SimCopter (Windows)   1996


Advanced open world game, first big 3D city in open world games


Gameplay video


Picture from manual

Review - Gamezilla (1996)

"When you start SimCopter, you will find yourself standing next to a little Schweitzer 300 helicopter. Climb aboard and the radio starts blaring music and commercials. Fire up the engine and take off to await your first call. Soon a dispatch message crackles over the radio and you're off on a mission. It could be a traffic jam, a Sim in need of rescue, or a fire to douse. Whatever the mission, you're ready to meet it.
SimCity and SimCity 2000 have long been considered the best simulation games available. Over 5 million fans have enjoyed the thrill of controlling the lives of their SimCitizens or creating an exact replica of their hometown; the only thing missing was the ability to explore their masterpieces. SimCopter puts you inside the city, not as Mayor, but as the pilot of a helicopter charged with keeping the city safe. SimCopter includes 30 pre-built cities to explore and allows you to import any SimCity 2000 city, but exploring the city is only a small part -- these urban skies aren't friendly. There are fires to fight, Sims to rescue, criminals to track, and traffic to un-jam. Complete your missions and reap your rewards: extra equipment, a snazzier helicopter, and a tougher assignment.
SimCopter's interface is easy to learn and use. The emphasis is on fun, not realistic helicopter flight simulation, so the flight controls are a simple forward/backward/left/right/up/down combination. To take off you simply press one button -- the engines fire up and the helicopter gains altitude. Most of your time in SimCopter will be spent taking care of calls from your dispatcher. There are several types of missions; the most common is a traffic jam where you have to fly overhead and use your megaphone to tell the cars to move along. You will also be called on for rescue missions, firefighting, tracking criminals, and transporting Sims from one place to another.
The default helicopter comes equipped with a megaphone and water bucket and can carry two passengers. With this equipment you're set to tackle most basic missions, but more complicated assignments will require upgrades. For many rescues you'll need to equip your helicopter with a rescue harness so you can snatch Sims from their precarious perches on overturned boats, building roofs, and even speeding trains. Dousing fires with the water bucket can damage your helicopter if you get too close -- an add-on water cannon makes these missions much easier. Eventually you will be called on to deal with more complicated missions like riots -- sometimes stern announcements over the megaphone will disperse rioting Sims, but a blast with the water cannon or a tear gas bombing is much more effective. In addition to adding equipment to your helicopter, you can upgrade from the two-passenger Schweizer to larger and more powerful helicopters like the Bell 206 JetRanger, Augusta A 109, Dauphin 2, or MD 520N. There are nine different helicopters available, including the machine gun and missile-equipped Apache attack helicopter (you have to find one of these on a military base; you can't buy one). You can also call on emergency services in the city for help and pick up medics and police to carry them where they are needed. It is often easier to call the ambulance to rescue an injured Sim or the fire department to battle a blaze than to take care of it yourself. And while you can track criminals, you must call in the police to capture them.
ScreenshotThe best feature of SimCopter is its ability to take SimCity 2000 cities and render them into a 3D world you can explore. The cities are impressive -- each building, street, bridge, and lake is exactly where it would be in SimCity 2000 and the city dynamics are true to the SimCity model. If you had traffic problems in SimCity you will be plagued by traffic jams in SimCopter; cities with a high crime rate will cause more robbery and mugging calls; poverty-stricken cities will result in riots. Anything that happens in SimCopter will also be carried back to SimCity -- if a riot or fire destroys part of your city, the changes are saved with the city and will still need to be repaired when you take over as Mayor again.
Unlike other flight simulators, the scenery in SimCopter is dynamic. There are Sims out walking their dogs, cars driving down the streets (even a speeder or two to chase down), boats in the lakes, planes circling the city, and even Sims playing baseball. You also aren't limited to flying over the action -- you can land your helicopter and walk around the city.
SimCopter's graphics are its weakest feature. The buildings and terrain look good -- SimCity 2000 players will easily recognize the various buildings in the city -- but they aren't outstanding. When the game is set for a night mission the graphics look much better, but still don't compare to the detail of other simulations. In many cases the animations are somewhat blocky, especially the cars and Sims moving around the city. SimCopter just doesn't have the eye-candy you'll find in other first-person games. The game is responsive, though -- even on lower-end systems the game speed is very playable.
The lower graphics quality is more than offset by the top-notch audio in the game. The engine sounds are realistic (each helicopter is different) and the sounds of traffic are excellent. The sirens of the emergency vehicles sound like the real thing. All the sounds fade in and out as you get closer or further from their source -- a very nice touch. In addition to the effects, your helicopter is equipped with a radio that blares out tunes (which you can customize), as well as often hilarious ads. The only audio that doesn't sound realistic is the "speech" when you interact with the Sims while walking around -- it's reminiscent of the garbled speech that was always used for the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
SimCopter doesn't have much documentation, but it isn't necessary. The User's Manual is divided into two sections -- a tutorial and a reference section. The tutorial teaches you how to control the helicopter and covers the basics of handling any mission you might encounter. The reference section goes into more detail on the game controls and explains the game options (including how you can turn off missions you don't want). It also includes specifications on all the helicopters except the Apache.
Bottom Line
SimCopter is just plain fun to play. The solid action in the various missions, combined with the ability for SimCity 2000 owners to import their creations, make for virtually endless gameplay. A definite must for SimCity fans, SimCopter is also great for anyone who just wants to have fun flying a helicopter. I give SimCopter 87 out of 100."

