The fourth installment of Comanche is now upon us and it’s like greeting an old buddy you haven’t seen in a while. The original Comanche was my first experience of a flight sim title on my trusty 486SX- in the days when 3D accelerators were things of the future and Novalogic’s Voxel technology blew you away with it’s stunning visuals. Things have moved on a bit now with ninja-fast PC’s and graphics cards so it’s hardly surprising the popular chopper sim series continues with Comanche 4.One of the most impressive features of the Comanche series is the balance between authenticity and gameplay, Novalogic have always made it really easy to get to grips with Comanche, not bogging you down in flight sim terminology and make everything from weapons to controls really easy to understand. Comanche 4 is no exception. The game contains different six campaigns set in different locations and the game also includes a training mode. Doing my usual, just kicking off a mission straight away. I soon discovered that was not such a good idea, failing the first mission numerous times before conceding and heading back to the menu to undertake the training.The training missions take you through every control or option you will need in the scenarios. The training is very well put together and easy to understand and thanks to the simplified flight controls even the most inept flight sim gamer will get to grips with this quickly. During the training you will be accompanied by another Comanche that will give you instructions at each stage so you can’t really go wrong.Training complete it’s time to head into the missions. The first scenario where you’re on the trail of terrorists in the Philippine Islands throws you right into the action, no messing about here. The first mission was surprisingly tough. You have to protect a stranded yacht from terrorists who attack in their droves in modified boats with nasty Stinger wielding men. Fortunately your wingman is on hand to lend a*istance and you can issue various commands to him and also a*ign him targets while you take out the other boats. This was a tough missions and took a few attempts before the yacht was saved from attack. This first mission was just a taster for what was to come and it’s not because it’s hard to control the chopper or select weapons but simply because the action is so fast paced. This was to set the standard for what was to come.Comanche 4 may be the latest chopper flight sim but expect to be involved in support roles for ground troops. The game features a whole stack of ground units both friendly and enemy. On missions you’ll have to evade everything from enemy tanks to anti-air gunfire, Comanche 4 has got the lot. Ground troops are the real menace, especially Stinger wielding troops that are hard to spot and hard to target. Picking a target is pretty simple just hit the targeting key and let loose with either rockets or gunfire. The most effective against ground installations and armored units the h**fire rockets which home in on the target a*uming you can keep a lock. There’s also a rather neat trick of firing off a barrage of h**fire’s and then cycling targets so they hit one after another but this takes a bit of practice and skill. v During missions you can land the Comanche at a friendly base, repair any damage and also configure the weapon load-out each time. Adding and switching weapons is done via the reload weapons menu where you can add remove and tweak your weapons of choice and change them depending on what stage you are it in a mission.The Comanche also comes with additional EFAMS, these allow larger payloads to be attached but it does mean you are more susceptible to attack as the enemy can pick you up a lot easier on radar. Not all missions are guns blazing, some require stealth which suits the Comanche’s design perfectly, low ground attacks and maneuvering, all which require a reasonable amount of concentration and skill. The beauty of Comanche 4 is the game’s playability in battle, nothing is over complicated and the balance is just right between realism and fast paced action shooter.There are six scenarios available to play which are not really connected in any way but all are presented well with background information through in-game cut scenes at the start of each. It would have been nice to have scenarios inter-linked in some way but that’s a minor point, all are challenging and varied.Controlling you Comanche is done with a combination of keys and joystick or mouse. If you have a good stick, we used a Sidewinder Force Feedback 2, you can control just about everything on the stick including throttle and altitude. The joystick’s HAT control can be set to control altitude which is very nice and allows you to keep complete control with the stick alone. There are also 3 predefined hover heights to keep you nice and steady, all controlled by 3 keys on the keyboard. This makes moving and sneaking around in missions a lot easier than having to constantly tweak the altitude. Fortunately you’re not bogged down with 10,o00 keys and everything is kept simple and the handy key chart should keep you straight.Long gone are the blocky Voxels of yesteryear, the game features a very tasty looking 3D engine, something Novalogic keep improving on since F16 and Mig29. Graphically Comanche 4 looks fantastic, everything is highly detailed and the water in the game is some of best we’ve seen on any title. Bringing your Comanche to a hover just above the ocean you’ll see the ripple effects of the air being pushed down from the rotors, it’s pretty stunning stuff. Damage effects and explosions are also suitably impressive. Take out a building and you can see it collapse piece by piece and the explosions actually look like explosions for once as the flames rise up from the destroyed target. Rockets and gunfire will set trees ablaze, a nice touch which adds to the overall realism.As you’d expect with most sims these days the game features a variety of different view options. There are 3 different c**pit views without HUD, full HUD or reduced HUD depending on your preference. It’s a lot easier to see all the action without the HUD turned on, but it does remove some of the realism. There’s also a 3rd person view from behind the chopper and you can still pick up targets fairly easy with the crosshair that sits in front of the Comanche. The obligatory external views and fly-by are also there giving a good view of the detailed scenery and vehicle models.The game’s sound is pretty impressive, the weapons and vehicle sounds are all very well done. The helicopter rotor sounds are spot on although they’re probably not quite as loud as you’d expect. The explosions all go off with a suitable bang giving the impression you’re weapons can pack a real punch as they make impact. To bring some real atmosphere to the scenarios there are audio messages from your base camp giving instructions on mission progress, and the wingman commands all bring suitable responses which makes the whole game feel more alive.Like other Novalogic products multiplayer is supported via Novalogic’s Novaworld. Unfortunately Novalogic have had some problems since the game was released so there’s no online multiplayer included in the game yet. This is only temporary though, so it will give you time to work through the missions. I have always been pretty impressed with Novaworld , rest a*ured once the problems are over you should get a quality online gaming experience. The game will feature multiplayer head to head, teamplay and co-op so there will be plenty here to keep you amused once you get through the missions.Without a doubt Comanche is a stunning looking game and fortunately the gameplay is also up to par. Novalogic have found a good balance between realism and all out action. If you’re looking for something fast paced and challenging then this is a must have title, it’s one h** of a good blast.