Ace Combat: Assault Horizon - PS3 Review
|13/10/2011||Namco Bandai||Namco Bandai||Project Aces||1||2-16|
It has been a few years since reviewing an Ace Combat game here at Futuregamez (indeed the last one was Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War in 2006). It's not from a lack of desire either as we've been fans of the franchise since we played the first PSOne title, called Air Combat outside Japan, was released in 1995. It's been five years since the franchise was on Sony's primary console with Namco making the strange decision to move the Sony-only franchise to the XBox 360 for Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. Now, we finally have the franchise on PS3. So what's it like? Read on to see what we think about this latest game...
|Assault Horizon's plane detail is superb.|
Written by Jim DeFelice Ace Combat: Assault Horizon takes place across East Africa in 2015. Attached to an international peace-keeping force, Colonel Bishop leads a small squadron in operations to suppress an insurgent rebel force. The operation, however, rapidly escalates as Bishop and his company comes face-to-face with the rebels' devastatingly powerful experimental weapon.
What impressed us most about this game was the wide range of gameplay on offer thanks to the 30 licensed military aircraft. Of course as we expected the majority of this game is an arcade styled flight simulator which offers either internal cockpit or external viewpoints which should keep all gamers happy. But it's not all flight simulation as Assault Horizon also sees you as the machine gunner hanging out the side of a helicopter gunship shooting at ground enemies, controlling the 120mm, 40mm and 25mm guns on an AC-130, or flying the helicopter gunship (while also firing on enemies) which is an all-new addition to the series.
|Targeting multiple ground enemies.|
Besides the addition of different gameplay modes and helicopters the other new addition is the "DFM" (or Dog Fight Mode) which is activated when in close proximity to enemy aircraft. When close enough, and by hitting L2 and R2 simultaneously, the gameplay focus will shift from flying the plane to shooting the enemy with machine guns or missiles. It's still possible to be attacked by enemies and at times you may need to disengage the DFM mode by hitting the triangle button. This mode is critical in taking out ace pilots who can't be defeated by ranged missiles as they'll use their flare as a decoy.
Online modes for up to 16 players include Capital Conquest where you need to destroy the enemies HQ, Domination where you need to capture bases, Deathmatch which sees you trying to kill pretty much anyone and Mission Co-Op which allows you to join other players to complete missions. We played several games online and indeed they were quite entertaining with minimal lag. Unfortunately we did notice that when the host bails from the game, it's back to the menu - host migration would have been nice.
|Explosions are fairly impressive.|
The other game mode included in Ace Combat; Assault Horizon is that of the Free Mission where you can play through any completed mission to achieve a high score which is then uploaded to online leaderboards.
Under the Player Archive you'll find several options including and impressive Stats Page as it points out the Points/Kills, Aircraft Usage, DFM/ASM, Battle Results and Unlockables. Oh yar, speaking of which as you progress through the games modes you will also unlock, well, unlockables. These include additional content such as Co-op missions, Free Missions, Aircraft Viewers, Aircraft colours and much more. Fortunately the game does tell you how to unlock these items - many of which remain hidden so as to not spoil the story.
|Helicopters are now included in Ace Combat!|
The Aircraft viewer is also very impressive giving details on the craft and then allowing you to rotate and zoom in or out on any unlocked craft. Credits show those hard working staff that worked on the title while a Replay Theater allows you to replay games.
Looking at the negatives to this game certainly our biggest is that the missions are just so damn long with several, depending on your performance, taking close to an hour. There's no need to have a mission that sees you shooting down dozens of targets - shorter missions would certainly suffice. Another niggle we have is that while this is an arcade styled flight sim shooter, it would be nice to have had a realistic mode as well - flying around with over 150 missiles to take out enemies certainly isn't close to reality.
|Tearing past buildings in Dubai.|
Finally the game has a "Flight Assist" mode turned on by default to assist you with controls - we turned that one off pretty quickly but newcomers may wish to leave this on for a bit.
Visually this game is quite the looker. Admittedly when you're in high altitude dog fights there isn't too much to get excited about with jets whizzing past at near supersonic speeds and plenty of blue skies or clouds. But look down and the ground looks absolutely delightful with visible roads, buildings, fields, mountains, water and any other terrain you can imagine. Aircraft are stunningly recreated with highly detailed models (which you can see in the previously mentioned Aircraft Viewer) although you're unlikely to spend too long admiring them in the heat of battle. Cut-scenes during the campaign mode are impressive both in terms of visual quality and storyline.
|Dogfight through the exploding factory.|
If we are to pick one negative about the visuals in Assault Horizon it's that when you get very close to the ground some of the textures lack detail and sharpness. From high altitude though the ground, generally looks fantastic. Another benefit of the current generation's hardware is that the development team can now (compared to the previous PS2 games we've played) include 3D buildings which are not only textured, but at some points can be destroyed and create when engaged in low-level dogfights.
Sonically this game is pretty nice with plenty of planes roaring around, and making good use of surround sound channels, while missiles, machine gun fire and explosions are suitably impactful. Despite occasionally becoming a little off-topic and annoying as a result the cockpit chatter between pilots and ground crew is pretty impressive, and constant. During missions background music plays which sets the tone of the on-screen action nicely although you can change the volume if so desired (it's hardly likely real pilots will be playing music during missions!).
|Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is out now.|
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is a game likely to please fans of the franchise with a wide range of gameplay styles keeping things fresh from start to finish. Despite a few mild annoyances - lengthy missions being the primary one - this is a game well worth picking up.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Generally this is a very good looking flight sim, although ground textures are a little "meh" up close.||86%|
|SOUND||The plane effects, missiles and explosions highlight, some nice music, and plenty of cockpit chatter.||82%|
|GAMEPLAY||It's an arcade styled flight sim. Pretty fun, pretty frantic but missions too long.||80%|
|VALUE||A fairly decent campaign, gameplay variety, Free Mission high score modes, and plenty of online gameplay.||90%|
|OVERALL||I had plenty of fun with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon which is one of the best in the franchise for some time. It's probably the best flight sim on the PS3 to date.||84%|