want it to get anyway.

Lucky for me, there is a huge library of chopper simulators to choose from. And while most early 32-bit chopper games never seemed to get off the ground, two new titles deliver play that’s relentlessly fast and unforgiving.

Electronic Arts’ “Soviet Strike” for Sony PlayStation updates the immensely popular 16-bit Strike series, in which players pilot Apaches through some heinous firefights.

With its distinctive three-quarters view, great terrain and enough firepower to turn Las Vegas into dust, Soviet Strike makes for an enjoyable weekend of stress relief.

Fans of the old Strike games will appreciate how control has been duplicated, so the learning curve is pretty short. That’s a good thing, since enemies start locking on within a few seconds of takeoff.

Even during down times, players must constantly monitor their fuel supply or hunt for more. This is not a game for the weak at heart.

And only the truly tough should even dare to take “Black Dawn” from Virgin Interactive out for a spin on PlayStation.

The default view of “Black Dawn” is right inside the cockpit of a Mohawk attack helicopter - if it was any more real the game would come packed with air sickness bags.

Like “Soviet Strike,” the fire is fast and furious. But it seems a lot more personal because of the first-person perspective.

It’s also tougher to maneuver because of the limited view, which is more realistic than Soviet Strike’s three-quarter perspective.

I had a kick playing “Black Dawn,” but was quickly killed every time I played. I enjoy a good flight sim as much as the next guy, but some of the control was too tough for my feeble brain to master.

I spent a lot of time watching the ground jump up to meet me. Players who like a challenge, though, will love “Black Dawn.”

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