An old, but still cool game from Maxis that involves flying a helicopter around a city, completing missions and earning money for new copters and accessories. The game's biggest asset is the fact that you can load any city from SimCity 2000 and fly around in it. This is immensely cool, to say the least, for any fan of SimCity 2000.

The game features a (very) rudimentary 3D engine for rendering the city, which would be MUCH cooler if it had a greater line of sight and better texture mapping. Helicopter physics are very decent, if simplified. Control is easy with the keyboard, and even easier if you have a joystick. One fun feature is the ability to land and get out of your copter, running around the city and talking to all the little polygon people. You can even land on top of buildings (like the llamadome) and walk around up there.

The missions you get include:

The following choppers are available: Here's the accessories you can buy for your chopper: As in all Maxis games, there's a bunch of fun cheat codes. Type Ctrl-Alt-x to bring up a dialog box.
  • "Gas does grow on trees" - unlimited fuel
  • "Shields up" - invincibility
  • "Give me bucks or give me death - $x" - gives you x amount of money
  • "superpowermultiply" - fly really fast when you hold down the shift key. Also turn into a fast dog when on the ground
  • "I love my helicopter" - warps you to your copter
  • "There's no place like home" - warps you (not your copter) back to the hanger
  • "Been there, done that" - complete the current level automatically
  • "The map, please" - show the map even when you're walking around
  • "A megaphone in the hand is worth two in the bush" - use your megaphone while walking around
  • "Warp me to career - x" - warp to career level x.
  • "I'm the CEO of McDonnell Douglas" - get free helicopters in the catalog screen by pressing the number keys.
  • "PAMCAREYGOLDMAN" - pastes a picture of the lead programmer's wife on all the billboards and drive-in theaters.
  • "Out for a Sunday drive" - camera chases a random car
  • "Lights, Camera, Action!" - play movies on the drive-in theaters.
  • "Stop and ask for directions" - write the map as a text file (dump_bm.txt) to disk.
  • "Gort" - play the movie that is shown when you beat the game
  • "Radioactivity" - cause a nuclear meltdown, as if you had let a nuclear reactor burn down.
The first 50,000 copies of SimCopter have a very peculiar story behind them. The pre-Christmas shipment of it included an (in-house) hack that substitutes the sexy female Sims with strong male Sims in swimsuits. And it was done by programmer Jacques Servin, who is gay and thought that this would be a kind of a protest on how sexist games can be. After seeing his colleague create the sexy girls in distress, he thought "bimbos? Why not studs?". And on to the graphics editor he went!

After copying and altering some of the characters (so they'd look like men, although they looked more like drag queens, they were women with very thick arms and legs), Servin created a random-number generator to substitute the blonde bimbos with his Speedo-wearing muscular men every few months. But his idea didn't work out too well: the helpless "muscle boys in swim trunks" (in Servin's words) appeared more often than expected, namely on the final stages of the game and on specific dates (namely Friday 13th and September 30th, Servin's birthday). If you bumped into these character, you'd have to get your character to kiss them -- triggering that kissing noises a la The Sims -- to rescue them.

And who's managed to find such hack? None other than mister Will Wright, creator of the Sim universe... And it wasn't that expected to see those chippendales on the game kissing each other, gyrating their bodies lambada-style on tops of buildings and so on. Not on a helicopter rescue game...

... and so mr. Servin was fired from the company. Not because of his pro-GLAAD protest, but because of adding unauthorized content on the game. As Servin said on an interview to Wired, he was trying to make a point about how "heterosexual content is always implicit in games".
Title: SimCopter
Developer: In-house
Publisher: Maxis
Date Published: 31/10/1996
Platforms: PC
A great little game, the last released by Maxis before their purchase by Electronic Arts at the start of 1997. At the controls of a helicopter, fly around a city helping the emergency services deal with a variety of problems.

In an interesting and unique twist, the game's levels are actually derived from SimCity 2000 city files. Each and every building tile has been rendered in 3D, which also means you can use SimCity 2000 and/or the Urban Renewal Kit to create your own levels for the game. Or, import your cities from SimCity 2000.

In addition to flying, you can also get out of your helicopter and walk around. This can enable you to pick up injured people, or just wander around the city exploring and harassing the locals. You can also toggle day and night mode with Ctrl-D. As you cruise, several radio stations (classical, jazz, rock, techno and a mix station) play nice original music and amusing advertisements - including Ride of the Valkyries, perfect for those dramatic moments.

