With this AAR, we take a look back into the not-so-distant past, and ask ourselves a question: did we miss an opportunity with Take On: Hinds?
Hinds in a sandbox
In this article, I’m going to take a look at a brilliant sandbox mission originally authored by BTK and adapted by TeTeT for Take On Helicopters: Hinds (TOHH). After the AAR, I’m following up with a bit of an editorial on what I feel was a missed opportunity with TOHH, so apologies for the length. As usual, we tend to saunter here at Mudspike rather than sprint.
The mission premise is that basically you are an “ass & trash” hauler in post war Chernarus. Missions are dynamically generated and you control how many missions you want to fly per shift (5, 10, 20, or 30). During your shift you’ll be assigned a variety of tasks from material transport (sling loads), to troop transports, rescues, and VIP movements. I’ve flown about ten completed missions and there is a warning that enemy fire can be encountered, but I have yet to see it. I believe the island is subdivided by post-war politics and geography, but don’t quote me on that. I might have to wander down to the U.S. side of the area to see what the ramifications are.
The scenario starts out with the player in the pilot seat of the Mi-24 Hind awaiting orders from Krasnostav Control. The base has a bit of activity with troops milling about, defensive emplacements in action, and a full repair, rearm, and refuel facility available. For our first mission, we are tasked with picking up construction material from a nearby airbase and delivering it to one of our outposts.
It can’t be emphasized enough how beautiful the TOHH environmentals are. At its heart, it is essentially Arma 2 and the ability to utilize Arma 2 content in Take On Helicopters was added with the free Take On Helicopters – Rearmed capability. The lighting, clouds, visibility, and overall high detail of the ground scenery makes flying helicopters over Arma 2 landscapes a fantastic affair.
As with all of the TOH content, cockpits are nicely detailed with functioning flight and engine instruments. Systems are lightly modeled and include clickable components within the cockpit such as starters, battery, lights, gear, and other items. Or, you can just use the scroll wheel menu to auto-start the helicopter. Whatever the case, the nice cockpit coupled with the lighting and terrain detail provide an awesome low level experience.
Upon arrival at the pickup location a unobtrusive orange arrow shows where the sling load is located. Sling loading must be done with some script because it isn’t nearly as involved as the huge improvements that were part of the Arma 3 Helicopters DLC. In this mission, all you have to do is get into a close hover near the sling load object and hit the “Lift the object” menu item. Unfortunately, there is no cable attaching the load, but that is only a small hiccup in the immersion.
Into the rising sun we head on the short flight to the delivery location. If you haven’t played Take On Helicopters or TOH-Hinds, the flight model is pretty good and requires a LOT of hands on attention. Trimmer functions are a part of flying the helicopter and one must be very careful with the trim and reset trim functions and be ready for the change in inputs to the rotor system when they are cancelled. Auto-hover can be mapped to your controller to help with tight maneuvering, but expect a bit of a learning curve with manual flying.
Upon arrival at the drop-off location, hover until the load is near the ground and hit the “Drop cargo” selection on the scroll menu. Drop off locations vary in difficulty with trees, powerlines, and antenna being the most prevalent obstacles.
Once the mission is complete, it is simply a matter of waiting a minute or two for a new mission to generate. Often you won’t even have time to make it back to base before a new tasking is sent. For our second mission we are sent on another cargo delivery, this time a palette of supplies to troops in the field.
A light touch on the cyclic and a bit of trimmer gets you almost hands off flying while enroute. With practice you can avoid the wild gyrations that can occur when the trimmer is reset. A nice method of smoothing the transition out of the cruise trim setting is to enter autohover (it will do it at any airspeed – a bit of a cheat there), then select reset trim, then make the approach to the LZ while in autohover mode where small adjustments can be made.
Once again we arrive at the dropoff location. Typically the recipients at the LZ will shoot off a flare as you approach, then mark the LZ with smoke. I haven’t had to come into a hot LZ yet, but I think the possibility exists.
I’m not sure if it is better to be paid by the trip or by the mileage – but we are immediately tasked for a transport. An engineering team needs to go check out a damaged tank so we need to pick them up at base and transport them into the field.
I’m still not exactly sure where my fuel gauge is. If necessary due to damage or fuel load, it is possible to land at the airbase service area to rearm/refuel/repair your helicopter. This is one of the areas where Take On Helicopters and the Arma series sets itself apart. The truly sandbox nature of the game allows you to do cool stuff like landing, getting out of the helicopter, and driving a vehicle to perform the service items. After I land at the service station, I hop in a tanker truck and pull close enough to allow the fuel to transfer.
Throughout each of the missions, I’m reminded of how good the visuals are. The original Take On Helicopters had similar atmosphere and changing weather and lighting conditions based on the storminess. It’s hard to describe, but this series just gets it “right” with regards to the pleasing HDR, low-level detail, shadows, and visibility.
