Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War - PS2 Review
This generation has been pretty good to Namco's flight sim series. After starting out rather impressively on the PSOne the company released Ace Combat 4: Distant Thunder here in February 2002, and then three years later Ace Combat: Squadron Leader hit the shelves. We gave the games 90% and 91% respectively so it was with much excitement that we got our hands on this latest game - the sixth in the series, and the third on the PS2. Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is set 15 years prior to the events in Ace Combat: Squadron Leader and reveals the events that lead to the Belkan War.
|Graphics are very impressive.|
Players take the role of a mercenary hired to fly for Ustio, a small country bordering the invading country, Belka. Whether you choose to fight like a mercenary or hero, the ultimate goal is to defend Ustio at all costs! Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War includes 18 missions in over thirty of the worlds most famous aircraft including the likes of the F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, MiG-29A Fulcrum, Su-27 Flanker, A-10A Thunderbolt II, F-117A Nighthawk and Rafale M to name a few. The game has licenses from Lockheed Martin and Boeing among others to ensure authenticity - and indeed each of the planes has been stunningly recreated for inclusion in the game.
|Planes are accurately modeled.|
As a flight sim game it's true that Ace Combat titles have always included more arcade styled gameplay rather then simulations. Each of the planes has dozens of missiles and unlimited machine gun ammunition, while the physics is rather simplified - two missile hits on a B-52 bomber will take it down - no more, or no less are ever required.
Where the development team has spent a bit of time with new features in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is including rival ace pilots. These guys really are a couple of steps up from your average enemy. They'll weave and dodge your missiles and generally provide some pretty tough opposition at times. Another area which has been worked on is your wingman who flies all the missions with you. You can issue orders to him in real-time using the D-Pad and the radio chatter will respond authentically to each situation - giving you a status report as you progress through each mission.
|Hitting the afterburner.|
Multi-player has been catered for - in a somewhat disappointing way. Namco have included support for 2-player split screen dogfights and that's it. There's no 2-player campaign option for each player to control the two planes. Sadly there's also no online mode - something which would have been perfect in a game such as this. Hell, I really want 16 or more players battling it out in the skies - this better happen with the inevitable PS3 game somewhere down the line!
I guess my biggest complaint about this game - besides the lack of multi-player - is that it isn't overly long. The 18 missions are fairly short, and while you may have to replay some due to being killed or running out of time, I would have expected a bit more this late in the PS2's life - 30-40 missions would be more to my liking. The good news though is that Sony have released the game in Australia for only $AU79.95 so that's something. Yet again, and I think this was a complaint I raised last time too, I would love to see Namco include a mode with more realism - limited missiles and ammo, the need to refuel and so on.
|Some formation flying.|
As with previous games in the series the graphics really are a highlight. One of the big improvements to this version is the inclusion of improved cut scenes. We were somewhat critical of the static images with voiceovers in the previous game, now we have FMV in parts. It's not too bad in terms of quality or acting so we'll give it a pass. In-game is where Ace Combat Zero really shines though, and the detail is, yet again, simply astounding. If there's one tiny niggle it's that the ground textures, while fantastic from 1000 meters or more, do become blurry at lower altitudes.
Sound in flight sims is usually pretty limited, but Namco's titles shine with thousands of lines of radio chatter. This latest game is no exception with some accurate commentary about the current missions, status reports from your wingman, and solid speech in the cut scenes. The music is atmospheric - even the music which plays when a rival ace pilot appears. If there's one slight downer it's that the explosions don't seem to have much variety or impact - then again when you're in a plane it's unlikely you'd hear much in real life anyway.
|The land really is spectacular.|
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War really isn't a bad game at all, the reason why it is scoring about 10% lower overall then the previous titles is simply because Namco Bandai haven't attempted anything new. By now I would have expected, at the absolute least 2-player online dogfights, something which we've been craving since the PS2 first went online. Technically the game is as polished as ever before, but I would have liked to see some more variety in the missions - how about some choppers, or spy drone missions. If you love the series this is worth checking out, just don't expect anything radically different.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Without a doubt one of the best looking PS2 games ever.||91%|
|SOUND||More superb audio, wonderful radio chatter and solid music as well.||90%|
|GAMEPLAY||Fantastic entertainment, but could have been more mission variety.||83%|
|VALUE||Only 18 missions, little multi-player. Average value even at $79.95.||68%|
|OVERALL||Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is one of the best console based flight sims ever. Unfortunately Namco haven't tried much new in this title making it feel more like a mission pack. Still, it's entertaining and worth a look.||80%|