HeliCOPS is an excellent futuristic 3D shooter in the same style as Terminal Velocity, but with much more diverse gameplay. You play a cop working in Tokyo who pilots an armor-plated helicopter packed with enough weaponry to flatten several cities. Your task, of course, is to undertake various missions to stop the criminals.
The game's plot is developed via some very nice cartoon stills. The character design is excellent and resembles Japanese cartoons (i.e. anime). The first thing to do is select which of the five helicops you want to pilot your craft. They all have profiles, and you gain an advantage if you manage to use the right pilot for the right helicopter. There are five helicopters to choose from, all with individual attributes such as speed, armament, and shields. Once you have selected your cop and your preferred choice of transport, it's time for some action.
Each cop begins with four scenarios from which to select. Once you've picked a scenario you have to play through four or five missions. The variation that the missions present is excellent in that very few of them are simple shoot-the-target assignments. For example, one of the earlier missions involves stopping a convoy of tanks before they reach the other side of a river. Aircraft attempt to delay you from destroying the tanks on the level's vast bridge and some more sneaky tanks attempt to cross the river on barges. Other missions involve airlifts, data retrieval, defusing bombs, destroying a cloaked air base, and sinking escaping ships.
The controls take some time to learn, and needless to say a four-button gamepad or joystick works best. Although not a hard-core helicopter sim, HeliCOPS is based on a decent enough physics model so that the feel of piloting a helicopter (as opposed to, say, a flying truck) is adequate. However, it's not really a sim because you can't damage yourself by crashing into the ground, and targeting is fairly simplistic. Each helicopter comes armed with three sorts of missiles and two forms of guns, one of which has unlimited ammo. Arcade-style power-ups are generously strewn throughout the game area. Some reload or upgrade your weapons, but the majority has more interesting effects, particularly 'conflict' which temporarily turns the enemy against each other – very fun to watch.
The graphics in HeliCOPS are very impressive. The 3D engine runs in SVGA and uses some very detailed texture maps. Each game area has its own, distinctive look: cities, docks, caves, and even the insides of a computer are all excellently modeled. A lot of the “background” graphics are actually animated, making the game world very dynamic. You will see planes take off on the airport levels, trucks make deliveries around the docks, and trains rumble through the mountains. You can even shoot these passive craft down.
Like all shoot ‘em ups, HeliCOPS doesn’t boast high long-term value... once you finish the game, there’s little reason to play it through the second time because you have already seen all the enemies and the surprises. Expert action gamers may also be put off by the fact that the helicop’s crosshairs almost automatically “lock in” targets, making targeting a lot less challenging. However, this is compensated by the diverse gameplay (such as picking the pilot, evading enemy and ground defense fire) so the game isn’t too easy overall. All things considered, HeliCOPS is definitely a must-play, especially for fans of Terminal Velocity or Fury 3. Highly recommended!Reviewed by: Underdogs