THE HANGAR

The hangar is where each mission starts. The area surrounding the hangar is considered your helipad. Your helicopters are stored outside. To enter the hangar (or any hangar) simply walk into it. Once inside, you can purchase new helicopters and equipment from the catalogue on the desk.

Every subsequent landing at the hangar, you'll be greeted with a maintenance screen where you can drag the sliders to buy repairs, fuel, and tear gas canisters. If your helicopter runs out of fuel and you safely land rough, the screen will also pop up, albeit with inflated prices.

HELICOPTERS

  • Schweizer 300
    You start with this small bubble-cockpit helicopter. Only really used for training, it's very slow and very weak, with only two seats. Upgrade as soon as you can!
  • Bell 206 JetRanger
    This and its variants are the most popular civilian helicopters in the world. It is also used by the US military as the OH-58 Kiowa. It's probably the best helicopter overall, and you'll use it for most of the game. Plenty of seats, good speed, lots of lifting power. Save for this before you buy anything else.
  • McDonnell-Douglas MD500
    Slightly smaller, but otherwise very similar to the JetRanger - no surprise, really, as it fills the same roles in the real world. The MD500 sees service in the US military as the MH-6 Littlebird. Whether you choose this or the JetRanger is purely a matter of taste - I happen to prefer the sleek lines of the JetRanger over the ugly, bulbous form of the MD500.
  • McDonnell-Douglas MD520N
    Similar to the MD500, the MD520N's claim to fame is its 'NOTAR' system, which replaces the tail rotor with a jet of air. The result is a noticably quieter helicopter. This is especially apparent in the game, making this the helo of choice if you want to hear more of the other sounds in-game. Otherwise, it's just a smaller, more nimble MD500.
  • Bell 212
    Probably the most famous helicopter in the world, you'll probably know the 212 as the UH-1 Huey which first saw service in Vietnam. This is the largest, most powerful helicopter in the game - it seats 15 passengers and weighs four times more than the others you can purchase. However, this massive power is geared for strength, not speed, so it is a bit sluggish. It's ideal for large disasters with lots of wounded, or for large fires.
  • Augusta A109A
    A popular helicopter in the real world for air ambulance service due to its high speed, the Augusta is the fastest helo in the game. If you're used to the other helos, the Augusta seems like a hot rod. With a decent passenger capacity, this is ideal for medevacs and transport missions.
  • Eurocopter Dauphin 2
    Used by the US Coast Guard, this is a large, robust aircraft. Once you've gotten rich and wish you could upgrade the JetRanger, this is the high-end multirole helicopter. It is fast and powerful, and well suited to just about everything you'll come up against in the game.
  • McDonnell-Douglas Explorer
    Proof that most expensive is not always best, the MD Explorer is an odd-looking beast. It has distinctly average stats, and there is nothing to recommend it over the Dauphin if you're in the market for a top-end helo.
  • McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing Apache
    Oh yes. More of a toy than a viable helicopter, this large, powerful gunship has made a name for itself around the world as an absolutely lethal machine. If you have a crime-infested city, the AH-64A might well be your steed of choice as the chaingun and rockets will sort out annoying rioters and sneaky criminals far faster than the police or tear gas. It also enables you to down the UFO you'll see flying around the city.
EQUIPMENT

'Bambi' Bucket:
Named after the nauseating Disney deer movie and the famous fire sequence therein. This is essential - you need the bucket to fill your water tank. Simply hover over a river (park fountains and ponds aren't deep enough) and lower the bucket in to fill it. You can then retract the bucket and fly off, although you need to lower the bucket to dump water from it.

Megaphone:
An essential piece of equipment, this loudspeaker allows you to communicate with the Sims on the street below. The messages are:
F6 - Traffic message, to clear jammed cars
F7 - Crime message, to threaten and slow criminals
F8 - Evacuation message, serves little purpose but might be useful to clear Sims away from a fire
F9 - Riot message, this orders rioters to disperse
F10 - Greeting message, this is meant to be for fun but repeated use has strange effects on the Sims...

Water cannon:
This high-pressure cannon enables you to spray water at a fire as opposed to having to fly over it with the bucket. It's also handy for riots. However, the sheer force of the water will push your helicopter back, so fly forward to compensate.

