By Joseph Luster

Developer and publisher Klabater’s Heliborne first took to the skies back in 2017, eventually paving the way for an enhanced edition. Much of the aerial combat action we get into over here skews toward planes and other similar aircraft, so Heliborne offered a unique take on the genre with a dynamic battlefield and some welcome MMO elements. Heliborne Enhanced Edition takes those elements and further separates them from a crowded playing field, and I was more than happy to have an excuse to fly around and shoot away once more.

At its core, Heliborne offers players a wide variety of rotary-wing aviation options, with historical tiers spanning the 1950s to the 2000s. Beyond serving a welcome overview of helicopter history, there are maps inspired by many of the conflicts in which they took part over the years. There’s Operation Nguyen Hue in Vietnam, Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and more, each with their own advantages and disadvantages for both air and ground units.

No matter what version of Heliborne you play, two modes stand at the forefront: Domination and Frontline. The former is your average capture-the-flag mode available to play on the Badakhshan and Gulf of Tonkin maps. Frontline has players capturing bases as ground vehicles spawn in convoys and traverse the map to solidify positioning and fortify bases along the Operation Nguyen Hue, Khost Region and Kosovo maps.

The assortment of Attack, Air-Assault and Recon helicopters get the job done with a mix of arcade and simulation, right down to the dynamics of inertia and momentum. The presentation doesn’t always match the intricacies of combat, but when it works it tends to hit that sweet spot between realism and intuitive controls. If you really want to get hardcore with it, Heliborne supports flight sticks in addition to gamepads and keyboard/ mouse configurations.

If you’ve yet to play Heliborne or are thinking about jumping into the cockpit for the first time, Enhanced Edition is the way to go. The visuals have been spruced up a bit along with the user interface, and the game engine has gotten a nice little upgrade overall. The updated version also introduced nighttime iterations of the maps and more prototype machines, so the changes are substantial enough to make it worth a return trip.

Genre: Air combat
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Klabater
Available: Now

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