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Review - Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (PS3)

4/16/12 4:55pm

 Arcade Flight Simulators aren’t the most popular genre among the console gamers, these are suited more for the PC and its unique peripheral: The Joystick. Ace Combat Assault Horizon not only goes “Console Only” but also shows that the Flight Simulators can be relevant outside the PC. Is it worth taking off on this game or should you eject it from your console before crashing?

 

Story

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (AC:AH) takes place outside the Ace Combat Series (except for Ace Combat: Joint Assault that takes place in the future on the real world) fictionalized world and alternate history. Set on the real world, U.N. military forces form by NATO and Russian forces in Eastern Africa try to stop a rebel group funded by the Russian crime syndicate Blatnoi; Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, leader of the Warwolf Squadron must battle SRN Mercenaries’ leader, Colonel Andrei Markov and stop him from using a Nuke-like bomb named “Trinity”, to destroy U.S.A and their allies.

Not the most original and ground breaking story in a flying game but it works for the sake of entertainment, it would be awesome to see some different enemy not just the Russians as always on future games, just saying you know?

Ace Combat fans might feel disappointed for not engaging enemies in the skies of the alternate version of Earth and their characters but, AC:AH setting on the real world does a great job establishing for the first time in the series a “present” world war conflict, although being set on the year 2015; pretty close but nothing to nitpick.

Gameplay

One of the biggest problems with Flying Simulators on consoles (and even on PC) is the monotony and slow pace the game can quickly turn after a few missions, so how is AC:AH makes the difference from other games in the flying genre? Fans and newcomers of the Ace Combat series will find an innovative gameplay system that makes the experience more thrilling and intense. The DFM (Dog Fight Mode) is an unique game mecanique which goal is to put you right into the action, making you experience the Dogfight’s tailing of an enemy aircraft in a zoom-in perspective. This mecanique is really refreshing to the genre and it helps to eliminate the degradation this type of games suffers most of the time.

There are 2 ways to use the DFM in the game, Offensively and Defensively. In the Offence, the player can follow in a type of rail-shooter sequence in which you still have control of your aircraft while banking up-close to the enemy aircraft and on the Defense, it can only be used when an enemy engages the player on DFM in which you can counter-maneuver the attacker if you do the right movements at the right time. This innovative mecanique makes you feel like the Ace pilot you are meant to be in this type of games (kind of the One-Man army soldier the Call of Duty games always portrait); DFM is the core of the gameplay on this game but you can also use traditional flying techniques to take down your enemies so the experience depends on how you play the game.

DFM (DogFight Mode) puts the players right into the action.

DFM is implemented a lot in this game, especially when you have to fight Ace pilots on each mission. Players might feel that is overused during the development of the story but it also depends of the difficulty level you play the game. On the easiest difficulty most of the target aircrafts can be eliminated with or without DFM but on the other difficulties, DFM is required more since the amount of Ace Pilots increases. It’s understandable why players might confuse the overuse of this mecanique while playing on different difficulties.

There is also parts where you will take control of Attack Helicopters and as a Gunner on a Black Hawk, but most of this sections can be a hit on miss since these might be too long; being this an Ace Combat game is understandable the length and complexity each mission can be. One that unfortunately falls into the curve is the AC-130 mission; is not challenging and impressive enough to hold itself, at least is not that long as the helicopter missions but it could had been better.

Look at me! I'm Ghost in a Hawk.

AC:AH offers a lot of variety on the missions, from Dog Fights to Bombing missions. Depending of your selection of Aircraft and its loadout your mission will go either easy or challenging since there are different type of objectives you must accomplish fast. For this there are 3 different types of planes that which has its own use even for the Multiplayer of the game.

Now something important to mention is the controls used on the PS3 version (this also goes for the Xbox 360 Version). It is recommended to try each control scheme the game offers since it provides an “old school” control scheme for fans and veterans of the Ace Combat series. Newcomers might not be comfortable with this controls so as a fair warning, check the controls and try them before saying these are broken in this game. Although it would had been good to have the flares on R3 rather than L3 because most of the times I would unintentionally release flares on every turn, leaving me with nothing to defend myself from missiles.

The game itself is a big challenge, even on the Easiest Difficulty. Ace Combat has always been a game with long and really challenging missions, even for veterans there will be times you will easily take down your objectives when suddenly you are being tail by 2 enemy aircrafts and you can’t do anything. It is a hard game, no doubt about it but is the type of challenging game that, at the end, is satisfying to complete. 

Graphics

One of the selling points of the Ace Combat series is the detail put into the modeling of the aircrafts, even when these are slightly mod representations. The game’s aircraft models are surprisingly well-done and it does shows the graphic capability the game’s engine have to render these aircrafts; from detailed interiors to the body of the aircraft itself. Outstandingly looks beautiful which can be appreciated even more when you enter on DFM, which makes the details on the aircrafts noticeable. Since this game takes place on the real world Earth, the developers used satellite images to render in the most accurate possible way the geography of each map the player plays through; buildings, houses, rivers and even roads can be spotted by the player while battling over Miami, Washington, D.C., Dubai, Paris, East Africa, the Middle East, and Moscow.

Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, leader of the Warwolf Squadron.

