Ace Combat Assault Horizon Blog

Ace Combat Assault Horizon Blog

Review author Vaughn

Vaughn says..

Ace Combat has always ruled the skies when its come to aerial fighting games. Some titles have come along to steal its crown but none have succeeded, Ace Combat has been, and always will be, the definitive arcade flying game; Assault Horizon only builds upon this tradition.

Taking some cues from Ubisoft's simulation-cum-hollywood styled Tom Clancy: Hawx series, Assault Horizon feels is much more action oriented than previous installments. It plays out as you imagined those dogfights from Top Gun or like a high production Hollywood film, that isn't as terribly cheesy as it sounds, it works excellently and really keeps the pace up even when flying from one side of the map to the other to tackle another tango. The addition of 'Dogfight Mode' and 'Air-strike Mode' really change the pace and feel of a flight combat game, no longer are you aiming at dots in the distance. With 'Dogfight Mode' activated the camera swoops in over the wing of the plane and tracks the nearby foe, this makes it easier to shoot down with the machine gun or lock on and launch a volley of missiles right into the tail exhaust of an opponent. Ace Combat Assault Horizon Screenshot'Air-Strike Mode' swoops the camera down to the undercarriage of the jet where a rack of air-to-air/air-to-surface missiles hangs in wait patiently for you to rocket off at tracked targets. Both modes really put the games action at the forefront and get the heart racing! However this isn't just the only mode of gameplay on offer, for the firs time in an Ace Combat game you can play through in a Black Hawk helicopter gunner role. These sections take place as an on rail shooting segment but they work really well and look gorgeous to play too. You can now also play in attack helicopter missions and stealth bomber missions alongside these other gameplay modes.

Ace Combat Assault Horizon Screenshot

For this outing Namco Bandai have also introduced a brand new control scheme known as 'Optimum', this goes hand in hand with the new style of gameplay, although if you're an Ace Combat hardcore fan then the 'Original' control scheme is still there for you to enjoy. The main difference between the two styles is the improved accuracy found in 'Optimum' mode, as it disables the ability to barrel roll, which makes the 'Dogfight Mode' camera much more controllable.

Assault Horizon is a much more engaging experience than previous Ace Combat games, not just because of the deeper control system but because of the environment it takes place in. The level maps look like data from either NASA or Google satellite imagery of the earth, where you can make out real buildings and, if you know the area, you can find landmarks below you as you fly. Radio chatter is also interesting to listen to as it feels natural and delivers some background narrative to the characters and the missions, much more than a mission-briefing screen can do.

This is an Ace Combat game for those who love the series, and for those who have never ventured into it before. If you love the Hawx games and enjoyed Heatseaker then without a shadow of a doubt you will love this. It may be a game that has been influenced by competitor franchises but, unlike those games, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is filled with that awesome Namco Bandai arcade spirit!

Review author Ross

Ross says...

The combined US, NATO and Russian air forces (as of 2011 current) number in excess of 14,000 airframes. Of these around 40% are first order fighter and interceptor aircraft. In contrast, the ten richest African states have a total inventory of circa 2400 aircraft, the combined fighter strength of which numbers a poultry 680 (more than half of which belong to US backed Egypt).

Now it doesn't take Jomini (or Clausewitz) to recognise the huge imbalance of force between these two unlikely rivalries. Yet, this is the real world situation presented in Ace Combat Assault Horizon as a combined US, NATO and Russian force seek to quell a mobile African insurgency directed by a renegade ex-Soviet fighter ace, Markov. Of course, the crafty Russian has an ace up his sleeve in the form of a secret weapon, in traditional Ace Combat form, called 'Trinity'. Fans of the series will invariably note the replacement of Strangereal, the fictional Earth upon which previous games (except Joint Assault) were set as well as the traditional enemies; Emmeria and Estovakia. This transition to the real world, and the first new Ace Combat home console game for 4 years, is aided by a clever use of 'Google Earth' mapping. So if you live on Miami Beach (!), have an eye for detail and like fighter jets, this is the game for you.

Ace Combat Assault Horizon Screenshot

Where the plot diverges from that previously seen in the series, the gameplay has been completely rewritten. Central to the new gameplay experience is the 'dogfight' mode, an 'in your exhaust nozzle' no thrills barred roller coaster ride. Quite literally in fact as in 'dogfight' mode you relinquish control of your vessel to the power that is and concentrate instead on blowing the bollocks off your enemy which you follow along an excitable pre-determined route. Much is made of this new experience and indeed the game is 'fixed' to force you to use it. Long gone are the glory days of launching missiles from 8000 yards, lock on now is nearer to 2000 yards, a subtle change but one which forces you much closer to your adversary than previously. While visually excellent and thrilling, the 'dogfight' mode does detract from the wild gunning of previous games as you concentrate instead on whacking LB and RB at the right moment. The 'dogfight' mode also makes much of missile lock-on rather than good old fashion gunnery, something which if you're of a nervous disposition and enjoy firing the cannon and missiles, the rapid jump between the two close up camera angles, can be a bit disconcerting. Other notable gameplay changes include an altered default set-up with the map and special weapons button reversed. Also the high-G turns are less exciting and purely power and turn exercises. One very cool addition is the ability to fire all four special weapon missiles at a single target.

Beyond the "I walk on" moment of the previous game, there is a much greater focus on pilot characterisation, evident not only in the cut scenes where you can control his swivelling head, but also sharing his recollection/premonition of the battle over Miami beach and the profuse sweating this entices. Notably also is a Captain Price esc "This is for the record" moment. The plot has been scripted with stereotypes galore including the great "there is not enough Vodka in all Russia for you colonel" line (say with a Moscow accent). <a href=Ace Combat Assault Horizon Screenshot"/>Which brings us to the other great gameplay change, the Helicopter missions which, frankly, are a bit gimmicky, including the second mission's credits on buildings which make it seem like they're not really trying and a very clichéd 'Black hawk down' scenario- they may even use those very words. The apache level isn't as involved as the Medal of Honour equivalent and the ammo in the Black-Hawk is strangely explosive, turning Africans in the back of a technical into a bonfire. That said, its good fun, though I'd rather more A10 ground attack missions.

Ace Combat Assault Horizon Screenshot

Finally, a small note on the planes. Firstly, you can fly in MIG 21s which is an epic aircraft and looks the nuts. Secondly, you can eventually fly the F35. Also B1 and B2 aircraft are pilotable. The Russian PAK FA, stealth F-22 equivalent makes its gaming debut alongside the F-35. The full range of Rafales, Mirages and Eurofighters are also present, as too is the useless F117. (Why no F111?). I've just noticed the SU-25 is also playable which will be fun. Of course, The Phantom II is available in the Limited Edition set available now at GAME for the same price as the normal edition (corporate plug over). Most exciting though for the plane-spotters amongst you is that the aircraft carry real world liveries and tail codes. The F-22 in the opening Miami Beach carries FF of the 1st Fighter Wing based at Langley Air Force base in the U.S. Also notable is the F-15E with tail code LN from RAF Lakenheath in Surrey. Small touches, but what make a big difference.

How then to describe Ace Combat: Assault Horizon? Well how better than to misquote Top Gun Pilots. In the words of Jester, "Assault Horizon contains...some of the best flying I've seen to date". In the words of Goose "Great balls of fire...have nothing on Ace Combat". Last, but by no means least, Maverick: "Jesus, this game's good".

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Pegi Rating:

Suitable for people aged and over.

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