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February 24, 2005
Ace Combat: Squadron Leader - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
24/2/2005SonyNamco1G8+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
63KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneYes

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Got him...
Flight simulators are an interesting genre. On the PC there are some awesome titles over the years such as IL-2 Sturmovik, Falcon 4.0, and F/A-18. Each of these is very much a simulation in the true sense of the word. On consoles however gamers are a little different preferring instant action and higher thrills. Of course PS2 owners are limited by the control system - 2 analogue sticks, the D-Pad and 10 buttons. Ace Combat: Squadron Leader is Namco's second flight simulation on the Playstation 2 following 2002's extremely impressive Ace Combat 4: Distant Thunder - the prequel to this game. But does this sequel offer anything new, or is it more of the same (which actually wouldn't be a bad thing anyway)?

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Flying over your home base.
Ace Combat: Squadron Leader centers on the story of a small plane squadron trying to defend the Osean homeland. The Ceres Ocean divides the lands of Osea and Yuktobania, nation-states that share a fragile peace negotiated some years ago after a wartime nuclear disaster. Sand Island military base lies in the middle of this vast sea, home to the Osea Air Defence Force's 108th Tactical Fighter Squadron. September 23, 2010, 0414 hours. A cautious attempt at diplomacy unravels when members of the 108th attempt intercept of an unidentified aircraft and are nearly wiped out. As the base scrambles its defences and goes on red alert, you and your fellow elite fighter pilots are called up to protect your home nation of Osea from the escalating Yuktobanian threat.

Set across 30 missions the main Campaign mode primarily involves your squad providing air support to sea and land assaults, but also includes air-to-air combat and rescue operations. The most impressive feature of this game is the wingman command where you can issue orders to up to three wingmen. You can designate targets, tell them to disperse and attack targets or provide cover for you. During the missions the chat from the pilots will keep you updated on targets as well as general conversation with other pilots. At times you are required to respond with Yes or No to questions posed, many of which can affect the outcome of the mission. Similarly on some missions you have the option to show your skills taking off, landing, or refueling while in the air. If you don't like this you can hit the Start button to skip it, but miss out on the bonus points for successful completion.

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Coming in to land.
The most important thing to realise about Ace Combat: Squadron Leader is that it isn't an ultra realistic flight simulator where you'll fly for 30 minutes before you see an enemy and then only have four missiles available, but nor is it an arcade styled experience such as After Burner 2. In fact, this game sits somewhere very nicely in the middle, and it works perfectly. The planes all handle differently. Some, just as the air-to-air combat planes, are lightning quick with some extremely tight turns while the bombers are generally slower and take longer to turn.

In terms of aircraft the game includes over 50 in total. Some of these include the TORNADO GR.1, JAS-39C, HAWK T.1A, F-14D, A-10A, F-16C, F-16C B60, EA-18G, F-4E, F/A 22-A, MIG 31, MIRAGE 2000D, R-B01, R-M01, SU-27, SU-35, X-29A, Y-F23, F/A -18E, and the A-6E. While you only start out with a couple of planes more are unlocked as you progress and can then be purchased between missions. Prior to starting each mission you select which plane each of your squad members will use. Choose carefully as the wrong choice may result in a lack of firepower to take out ground targets, or a lack of firepower to take out enemy airplanes.

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The cities look is stunning.
In terms of problems there are very few with Ace Combat: Squadron Leader. Some people may not like the fact that your plane has 60+ missiles, and perhaps Namco could have included a "realistic" mode where plane arsenals are the same as in real life. Easily the biggest disappointment is the lack of online gameplay. While it was rumoured some time ago that Namco were looking at the possibilities it's possible that with three axis of movement it was just too much for the PS2 to handle. Perhaps this will appear in the inevitable PS3 game sometime down the track. I would have also liked to see a wider variety of missions. In almost every mission you'll have some ground and some air targets. Perhaps a couple of straight bombing runs to inflict as much damage on a facility as possible, or some area recon photography would be a nice change.

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One of the best looking games.
Have a look at the surrounding screenshots. These aren't renders. They're not mock-ups. No, these are actual in-game screenshots. Incredible really. While so many people are writing off the PS2 I defy anyone to find a better looking flight sim on any other console. Hell, in my opinion it even gives PC games a run for their money, obvious resolution differences aside. What makes it even more impressive is that Namco push out a rock steady frame rate. There can be 6 oncoming planes, and explosions on the ground and the game won't drop a frame.

Although I enjoyed the comic-book style of storytelling in Ace Combat 4: Distant Thunder the addition of over an hour of CG cut scenes is a plus for this title and in typical Namco style they are as good as any other game. One disappointment which I did have was the mission briefing screen where you get a reflection of the commander. It's annoying and to be honest it would have been better just looking at the mission maps and briefing details. Still, it's a small niggle in a big game.

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Ground terrain looks so real!
Audio is often the weakest part in flight sims. I mean, you have plane engine noises and the occasional explosion. The same is true here however it's the inclusion of over 25,000 lines of radio chatter that really makes this game stand out. During the missions not only will your wingmen, and ground control, notify you of objectives, or suggest strategies, but at times will tell you personal stories about themselves and, as previously mentioned, you can respond to their questions which then alters your dialogue. This really is the best radio chatter ever heard in a flight sim.

If you like flight sims there is absolutely no reason not to pick up this title. Ace Combat: Squadron Leader (which was released as Ace Combat: The Unsung War in NTSC territories) is the perfect console flight sim without a shadow of a doubt. The story, missions, graphics and sound all combine to create the ultimate experience. If you're not sure if you like flight sims then there is no better time to find out. An excellent - no - stunning title.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSStunning ground detail and a rock steady frame rate really impress.
95%
SOUNDImpressive sound effects and radio chatter highlight this game.
90%
GAMEPLAYProbably the perfect blend of simulation and arcade flight sims.
92%
VALUEThe missions are replayable, however online would have rocked.
82%
OVERALLAce Combat: Squadron Leader is simply the best flight sim game on consoles. Period. If you ever wanted to take to the skies there is no better time. An awesome game.
91%

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