Harness:
Indispensible for rescue missions, as you otherwise have to hover dangeorusly close to your victims. The harness extends a long way below your helo on a winch, and can pluck Sims out of dangeorus situations. Note that the Winch needs to be fully retract to place the rescued Sim safely in a seat, and fully retracting the winch when there are no empty seats will cause the suspended Sim to fall.

Tear Gas:
Of limited use against lone criminals, the Tear Gas is great against rioters, although it tends to injure them (serves them right). The canisters are lobbed a few metres ahead of your chopper and bounce a bit.

Chaingun:
Mounted on the Apache in place of the water cannon, this rapid-firing single barrelled gun will destroy cars and injure or kill Sims with just a few hits. It can also sink boats and down planes. Criminals in cars can sometimes be stopped by it, and criminals on foot are considered apprehended when shot.

Rockets:
Unguided rockets fired from the Apache in place of the tear gas, these powerful high explosive rockets can blow up anything. Cars and people are easy targets, while squares of wilderness and buildings can also be set ablaze with a hit. Ten of these rockets will down the UFO.

EMERGENCY SERVICES

Police: Press F4 to order a police car to the location highlighted by your spotlight, or F5 to order a police car to follow your spotlight. The police deal with all criminal activity, arresting rioters, thieves and other undesirables. They also ticket speeders and clear traffic jams. Note that a police car following your helicopter will not stop and deal with criminals on foot. Each police car contains one officer, you can also get officers from the roof of a police station (Blue square)

Medical: Press F3 to order an ambulance to your location. Each ambulance contains a paramedic who will get out, collect victims one at a time, and bring them either to your helicopter or his ambulance (he prefers your helo if you're on or near the ground). You can also get a paramedic from a hospital roof (White square) and having one aboard slows the deterioration of injured passengers.

Fire: Press F2 to order a fire truck to your location. A fire truck comes with a firefighter who will spray any nearby fire with a continuous arc of water. They will also spray riots. Although you can't pick up firefighters, the fire stations can still be landed on (Orange square)

MISSIONS

Traffic Jam:
When cars are held up for a long period of time, they become immobile and honk their horns until cleared. Shine your spotlight on the lead car and broadcast the traffic message repeatedly until the car moves off. Repeat for any other struck cars. Calling in a police unit can also help clear a jam.

Medevac:
Extremely common, these can appear randomly or can be caused by other missions. A random number of injured people are lying on the ground and need to be taken to the nearest hospital. You can land and collect them yourself, get a paramedic to do the legwork for you, or simply order an ambulance to the area and resume your patrol. As the ambulance will almost always take care of things, these are a great way to earn points while remaining available for other events.

Arsonist:
The arsonist will wander through the city, and randomly set fires. As he's on foot, you can set down a police officer nearby and let her do the rest. The arsonist sets fires very slowly, so you'd have to ignore one for a long time before he'll build a successful fire and trigger a fire mission.

Burglar:
Burglars drive blue pickup trucks and squeal their tires on bends. When you approach, they will speed up, although you can slow them down by flying low and keeping them fixed in your spotlight. Sometimes the 'crime' message will convince them to stop, but otherwise order the police to follow you and when they pass the criminal he'll be stopped if he's still in your spotlight. At this point the burglar will try to escape on foot, and will fire on both your helicopter and the police officer.

Robber:
Robbers will stalk the streets of your city, mugging any Sim they come across. Mugged Sims sometimes result in medevac missions. Drop off a police officer or order a police unit to the vicinity and let the police do the rest.

Riot:
Riots are usually rare, and will only occur in high-crime areas. Note that they will get worse as time goes on, so they are your number one priority. Upon arrival at the riot, order at least two police cars to the site. You then have to use escalating force to get maximum effect. Use the riot message at first, to start dispersing the rioters. Then, use your bambi bucket or water cannon to douse the rioters (you can call in fire trucks to help - they'll automatically spray the rioters). Finally, you can use tear gas, although I recommend you call for a few ambulances first as tear gas always results in injuries. Let the ambulances deal with the injuries, and use your spotlight to follow rioters away from the scene, broadcasting the message to keep them moving. Once the riot is dispersed, you can optionally help with any fires or injuries. Also ensure you immediately redirect any cars caught in the riot with the traffic message.

