In case you haven't noticed, Battlefield 2 is great. It's a major improvement over an already fun game. The addition of the squad leader and commander make a big difference and introduce a new team aspect to the game that was formerly more of a mass death match.
I've played every Battlefield game and I've always avoided the helicopters because I couldn't get the hang of helicopter flight, Battlefield style. I had my share of flight sim experience and even flew a bit in the USAF (real life) but the helicopters in Battlefield just seemed too difficult to spend valuable game time learning them. However, I have recently learned the error of my thinking.
Helicopters can be one of the most interesting and entertaining portions of the game, if you know how to learn how to fly them. That's what I'm about to show you.
How to Practice Flying
If you don't read anything else in this article read A and B below. You can ignore the rest and you'll learn how to fly in short time as long as you can get some uninterrupted practice time in. It took me about 2 hours to get it down enough to land where I want and plant a rocket on a moving jeep with decent accuracy.
To get good practice time in, get offline. Don't hog the choppers in an online game just so that you can learn it. Besides, it difficult enough to learn to fly without anti aircraft fire taking you out just as you were achieving a good hover.
Here's how to practice:
A. Get a good joystick. The reason I avoided choppers so long is the first time I tried them I had an old worn out force feedback joystick that would not keep its calibration. The major reason I like flying now is the good joystick I bought. I have a Extreme3DPro from Logitech. You can purchase them, here, at WidowPC.com but we specialize more in gaming computers. It's faster to hit your local Wal-Mart. But it's a common joy stick and they are everywhere, they're not expensive (~$30-$40) and offer a very crisp, smooth control interface to allow you to learn quickly and gun down innocent jeeps, armor and infantry with ease--once you complete flight school, here, anyway.
B. Create a local server with a 64 person map. It will give you a message that you are waiting for another person to join before the game will start. This is a good thing. What this means is the timer will not start ticking down until someone else joins your server. That means you have as much time as you need to practice. Make sure you start a 64 person server because the game will give you plenty of choppers at your starting location and you won't have to wait for one to respawn after you crash.
Don't max the throttle. Save that for later. Practice increasing the throttle just enough to take off and then practice tweaking it to achieve "neutral bouyancy" as we say in Scuba. Treat all the controls very gently at first with a focus on simply staying level with very little forward or backwards velocity. If you can get a nice level hover or flight, you've achieved something important.
Once you are able to reliably control your altitude try flying up to about 50 feet (rising slowly) and then slowly decrease your altitude until you have landed. Don't worry about where you are landing just yet. If you can fly up slowly, in a controlled manner, and then land in a controlled manner, you're master of stage two.
Turn in a full 360 degree circle while on the ground. Do it again in the other direction. Try it again at 50 feet with as little velocity as possible. You should notice that when you turn there is a slight tendency for the chopper to lean to one side or the other depending on which way you turn. This tendency will actually help you turn faster, once you can control it. For now, you will need to softly correct the lean or "bank" of the aircraft to keep your controlled level flight.
Fly up to 50 feet slowly again and stop yourself there. Then allow the chopper to achieve some forward velocity. You shouldn't need to tilt the nose forward at all for this. It will naturally begin moving forward as soon as it begins to gain altitude. Once you have about a 50 knot speed try to keep it at that. Control your altitude while you are controlling your speed.
Once you are able to control your altitude and speed at the same time, you can start to learn to control where the nose is pointed. The easiest way to do this is to pick a flag and point the nose at it. Once you arrive at that flag, try slowing down gradually and then turn in a slow, controlled turn back towards your starting flag. Fly back and forth between the flags until you feel comfortable with it.
Once you feel strong and comfortable with the previous 5 lessons, it's time to get a little wild. Land the chopper and then crack the throttle all the way up and try to get to one of the enemy flags as quickly as possible. Then try to land near that flag quickly as if you were dropping off troops to take the flag. You'll see why we started with as little throttle as possible. The high throttle setting and the increased speed tend to exaggerate your control movements making over correction a deadly bad habit. Also, the more horizontal velocity you have in any direction the more likely you are to crash when you try to land.
Once you have mastered Lesson 6 you are ready to fly in combat. You might test yourself first in a single player game, but there is no requirement for it. In fact, it can be aggravating to start a single player game and see one of the bots take off with your chopper. So, jumping into a multiplayer game at this point is fine as you will probably have as good as or better flight skills as the next chopper pilot now.
Good luck and good hunting!
Edited by Chyval - 1/21/10 at 4:19am