THE best Ace Combat game so far
Ace Combat Assault Horizon is the visualisation of the times in my childhood where I was holding small toy planes and going “neeeeeroouuuu”. I describe it this way because Assault Horizon is an arcade flight game to its very core, with fancy close in camera angles, regenerating health, and helicopters that can do barrel rolls to avoid incoming SAMs. There is very little realism here, nothing to scare away people who loved the Top Gun-esque style of air combat but would easily cringe at the complexity of actual air combat. These changes makes this game one of the most accessible and enjoyable in the series but Ace combat veterans might not be happy with what has happened to their favorite franchise.
For the first time in the Ace Combat series, the setting of this game moves from an alternate reality to the world we know today. Amidst the large open deserts and mountains terrain are famous cities like Miami and Moscow, all of which look gorgeous. Dogfight mode, or DFM, is what makes Assault Horizon into an intense duel 30,000 feet in the skies. Flight sim purist regards this as simple mode or baby mode, but to do so requires ignoring the sheer glee of smoke, fire, bullets, and burnt metal flying in your face at Mach 2. The guys over at Namco have identified the main problem with flight sim games, most of the time you are engaging enemies that are nothing more than a speck that barely resemble a plane. Not only did they solve this problem, but they turned the fix into a section of gameplay itself. Get close enough on a bogey’s tail and a green circle appears around him. Tap two shoulder buttons and DFM begins. The game becomes semi on-rails, but we really must stress the “semi.” You get assist that helps keep you on your enemy’s tail, but only to a certain extent. A skilled bogey could still shake you off or keep you busy enough for his wingmen to engage you.
DFM alone makes Assault Horizon incredibly fresh, but the guys over at Namco know that players want more. While air-to-air fighter missions make up the main course of the game, there are also side dishes in the form of helicopter missions, chopper gunner missions, a bomber mission, some ground attack missions, and an AC-130 gunner mission. These missions not as deep or fun as the dogfighting missions, but they’re fun nonetheless and they round out the game nicely and prevent the monotony of previous Ace Combat games. Bomber mission where you have to fly low and avoid radar installations, an anti-ship mission where you strafe cruisers with rockets and guns, and a chopper mission in Moscow in the middle of a blizzard is just some of the missions you would be undertaking.
Ace Combat Assault Horizon walks the tightrope that a lot of modern games are taking, rehash an old formula to make it more accessible and streamlined without alienating the hardcore fans. While I’m certain that Ace Combat veterans would not be too happy with the changes made, it’s difficult to argue, when you’re in the heat of a DFM moment chasing a “boss” pilot with guns roaring and skyscrapers hurtling past in a blur.
By Chen KangYi
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Ace Combat Assault Horizon is a ©2011 NAMCO Bandai Game.