Vehicle on Fire:
A car crash has resulted in a flaming vehicle, and sometimes a medevac. Although an ambulance and fire truck can usually be dispatched and the mission forgotten, you're better off dealing with it personally. Extinguish the fire and clear any jammed cars, then land to rescue any injured people. If the crash has occured on an elevated highway, you *must* personally extract the injured as an ambulance cannot get onto the highway.

Building on Fire:
A building has caught fire. These are serious emergencies, and should be dealt with as soon as possible. Depending on the size of the building, you might want to request multiple fire trucks, and order them to opposite sides of the building to ensure maximum coverage from their hoses. If you're quick, the fire will be extinguished before it can grow. After a short period of time, many buildings will trigger a rooftop rescue which is best left until after the fire has been extinguished, *unless* the building has been ablaze for some time and is in danger of exploding. If the building explodes, it will shower the surrounding area with flaming debris and kill or injure any Sims nearby.

Fire:
These are just random fires - a section of forest, in most cases. A fire truck can take care of these, so long as there's a road nearby. Be aware the UFO fires a beam which can cause fires.

Plane Crash:
Sometimes you'll see (or hear) these occur. One of the Cessna 172s that buzzes around the city will plunge out of the sky and crash, triggering a fire. Deal with it like a normal building fire.

Train Crash:
Sometimes random, sometimes the result of a train rescue allowed to go on too long. A train somewhere on the map has crashed and exploded, triggering a fire. Treat like a building fire.

Rooftop Rescue:
Usually triggered by a building fire, but sometimes they appear at random. People will appear on various parts of a building and will need to be picked up by getting into your helicopter. The harness makes life far easier for this, as sometimes the victims are inside a corner and you can't get your helo in close enough. These missions do not go away on their own, so if you're unable to pluck a certain sim out you may have to use the Apache to either shoot the stuck victim, or destroy the building with rockets.

Boat Rescue:
A sailboat has overturned in a body of water somewhere, and there are several victims clinging to the outside. This mission's difficulty depends on the location, as the open sea has far larger swells to contend with. Again, life is made far easier with the harness, as this also minimizes your rotor wash pushing the boat away. The manual claims that some of the victims may be injured, but I have never seen this.

Train Rescue:
The most hated of all SimCopter missions. A runaway train is hurtling around the map, with several victims trapped on the roof. A harness is practically essential, as you need to match speed and course with the train, and grab the victims from the roof. The victims are almost exclusively found on the lead carriage. Fly just above the height of the train's roof, lower your harness so it drags on the roof, and fly with the train at a slightly higher speed. This takes a lot of practice. You might also want to get a police car to follow you, as the train will smash cars on level crossings. Once all the victims are safe, you may want to continue following the train, as it will eventually crash and you can get more points for putting out the resultant fire.

Transport:
VIPs need a lift across town. Hit the 'N' key repeatedly to select the mission in question, and fly towards the pink line - that is the location of your passengers. Land, and they'll get aboard. Now, fly and land at the grey line - that's their destination. If you have a small helicopter, you might need to make multiple trips to deliver everyone.

Speeder:
Although speeders don't show up on your map, there is always at least one in the city at all times. The speeder is always driving a purple station wagon, and smokes his tires on every bend like a criminal. The crime message will get them to pull over, but you have to then dispatch a police car and remain in the area for the entire ticketing procedure to get your reward.

TECHNICAL STUFF

Unfortunately for SimCopter, it was rushed out the door before EA took charge of Maxis. Had it stayed in development for longer, not only would it have been a superior game, but might have benefited from 3D acceleration for its graphics engine. The engine used by the game at present was rudimentary even at the time, possibly a consequence of trying to model in 3D the complex cities of SimCity 2000. Be prepared for incredibly low-resolution textures, crude models, and a very short draw distance.

The game is extremely customizable. All the sounds are .wavs, most of the textures are .bmps and the movies on the drive-ins are low-resolution .smk files (flipped upside down, take note). Simply copy over the offending file (the sounds are the easiest to do) with a new file and the game will use your change.

There are a few issues with the conversion of SimCity 2000 cities into SimCopter that might affect how you play:

  • cars cannot enter or leave the elevated highways.
  • trains won't use the surface-to-subway transfer points... they'll simply reverse direction in an alarming fashion.
  • the ground is smoother and more undulating than in SimCity 2000, which in a few situations will cause items like railway tracks and electricity poles to seemingly hover in mid-air.
  • the 'Top Secret' military base building is missing a wall on one side, allowing you to look through it from the right angle!
  • hydroelectric dams appear to stand in the middle of water, as opposed to holding back a waterfall.
  • hills and distances are smaller than they look in SimCity2000 - something to keep in mind if you're making a city specifically for SimCopter.