1) First radio soundtrack for open world games: There are five virtual radio stations that can be listened to: classical, rock, jazz, techno and a mix station featuring all songs from every other station. All stations occasionally play spoof commercials and public service announcements, of which there are more than 100 in the game. Unlike other Sim games, voices on the radio are not incoherent Simlish but are actual english voices.
2) It is possible for players to import their own music and commercials into the game as long as the audio uses an uncompressed WAV format.
3) It is also the first game to use the official Sim language, Simlish.
4) Exclusive to the Apache helicopter , one can even earn points by shooting criminals with the helicopter's machine gun. The gun is also capable of killing innocent sims and destroying cars, boats, and planes, all of which have negative point values. Cars part of a traffic jam, however, are immune, and when planes are shot down they may start fires. Missiles are capable of doing the above as well as setting buildings on fire. Firing a missile at a nuclear power plant results in an explosion that destroys the whole city and the helicopter.
5) The game gained controversy when it was discovered that designer Jacques Servin inserted sprites of shirtless "himbos" (male bimbos) in Speedo trunks who hugged and kissed each other, who appear in great numbers on certain dates. Their fluorescent nipples were drawn with a special rendering mode usually reserved for fog-piercing runway landing lights, so they could easily be seen from long distances in bad weather. A bug caused hundreds of himbos to swarm and crowd around the helicopter, where they would be slashed up by the blades, and then need to be air-lifted to the hospital—which earned the player easy money. The easter egg was caught shortly after release and removed from future copies of the game. The designer was fired afterwards for adding unauthorized content (which delayed the release of the game, and caused Maxis to miss Christmas season). He cited his actions as a response to the intolerable working conditions he allegedly suffered at Maxis. This caused a member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a gay AIDS organization, to call for a boycott of all of Maxis' products, a measure which Servin rejected. Some months later, a group named RTMark announced its existence and claimed responsibility for the himbos being inserted into the game back, along with 16 other acts of "creative subversion." Servin stated that he had received a money order of $5,000 from RTMark (anti-consumerist activist group) for this prank.
6) Reference from the film "This is Spinal Tap" (1984): Volume control on the helicopter's radio goes to 11.

7) Remake on Nintendo 64 DD console was cancelled in 1999.

8) Emulated in: DOSBox with installed Windows 95 and 3dfx support.

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