Heliborne is an early access, online only, helicopter objective based multiplayer game created by JetCatGames. This is the first game from JetCatGames as a studio according to the early access section on the steam store page. And as a small team of 5 and with a small budget, it’s not a bad first game. But it’s not perfect. Heliborne suffers from small performance problems and a serious case of “simplicity”.
Heliborne comes with a decent amount of helicopters, 34 to be exact. You have your troop transportation choppers, tank choppers, small but speedy choppers, damage dealing helicopters, you name it, it’s got it. But that means nothing if they handle like trying to put in a USB stick in the dark bent over on your computer with your pants falling off. Trust me, it’s not pretty. But I’m happy to report that while not realistic, the helicopters fly easily and are fun to control. Every helicopter feels unique, some are faster than others, some slow down quicker, some turn faster. The only problem I can complain about is how hard it is to gain speed from a standstill, no matter if you’re in the air or on the ground, which isn’t good when you need to move in a pinch. The helicopters are also dependent on the team you’re playing on, so if you’re defending the almighty USA, you’ll have different helicopters compared to the Russian team, but from my experience the USA team has slightly better helicopters.
The land that you fly your helicopters in are, at best, mediocre. The size of the maps is okay at best and there are only 4 maps, but for $9.99USD, that’s to be expected. 2 of the 4 maps are set in Vietnam; The Gulf of Tonkin which is a watered base map and is my personal favorite, Operation Nguyen Hue is my least favorite and I wish they would get rid of it entirely. Badakhshan Province is a map based in Afghanistan and I found it fun to fly around, and Kosovo which has little cities that you can, and should, destroy; it gives you no advantage to the game, but who doesn’t like destroying cities? It takes roughly 20 – 30 seconds to get to the nearest objective, depending on the map and to get from one side to the other takes around 60 seconds, which is good for keeping the action close together. I never felt like I wasn’t being harassed by another player or AI bases shooting me down, I was always under pressure which kept it fun.
While the maps are decent, the way they look is not. You’ll find mediocre textures and bump mapping, hills look bland, trees look the same and somehow on a GTX 960 and i7 4770 with 16GB worth of ram, I got performance dips into the 20 fps range at some points, but most of the time it was at 60. The pro is that the effect of shooting rockets and bullets into the water is strangely satisfying. Moving on to how the game actually plays, I noticed that I couldn’t find anyone to play with, I played on the 15th of May, at a peak Australian time, and I couldn’t find anyone. I had to jump to an American server where I found 3 people to play with, and I actually had a good time! Fleeing from other players as rockets and bullets only just miss me, doing bombing runs on enemy AI bases, dropping off my troops to capture an outpost, it’s fantastic. To capture an outpost, you must land on a helipad and drop off troops (if your helicopter supports it, that is) and hope not to be bombed. The troops will get in tanks, and anti-aircraft missiles if the outpost has them, and sometimes boats! You must destroy them before you can take over the outpost, I actually really like this idea and I hope more games like this implement them.
The biggest problem to Heliborne is the length of the game and the UI. There is no time limit on the game so you can play forever, and since a game can actually go infinitely, I had to force quit the only game on the servers because it went for over an hour and still wasn’t finished, with no signs of it ending any time soon. I’m confident that at the time of writing this that it’s still going on, provided everyone hasn’t just quit. During that time, I had fun for the first 30 minutes before it got boring, very quickly. Go to an objective, shoot the AI, drop your troops, shoot an enemy helicopter, go back to… wait, I forgot to mention a very big problem. Even if I could CLEARLY SEE my bullets / rockets hitting the helicopter, I didn’t get a hitmarker and didn’t deal damage, and according to the server I had missed. This happened over 90% of the time and added to why I quit the game before it could even finish.
The sound design in Heliborne is poor, the quality of the sounds is fine, but the lack thereof is what makes it a disappointment. I can hear the same sound of the chopper blades rotating every 10 seconds, I can tell when a certain pitch is playing and I can mimic it which drives me crazy. The sound of when your chopper crashes into the ground is pathetic and is very dull. The only good sound in the game is the rockets and mini guns, which are mediocre at best.
Heliborne has some potential for being a great game, but the lack of a reason to keep coming back to the game other than the experience of shooting and winning, which has flaws, makes Heliborne a slight disappointment. I can’t deny that I did enjoy the game at first, but thanks to crappy hit registering, mediocre graphics, the lack of people playing on the servers, uninspired sound, and the lack of a progression system, I can’t recommend Heliborne, even for $10. But if you can find it for $5-$7 or less, definitely pick up Heliborne, but just remember, there is a chance that you will be playing alone.
Fun map design
Good helicopter handling
LOTS of helicopters
Poor sound design
Lack of playerbase / no player vs AI only
Graphics are mediocre at best.
Whippy gives Heliborne a Drastik Measure 5.4 out of 10 (54)