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Level 1
Choplifter (Level 1)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 16, 2012   |   Episode 23 (Show Archive)  


Welcome to Level 1. Every week we look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for -- we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! This is the 30th anniversary of Choplifter, one of the greatest 2D hostage rescue simulators of all time. We've decided to go back and dig into Choplifter's first level. What's it like to be the guy who has to save the day? Why is he haunted by fears? Will he ever get the respect he deserves? Read on and find out!
Choplifter (Sega)
[ Release: 1985 - Console: Sega Master System ]
Choplifter (Sega Master System)
Choplifter (Sega Master System)
Choplifter is what you get when you take a traditional 2D shoot-em-up and substitute a helicopter for the traditional airplane. This is a slower, more methodical series that tasks players with the mission of shooting down bad guys and saving hostages. This simple premise spawned several 16-bit sequels, as well as a couple portable entries. Recently inXile Entertainment developed a remake of sorts called Choplifter HD. I wonder if the old game still holds up 30 years later. Let's press the start button and find out ...

Level 1 - The Battlefield: All around me there are bombs going off. To my left is a gun-crazed pack of terrorists looking to chop off my head. To my left is an army of tanks just waiting to zero in on a target. I'm completely stuck; frozen in fear and counting the seconds before I die. Just as I lose hope and decide to walk into the line of fire, I hear a helicopter overhead. There's a man shouting for me to grab the rope; it's the only way out. I immediately grab the life preserver, ready to be shuttled
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
away from this hellish warzone. I have been saved.

But just as I am hoisted up, I hear the unmistakable sound of a missile penetrating the chopper above. I see the wreckage twisting and turning like a 1950s Chubby Checker song. I didn't need to hear the fat woman sing, I knew my days were numbered. And with the terrorists laughing at my misfortune, I close my eyes and brace for impact.

That's usually when I wake up. I've been having this same nightmare for the last month. Every night I close my eyes and pray I'm not sucked into a tale of death and destruction. But sadly I can't seem to shake it. I'm barely getting any sleep and I'm cranky all the time. This
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!!
is not the disposition you want from an ace helicopter pilot on the front lines of the battlefield. My job is to race into the action and rescue kidnapped soldiers stuck on the ground. I wear this uniform with pride and honor, even if I can barely keep my eyes open these days.

I can tell something big is going on. Everybody around me is yelling and running; they appear to be in a panic. I can't quite make out what they're talking about, but I know I need to snap out of my daze and be the hero everybody expects. What I've gathered from half-finished sentences involves three known terrorist strongholds. It's apparently strong intel, the type that sends normally
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
calm men into a wild panic. I guess I know what that means.

Whether I like it or not, I have a squad of men that are counting on me. Instead of sending covert agents across enemy lines, we've decided to take a more direct route. My job is to fly to all three strongholds and blow up the buildings. If all goes well this shock will kill the terrorists and allow the hostages to escape. Everybody agrees this is our best plan of attack. Then again, they're all staying back where it's safe while I risk my tired ass. Lovely.

I'm at peace in the air. Up here I'm not forced to listen to pissing contests and fake bravado. I can turn down the radio and target the enemy. It's like shooting bacon in a barrel. The enemy has a few soldiers scattered around, but nothing like
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
what I expected. I'm able to take out their ground forces quickly, leaving me just outside the first compound.

I love this part of my job. I know that the enemy below can hear me. They're never quite sure what to do about that hovering chopper above them. It can strike at any time, so they have to think fast. If they run they'll be mowed down with my powerful gun. If they stay there I'll bomb them into the Stone Age. What are you going to do?

Too late! I send a missile into what I hope is the family room, taking out the entire top of the building. With the
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
terrorists dead, the hostages stream out of the building waiting for a pick-up. I swoop down and save nearly a dozen brave men and women. They want to thank me, but there's no time. It's my job to get them back safe, and that's not going to happen if we stay here waiting for the rest of the army to show up.

My time at base is short lived. I stick around just long enough to unload the freed hostages and reload my tanks. With time working against me, I need to head back into the battlefield and take out the other two enemy compounds. This time around I rush into battle, taking out convoys and gun towers with expertly aimed shots. These guys haven't invented the technology that's going to take me down. And just like that, I've saved another group of hostages.

Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
Choplifter - Level 1: The Battlefield!
I can see the final compound in the distance. I know that I'm just a few guided missiles away from going back to the base and getting a little more shut eye. I press on; taking out every terrorist I can see. Just like before, I hover above the building waiting for that perfect time to strike. What I don't notice is the soldier beyond the building with the RPG locked on me. I see the missile headed my way, but it's too late. I'm going down.

I wake up in a cell. All around me are disappointed faces; I let everybody down. I know there must be a way out of this mess. I yell at the guards, hoping to get their attention. It doesn't work, they seem pre-occupied with something. Suddenly I hear a familiar sound. That's a chopper above me; somebody must have sent
Choplifter - Level 2: Ocean Assault!
Choplifter - Level 2: Ocean Assault!
a second pilot out to rescue us. We rush out of the compound ready to be rescue, life is good. There's a man shouting for me to grab the rope; it's the only way out. I immediately grab the life preserver, ready to be shuttled away from this hellish warzone. I have been saved.

What Have We Learned Today: Even if you get things right a million times, there's always a chance of something going terribly wrong. Especially in a warzone, where you're constantly getting shot at. You can never feel too safe in a warzone, even if you're in an extremely dangerous helicopter and suffering from
Want to fall asleep? Play Choplifter HD!
sleep deprivation. Speaking of which, make it a point to get a full-night's sleep tonight, it's good for your body AND mind.

What Did We Miss: In the second level the Choplifter gang relocates to a new hotspot. Unfortunately, our hero is forced to rescue another group of hostages all by himself. This time around the game introduces harder enemies and tanks. It's a grind that is all too familiar these days. Ah, the life of a fictional helicopter pilot in the military.

What the Commander Said: "Ace you're leading up this mission but ... hey ... where are you going? I'm not done talking. What's with that guy? He always storms out before I can assign him back-up support. He's going to jeopardize the mission pulling that kind of stunt. Iceberg, get out there and give that pilot some support. We need him to come back alive; he's the best god damn soldier we've got! "


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