Two patches were issued.
v1.01Fixes a lot of crashes, allows you to see inside (and walk through, but not fly through!) tunnels, changes your pilot's outfit, removes Jacques Servin's infamous 'bonus content'.
v1.02Adds a rudimentary Direct3D graphics mode, changes the look of fires, adds an optional 'realistic' flight model.

FUN TIPS AND TRIVIA

  • the Apache will spawn on an 'F15b' square if there is one present in your city file. So, if you have SCURK, you can place an F15b square and be able to easily find the Apache.
  • if a nuclear power plant catches fire and is not extinguished, a meltdown will occur which will devastate the map and leave you with a lot of fires and medevacs to clean up. This is assuming you survived in the first place.
  • graphics were made for both your pilot and the firefighter to appear in the seats of your helicopter. However, neither are used.
  • you can sometimes scoop swimmers out of the rivers and lakes with the bucket. They make annoying noises until you dump all the water out.
  • drop someone from moderate height above a hospital's landing pad for a medevac mission that instantly completes itself!
  • there were going to be missions in the nine squares of randomly generated wilderness around your city, according to unused sound files.
  • there were also going to be rabid dogs.
  • if you time it right, you can jump out of your helicopter just as the engine spools up, and it'll take off without you!
  • trains will stop if you stand in front of them! Note this doesn't apply for rescued Sims... so, rescue them with a harness, then deposit them on the tracks in front of an oncoming train. Splat!
  • disgruntled programmer Jacques Servin added a variety of easter eggs, which has been well documented by jiguryo.
  • the game world 'wraps around'... if you fly far enough north you'll reappear at the southern end of the map.
  • there is sometimes a whole baseball team playing at the stadium!
  • the graphics engine was recycled and moderately improved for the dire Streets of SimCity car combat game.
  • the brilliant musical score is the first credited appearance of Maxis composer and musician Jerry Martin, who has contributed his amazing, unique pieces to every Maxis title since. This is also the first time we've heard that bizarre Maxoid wit in spoken word form.

CHEAT CODES

As with all Maxis games, there's amusing cheat codes to be played with. Press Ctrl-Alt-X to bring up the window, then type in one of the following. Case sensitive.

Shields up. Invincibility
Gas does grow on trees. - Unlimited fuel
superpowermultiply - When you press the shift button, you can run extra fast. Also works In your copter.
The map, please. - Lets you use your map outside your helo.
Been there, done that. - Advances you to the next mission.
There's no place like home. - Takes you back to your hangar.
I love my helicopter. - Warps you back to your helicopter.
Give me bucks or give me death: xx - Either gives you the amount specified or ends the game.
Warp me to career: xx - Warps you to the specified career.
Out for a Sunday drive. - Makes the camera follow a random car around town. Enter this code Again to return to normal mode.
Stop and ask for directions. - Makes a TXT file map of the city In your hard drive root directory..
A megaphone in the hand is worth two in the bush. - Lets you use your megaphone outside Your copter.
Lights, camera, action! - Starts playing the drive-in movies.
PAMCAREYGOLDMAN - Puts pictures of the lead producer's wife on all boards.
Gort - Lets you see the ending scene (quite funny, actually!)
Radioactivity - Causes a nuclear explosion.
I'm the CEO of McDonnell Douglas - Enter this code, then go your catalog screen. Press the numbers 1-9 to get the different copters, Free of charge.

All in all, SimCopter is a unique game. Other games, like Air Rescue Ranger on the PS2 and Search and Rescue have made similar attempts, but none have the freeform world or scope of SimCopter. As it approaches its nineth birthday (I bought my copy right after release from a Boxing Day sale in Future Shop, along with a little Saturn conversion called 'Tomb Raider'. SimCopter came with aviator sunglasses which made me the envy of my classmates!) it's long overdue for a revamp. Unfortunately, the closest we're likely to get is the U-Drive missions in SimCity 4: Rush Hour. What a shame.

Simcopter pops up for sale from time to time on Chips & Bits and eBay, and I've also seen it for sale as a budget release.

Sources: personal experience
cheat codes from teh intarweb, my list is from Aristotle on GameFAQs
much information from the dearly departed Sharpie's SimCopter Site

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