On approach to the LZ near the damaged tank the wind blows from over the ridge. Some of the landing zones are on moderate slopes and the Hind will absolutely roll over on you if you get lazy with the landing geometry. On landing the cargo compartment doors open and the team jumps out to get to work on the tank.
Back to base and the next delivery is a container to another outpost. If you aren’t into flying and the challenges of helicopter flight – then these missions might not be for you. Run and gun pilots probably need to find a mission with more gunnery and destruction.
Transport missions include rescues, taking troops to outposts, picking up troops from outposts, and ferrying VIPs and civilians.
One of the interesting sling load missions had me grab a UAZ from base and deliver it to some troops in the field. Imagine my surprise when I set the UAZ down and the troops immediately piled into it! I should have landed and went with them on patrol..!
Interesting Arma type touches are that the loads actually have utility. The vehicles you deliver can be driven, and the supplies you sling load into the LZ can actually be used. I took this pallet of fuel barrels to an outpost and when I landed next to them I was able to refuel from them. A really nice touch that shows there are huge possibilities with such a full sandbox editor.
At some points during the mission, there will be a pause and you’ll see a text saying “Later in the day…” and you’ll come back into the scenario at a later time with the possibility of different weather conditions. During this 5-mission shift I flew dawn missions for three and dusk missions for two more.
The length of your scenario will be based on the number of missions you have chosen at the start. For a short duration dynamic mission, choose as few as five missions. For longer periods, choose twenty missions. Once you’ve done your time and survived without damaging the helicopter beyond repair, your mission will come to an end.
This was a fun mission that demonstrates the flexibility of the Hind. It doesn’t have to be all guns and rockets. I plan to fly some additional missions and see if I can poke my nose into some trouble spots to see how the mission handles enemy action. I’m also on the lookout for other fun combat and non-combat Hind missions – if you know of some, send em’ along! Many thanks to BTK for the original mission and TeTeT for the update – great job guys!
Link to mission (.pbo in ZIP): HindChernarus.zip
In revisiting Take On Helicopters: Hinds, it became clear to me that the whole TOH franchise represents a missed opportunity – for both the developers (Bohemia Interactive) and us as simmers/gamers. I am probably one of the few people that actually played through the entire Take On Helicopters campaign (Larkin Rising) and I enjoyed the heck out of it. The storyline was compelling enough, tied together, and though the voice acting was hokey in places, it got the job done. I can only imagine how much work it took to make that campaign. While the terrain graphics weren’t a breakthrough, TOH had a lot going for it. There was a lot of unrealized potential in TOH however because of the somewhat limited use of Arma type gameplay. One of the most memorable missions of TOH was one of the flashback missions where you are piloting in a combat zone and are shot down and must evade capture until you are picked up. The TOH campaign (story) was fairly linear and I feel they could have really widened out the campaign or made large scale missions like the one above, that could have taken advantage of the massive open sandbox that Arma 2 is.
When Take On Hinds was released, it shipped with a fairly unimpressive bit of content. A few time trials, some head to head stuff, and a few largely unimpressive single missions. What is frustrating is that the heavy lifting was done because the Mi-24 is really nicely implemented, but it was a diamond waiting for a good setting. This is where both Bohemia and the community (including me) fell down. While there were people in the community that came up with content, the verdict on Hinds seemed to be passed down almost immediately on release, and that is unfortunate. Among my fellow simmers I so often see the comment “this sim needs more playability…it is too sterile”, and Arma is an excellent compromise for that problem. No, you won’t see DCS level systems modeling in Arma or the Take On series, but you will find fairy compelling gameplay. And I’d submit you haven’t (yet) seen low level helicopter visuals that can match Arma 2 & Arma 3. In retrospect, I wish we had all piled in behind Take On Hinds and supported the developer, helped with content creating and dissemination, and made Hinds into a great combat sim that we would *still* be playing. Yes, most of us have moved on to Arma 3, and it is fun. But Take On: Hinds can still hold its own against Arma 3 in many respects. Take On Hinds – Rearmed came too late unfortunately, and it is a shame because the additional maps and assets it brought forth from Arma 2: Combined Operations really opens the Hind content up to some great environments and potential missions. Is it too late? Probably. But there is still some fun stuff out there to play. And with Take On Helicopters and Take On Hinds going on sale regularly, the investment in money is minimal, but the investment in time to learn to fly the Hind is not.
So – I’m sorry Bohemia, for not getting around to Hinds earlier. And I’m sorry community for not being smart enough to have lit that fuse when the time was ripe. Let’s try not to make that mistake again, and lets celebrate that sometimes playing a flight simulator “game” is really fun, and that not every button, knob, and dial has to work in order to come away with some WOW moments.
Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth