Maxis Wiki

SimCopter Trailer

SimCopter Electronic Arts Classics Cover
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Designer(s)Will Wright
Platform(s)Windows 95 / 98
Release date(s)1996
Genre(s)Flight simulator
Rating(s)ERSB: E (Everyone)
InputKeyboard, mouse, joystick (optional)

SimCopter is a 1996 computer game from Maxis. This game is a 3D offshoot from Maxis's normal fare, putting the player into a 3D city. Like Streets of SimCity, SimCopter lets the user import SimCity 2000 maps into the game.


As the name suggests, SimCopter puts the player in the role of a helicopter pilot.

There are two modes of play: free mode and career mode. The free mode lets the player import and fly through cities of their own or any of the 30 cities supplied with the game. However, user cities sometimes need to be designed with SimCopter in mind, and most of the time the player must increase the number of police stations, fire stations, and hospitals to allow for speedier dispatches. The second mode -- the heart of the game -- is the career mode. This puts the player in the shoes of a pilot doing various jobs around the city. These jobs include:

  • Rescues - Players will occasionally be called upon to rescue Sims from perilous situations. Rooftop Rescue involve rescuing Sims from the rooftop of a building. This mission often occurs as the result of a fire. Boat rescues involve rescuing Sims from capsized boats. Train rescues, one of the more difficult and higher paying missions, involve rescuing sims from the top of a runaway train. All rescues can be aided by the use of a rescue harness.
  • Traffic jams - A simple type of mission that involves using the megaphone to redirect the traffic, or using the following police dispatch to clear traffic.
  • Aerial fire fighting - The mission involves extinguishing a fire somewhere in the city. It is usually on buildings, but sometimes a fire mission can be as small as a burning car or a tree. Sometimes a plane or train crash will start a few fires scattered over a small area. Putting out a fire involves going to a body of water and filling a Bambi water bucket, flying directly over a fire and dropping the water on it either by tipping the bucket or using the water cannon if it has been purchased. The player has to be careful not to fly too low over a fire as it is extremely dangerous to the helicopters. Providing that the fire is near a road, a fire engine can be dispatched to help put out a fire.
  • Catching criminals - There are four types of criminals in this game; robbers, arsonists, muggers and burglars. Arsonists may additionally put fire on another building, and muggers may kill Sims if approached. The first three types roam the streets on foot and can be arrested by simply picking up a police officer from the roof of a police station and dropping them near where the crook is, or dispatching squad cars. Foot criminals can also be stopped by landing on top of them with the helicopter, but this risks damage to it. Burglars drive around the city at high speed and are difficult to catch. To catch a burglar, the player must dispatch police cars and guide them to the crook. It becomes easier to catch by slowing and/or stop the car through the use of a spotlight, water bucket, or water canon. Another more direct but riskier method is landing (slamming) on top of the getaway vehicle while in motion, at which time the burglar will pull over and exit the car, making capture a mere matter of dispatching police units to the scene. The arrest ought to be made as soon as possible, or more burglars will get out of the car and will make the problem more difficult.
  • Riot Control - There are three ways to stop a riot. The first way is to use the megaphone to order the rioters to disperse. The second way is to dispatch police cars and take police officers to the site to quell a riot. The third way is to throw tear gas from the helicopter. Tear gas, however may injure or even kill people, making the player lose points. Riots often cause MEDEVAC, traffic jam and fire missions. Riots do not appear in career mode until level eight.
  • MEDEVAC - These missions involve transporting a given number of sick or injured Sims to the roof top (need not be but easier) of the nearest hospital. Help is available in these missions in three ways. The first way is to pick up a paramedic from the rooftop of a hospital and taking him to where the victims are. He will help carry the victims back to the helicopter. The other way to get help is to dispatch an ambulance to the area. The third way is for the player to get out and carry the victim to the helicopter and drop him or her off at the nearest hospital (This can be dangerous as the patient may still die on the way to the hospital if the player takes too long). In the third way, a paramedic will help the injured get out of the helicopter. The player should not attempt to manually eject the victims. Sometimes the injured fall through the roof top floor and die if dropped.
  • Transporting Sims – Involves picking up a number of Sims at a given location and transporting them to a randomly selected destination. The rewards for these missions are based on how soon the player picks up the clients, how comfortable the clients are during the ride depending on speed and altitude, and the time the ride takes.
  • If none of the above jobs are available, the player can earn some cash and points by seeking out speeding drivers by commanding them to pull over and dispatching the police to charge them. Other methods include hitting them with the bambi bucket, shooting water at them with the water cannon, and shooting them with the chain gun (Apache). The player can tell if a car is speeding if its tires are squeaking around corners and is emitting black smoke. They can be stopped by the same way as burglars can be. For the player to earn the points, they must stay where the speeder is until the police arrive or else the speeder will just drive off. Catching speeders rewards the player with points and cash.

Money and Points[]

The player starts with a small, weak helicopter that comes with just a megaphone and a bambi bucket; it can only hold two passengers. As the player accumulates money in the game, they can purchase better helicopters and new equipment. Some jobs require certain equipment in order to complete them, and better helicopters offer greater speed, handling, and can carry more passengers. By completing jobs, the player earns money and points. When the player has accumulated enough points, the game lets them move on to the next city. The player then has a choice of going into a new city of the same difficulty or advancing to the next level. There are twelve levels of difficulty, with new types of jobs being introduced and previous types of jobs increasing in difficulty. Jobs will be randomly spawn around the city, but the player's actions can also create jobs (see below).

Harmful actions[]

Any of the following actions will cause the player to lose a substantial amount of points:

  • Ejecting a passenger from the helicopter while it is up in the air may injure or kill the person and may cause a MEDEVAC mission.
  • Landing the helicopter on a road and keeping it there for more than a minute will block the traffic, causing a traffic jam mission.
  • Crashing the helicopter into a car (except a speeding car or burglar getaway vehicle) will set the car on fire, creating a hazard for the copter.
  • Crashing the helicopter in to a boat will either cause the boat to sink or start a boat rescue mission.
  • Shooting missiles at buildings in the Apache may cause a Fire mission. Shooting at sims will kill them and shooting at cars will cause a Car Fire mission.
  • Shooting missiles in the Apache at nuclear plants and destroying them. It takes two missile hits on a nuke plant to cause a nuclear explosion, thus destroying most buildings and the helicopter currently being flown (in this case the Apache).
  • One strange glitch that would probably be considered harmful is repeatedly sending greeting messages to sims via the megaphone, which in turn may cause medevac missions, which will deduct points.

(SimCopter's MEDEVAC missions are noted for having a particularly useful 'bug': pushing a Sim from the copter causes a point deduction -- but the resulting MEDEVAC mission rewards more points (and money) than were initially lost).

Crashing the helicopter into a building or slamming it into the ground will not destroy it instantly, but it will damage it. The helicopter can crash into a building about ten times before it is destroyed. The more damage there is to the helicopter, the harder it is to control. Money can be spent to repair a helicopter. If the helicopter is destroyed, it is lost forever as well as all of the equipment on board. When a helicopter is destroyed, it may set a fire to a nearby building or terrain. The player will also lose 100 points and must use their remaining funds to purchase another helicopter. If they do not have enough money to buy a new helicopter, then they are grounded, making it pointless to keep playing.

Helicopters in this game have a limited amount of fuel and must return to the hangar about once every half an hour to refuel, which costs money. If your helicopter runs out of fuel while in mid-air, player can either attempt to keep the motor spinning and land it, or just let it fall to the ground and suffer heavy damage. If the helicopter remains intact after falling to the ground, it can be refueled at a highly inflated price.

The Apache[]

The AH-64 Apache is a special helicopter and cannot be bought from the hangar. It is found on military bases that have fighter plane tarmacs on them. If the base has at least two of these tarmacs, one will randomly have the Apache parked on it. This helicopter has a machine gun and missiles in place of the water cannon and tear gas respectively (both weapons have unlimited ammo). Despite having no seats and an inability to upgrade past the rescue harness, points and money can still be earned with the Apache by means of dispatching the proper authorities to fires and medevac situations, and using the harness for rescues without retracting the harness into the helicopter (if fully retracted, the Sim will fall). Exclusive to the Apache, one can even earn points by shooting criminals with the helicopter's machine gun. The gun is also capable of killing innocent sims and destroying cars, boats, and planes, all of which have negative point values. Cars part of a traffic jam, however, are immune, and when planes are shot down they may start fires. Missiles are capable of doing the above as well as setting buildings on fire. Firing a missile at a nuclear power plant results in an explosion that destroys the whole city and your helicopter.


SimCopter screenshot


Maps that have an Apache in them will also occasionally have a UFO that flies around. They abduct Sims with mysterious force (Sims will dance while they ascend), and also randomly shoot vertical beams that start fires if they hit trees or buildings. They generate an unpleasant sound when nearby. It takes an impractical number of bullets, but 10 missile hits from the Apache will destroy the UFO and award the player with 1000 points and 4000 dollars. If the UFO falls into the water, the player can rescue a surviving abductee for more points.


There are five virtual radio stations that can be listened to while in the helicopter: classical, rock, jazz, techno and a mix station featuring all songs from every other station. All stations occasionally play spoof commercials and public service announcements, of which there are more than 100 in the game. Unlike other Sim games, voices on the radio are not incoherent Simlish but are actual English voices. The file format of the audio is low-quality WAV (uncompressed 8-bit, 11,025 Hz, mono). It is possible for players to import their own music and commercials into the game as long as the audio uses an uncompressed WAV format. More information on adding stations is in the Maxis help manual which is available during the game by pressing F1.

Interestingly, several songs from the radio stations are also (although somewhat changed) included in The Sims - Jerry Martin composed the soundtrack for both games.

Custom videos for drive-in[]

It is also possible for the user to make custom videos for the drive-in theaters included in the game. The user would have to insert a specially edited Smacker video file somewhere in the SimCopter installation directory for it to work.


The game gained controversy when a designer inserted sprites of shirtless "himbos" (male bimbos) in Speedo trunks who hugged and kissed each other, who appear in great numbers on certain dates. Their fluorescent nipples were drawn with a special rendering mode usually reserved for fog-piercing runway landing lights, so they could easily be seen from long distances in bad weather. An unintended emergent behavior of the code caused hundreds of himbos to swarm and crowd around the helicopter, where they would be slashed up by the blades, and then need to be air-lifted to the hospital -- which earned the player easy money. The easter egg was caught shortly after release and removed from future copies of the game.

The designer, Jacques Servin, was fired afterward. He was fired because he added unauthorized content (which delayed the release of the game, and caused Maxis to miss Christmas season.) He cited his actions as a response to the intolerable working conditions he allegedly suffered at Maxis (similar to the complaints later voiced against Electronic Arts in the EA Spouse controversy).[1][2] Because of the prank, Yahoo! Games has it listed as one of the top ten controversial games of all time.[3]


SimCopter, despite the excellent quality of its helicopter modeling, air physics, and building modeling, contains some bizarre, memorable quirks that suggest that they were added at the last minute with little or no testing or effort going into their creation.

The most obvious of these quirks are the civilian models, which appear normal while in the air but are actually borderline grotesque when seen up-close. The "faces" of the civilians seem to wrap the wrong direction around their heads, as there is usually a line that runs down the front of their faces. They speak in a bizarre, grunting language that almost seems like a precursor to Simlish. Car modeling is very, very basic, with little or no actual textures. In addition, the placing of Sims in various missions appears to be random, for example, Sims to be rescued in the rescue missions can be placed anywhere on the building, which can be difficult if not impossible if said Sims appear on certain buildings (for example, the inner arcs of some of the special buildings) or on the sides of buildings. Along with this Sims often are seen wandering randomly about areas where Sims should not be (the middle of roads, the middle of nowhere, in runways).

Occasionally after repeatedly sending the "greet" message over the megaphone, nearby Sims will fly through the air and impact the helicopter, or pull out firearms and open fire on the helicopter. This will damage the helicopter, and can cause a MEDEVAC mission.

Emergency vehicles, especially the police car, would often not pull over to the side of the road, resulting in a traffic jam mission.

It is also of note that the helicopters themselves appear to be smaller than their real-life versions, with the player's character appearing too big for some, especially the introductory Schweizer 300 (it is 2.65m tall in real life).

Cheat Codes[]

See article: List of Simcopter cheat codes

Additional information[]

  • SimCopter runs by default at 640x480 at 256 colors with a combination of 3D rendering and 2D sprites and at full screen mode (which can be changed by adding command line parameters). The game uses Smacker (.smk) video files, 256 color bitmap images, and uncompressed wave audio as their corresponding file formats. A patch (1.02) was later released and featured a demonstration of the game with Voodoo 3Dfx acceleration and enhanced joystick controls. The patch also fixed several bugs and improved the appearance of fire in the game.
  • SimCopter contains a special tweak program hidden within the SimCopter installation directory which allows the users to change many parameters of the game engine like helicopter parameters, physics, and triggers.
  • Maxis released two update patches for the game. The first patch, version 1.01 was later recalled by Maxis. The second 1.02 patch was the official and supported patch released by Maxis. Version 1.02 is contained in the EA Classics release of SimCopter.
Despite these patches, the game still has many easter eggs, bugs, and left-over content that the developers never implemented. Indeed, when browsing the SimCopter installation directory or CD, one may see several images and sounds never seen nor heard in the game. For example, there is an image that suggests the possibility of having a fireman on board, but this never happens in the game. There is also an audio file for a "rabid dog" mission; no such mission appears while playing.
  • SimCopter crashes on modern CPUs. This can be fixed using the SimCopterX patching program which comes with an assortment of optional game mods as well. The crashing problem can also be fixed by running the game in a Virtual Machine, using a CPU-Killer (which puts your CPU usage at 99%-100%) or by limiting the GPU to 60 FPS with a framerate limiter.

The format of the game would serve as a precursor to the U-Drive-It mode of the SimCity 4 expansion pack, Rush Hour.


  • Schweizer 300 - starting helicopter
  • Bell 206
  • MD 500
  • MD 520N
  • Bell 212
  • Agusta A109A
  • Dauphin 2
  • MD Explorer
  • AH-64 Apache - special helicopter


  • Rescue harness
  • Bambi bucket
  • Water cannon
  • Megaphone
  • Tear gas
  • M230 Chain Gun (Apache)1
  • AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles (Apache)2

1: The chain gun replaces the water cannon command (Spacebar) 2: The missile launcher replaces the teargas launch command (M)


  1. The First Hot Coffee, PC Gamer, March 2007, page 62
  2. An Interview with Jacques Servin
  3. Controversial Games
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