The story in this game is narrated using in-render cutscenes which shows great detail on the character models. Still, some movement or even characteristics in the pilot’s facial expressions might fall into the Uncanny Valley but is actually good to see a 3D model of the support cast on this type of games. The graphic engine on this game works perfectly even on a heavy 3D model environment (like a city and its buildings) when there are over 30 aircrafts flying and blowing everything up on their radar; the game runs with no lag or hiccups during loading screens and in the middle of the gameplay. The fps is constant making the flight simulation smooth and enjoyable but there will be times that some graphics might pop-out from nowhere in the ground (like trees), but is very rare to see that happening and of course nothing intrusive in the game.

Audio

 

The Namco Sound Team form by Ace Combat composers are Tetsukazu Nakanishi and Hiroshi Okubo, joining to the team are new composers such as Rio Hamamoto and the Yuval Ron Ensemble. Check out Disc 2 song “Dogfight“, one of the heaviest tunes in the OST.

The sound design in this game keeps the Ace Combat standard and improves it. The sound of the guns, the air passing through the wings while turning and the launch of the missiles are impressive. The impact sounds done on the enemy aircrafts does reflect the damage done on the body of the plane and DFM also augments this while attacking the enemy; the explosions your enemy’s aircraft does it’s really satisfying and the whole communication between pilots and your character during and after dogfights really sets the mood for the dogfights and the rest of the mission.

The storytelling in Ace Combat is still present. The voice acting is top notch and really helps to be interested on the game’s missions and to see the character’s personality in action on the ground and on the sky. You can select between the English Dub and the Japanese Dub, both voice acting works so it depends on your taste.

Before discussing the Sound Track I have to remind you that this game was advertise as steel carnage at its best. With an amazing sound design the Sound Track of the game definitely portraits the pure steel carnage; Namco Sound Team composed an amazing OST for the game reflecting the intense and “in your face” action the game offers. With its Heavy Metal and Symphonic music each score helps enhance the experience on the battlefield.

Regardless of what’s your task, the music does follow the ambience and setting of each mission from the simple chorus tunes of “Deja Vu” to the Heavy tune of “Dogfight”. It’s a musical experience you want to repeat over and over and over again.

 

Ace Combat Assault Horizon OST - Deja Vu

 

Replayability

After the 8-9 hour campaign you can check various free and co-op missions to enjoy in which you can try to break your personal record and even try the game on its challenging hard mode which I’m pretty sure even veterans of the Ace Combat games will find it has a big challenge. You can also customize your aircrafts with different colors and materials.

Type of Aircrafts

Dogfight: This aircrafts are used for the main assault. These are the fastest and have the highest fire power but since these are meant to be used for assault, aren’t the most suited for efficiently destroying ground forces.
Dogfight/Air Strike: Balanced aircrafts which can be used for both jobs. Perfect for players who likes multipurpose aircrafts.
Air Strike: Not suited for a 1-on-1 dogfight but if the mission is to destroy ground forces, these ones will do heavier damage in a short time.
Helicopters: No match against planes but with proper cover and team work, these makes the difference on Dominations games.

 Multiplayer Modes

  • CO-OP MODE

Up to three (3) players can play revamps of missions in the Campaign were depending of their aircraft selection, the players will receive different objectives to accomplish (Aircrafts will battle in dog fights while Helicopters will dispose of ground troops).

  • DEATHMATCH

It is a free-for-all battle up to 16 players which can be chaotic even on huge open maps, there will be times you’ll just respawn and you’ll have on your tail 3 to 4 enemies engaging you on DFM. It can be fun in small amounts of players but at the same time frustrating if more people get into the fight.

  • CAPITAL CONQUEST

This is similar to a Destroy HQ game were 2 teams defend their HQ. The first team to destroy the defenses of the other team can then attack directly their HQ, whoever destroys firsts the enemies’ HQ wins. In this game using Air Strike planes is essential to do maximum damage to the HQs.

  • DOMINATION

Two Teams fight over the control of certain points in the map, the main objective is to eliminate the enemies that occupy these zones and control for a certain amount of time. This mode clearly shows the importance of each aircraft since every plane type as a role and purpose including the Helicopters since these ones can easily take down enemies occupying certain zones while the mid balanced planes protect the choppers and the Dogfighters engage other aircrafts trying to capture the zones. Aircrafts having now roles on the multiplayer makes each one important to use depending of the needs of the team. Definitely a good refresh on the multiplayer on this type of games.

Conclusion

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is a game which brings again relevance to the Arcade Flight Simulator genre; thanks to its innovative and unique DFM mecanique which puts you right into the action.

While it does have its own hits and misses, it’s actually worth the shot for newcomers and an excellent Ace Combat game; it’s not the next Ace Combat but it can stand as is own on the series. If you are looking for something different in this gaming industry full of FPS games, this is an enjoyable ride.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is definitely the Steel and Metal carnage as advertised.

 

OVERRAL: 7.5/10 - BUY IT!
Ace Combat fans won’t be disappointed but is understandable why they want to keep the series on the alternate world and for newcomers it’s worth buying but Rent first if you have doubts about if you like this type of Arcade Flying Simulator.

 

PROS CONS
  • ▲ New unique engaging gameplay mecanique.
  • ▲ Incredible sound design, voice acting and OST.
  • ▲ Destroys the monotony most flying games suffer.
  • ▲ Different aircraft classes do have a role on multiplayer.
  • ▲ The game graphic engine does a great work rendering each detail of the aircrafts, best looking flying game on consoles so far.
  • ▼ Story is not that interesting and original.
  • ▼ Controls can be deceiving for newcomers.
  • ▼ Deathmatch can be a complete chaotic mess.
  • ▼ AC-130 and Helicopter missions are too long and slow paced.

  This game deserves more attention, give it a shot! You wont regret it ;)

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