PS2 REVIEW: ACE COMBAT ZERO: THE BELKAN WAR

Not much has changed, but what's here is money, baby. by Colin Thames

April 28, 2006 - Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is a continuation of the Ace Combat series, a series that becomes more refined with each new title. That's a nice way of saying that there's not really a lot of new features. There hasn't been any major changes or additions to the series since it debuted with the exception of the two-player mode. That doesn't make it any less fun, but if you start experiencing dogfight Déjà vu, that doesn't make it any less fun, but if you start experiencing dogfight Déjà vu, that doesn't make it any less fun, but if you start experiencing dogfight Déjà vu…

If you've haven't played any recent games in the Ace Combat series, or better yet, none at all, this is definitely the one to get. The extra polish that this title has received as a result of continued improvements makes this version the most action-packed with the highest level of production values. It looks great, sounds great, plays great, and even smells pretty darn good.

Don't be afraid of the planes Billy, this is not a sim. It's as easy to learn as any arcade game. You don't have to worry about your altimeter, fuel, or ammo. The gauges are just there for show. All you have to do is aim your plane where the enemy is concentrated and lock, load and fire. There's a great freedom to the flying aspect of the gameplay, and although it's not very difficult, or deep for that matter, there is enough action to keep you engaged from start to finish. And thankfully the missions aren't your typical make-work scenarios. Thanks to the good storyline and the way in which it's presented you really do feel as though you have a purpose in this game and not just blindly following orders. There are some missions in which you can actually choose what aspect appeals to you more. Then if/when you replay the game, you can take the other path for a different experience.

Taking place a decade-and-a-half prior to the events in the last Ace Combat Zero game, we relive the origin of the conflict between the two warring nations. Narrated by a journalist that has befriended two of the best pilots that took part in the war, he is compelled to reveal to the world just how great these men really were and how they overcame impossible odds. While the characters of the two men are not fully explored, the focus is on the war. There are some morality issues that may be a little corny that asks questions like, "Who is the real enemy?" and "Are we not all to blame?" Don't try to make me feel guilty for having fun killing people. That's what we have Bill Cosby for.

The warring nations may be fictitious but the fighter jets are all based on existing real-world models. There is the F-15, A-16, F/A 18, SU27, MiG and the YF-22. Points earned from missions can be used to upgrade jets which will make things easier for you later in the game. Each jet has a different feel, with slightly different weapons systems. The Russian MiG is a real treat to operate. It's highly maneuverable in dogfights but it doesn't take a lot of damage. All the jets that you pilot will withstand more abuse than the enemy aircraft. The enemy AI will engage you but they have sheer numbers on their hand. You will get into dogfight situations but they are more of a result of your initiative. You won't be getting into a one-on-one dogfight with a boss.

There are 18 missions and they can last more than 20 to 30 minutes each. What is really disconcerting is that you will encounter the more aggressive and intelligent AI in the last few minutes of most levels. When you get shot down, you have to start the mission over from scratch. That is not good news for the casual gamer or someone that rented this for the weekend.

Not only do things get busy in the air but you will also be on the lookout for ground targets such as communications towers and missile bases that you must destroy. You will encounter some ground-to-air missiles in addition to the missiles from the enemy aircraft. Just staying alive requires a lot of skill and concentration. Thankfully you don't have to worry about flying the plane as you would in a sim.

The lack of online play is a gyp. It would be great to have aerial team Deathmatches. It would even be great to have a co-op mode, and I would be satisfied with an offline co-op mode as opposed to this average, split-screen Verses mode.

The jets look great, even when the action is hot and heavy I didn't experience any slowdown. The music is rocking and the sound effects are loud and proud. There is plenty of radio chatter for more realism but it does repeat after a time. You have the option of three different perspectives including a cockpit view and an outside view. You might want to consider switching views depending on how many enemies are in the sky.

Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War is a game that any player at any skill level can get the hang of in a few minutes, but be warned that the last part of each mission is a killer - literally.

Features:

  • Realistic flying experience: Pilot authentic licensed aircrafts such as the F- 15 Eagle or F/A-18 Hornet, presenting intense and lifelike action.
  • Engrossing storyline: 15 years prior to the events in Ace Combat 5, Ace Combat Zero brings fans deeper into the Ace universe by revealing events leading up to the Belkan War.
  • Personal gameplay style changes the action: The Ace Style Gauge System factors the player's style of flying and changes different facets of the game accordingly; even the game ending itself can change.
  • Challenging enemies are at your throat: New to the series, rival ace pilots will give you a run for your money with their own individual flying styles elevating your piloting skills to new heights.
  • Personalized communications give you feedback as you play: The Radio Transmission System linked with the Ace Style Gauge System change radio communications in real time according to your reputation. In-game messages from your allies and opponents will acknowledge your skill, or lack thereof.
  • Testimony Movie System: After your missions are over, cut scene interviews of rival pilots will comment on your encounters with them giving you an in depth look at your enemy.
  • Enhanced Wingmen Command: Wingmen commands are now more detailed than ever as you order your squad mates in battle to coordinate your efforts.
  • Multiplayer action to battle with friends: Players can take to the skies and dogfight in head to head action to prove who is the true Ace amongst themselves.

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War (PS2)
4.4
Graphics
This is a great looking game. Mechanically it's sound. The jets look amazing and the animations of the explosions are very satisfying.
4.5

Control
The game is arcade-simple. You don't have to worry about flying the plane as much as you have to worry about staying alive while shooting down the enemy hordes.

4.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good voiceovers, rocking tunes, powerful explosions and some radio chatter all make this a very fine sounding game.
3.5
Play Value
Replay missions that you passed on earlier. You might also get some replay value out of the Verses mode which is better than nothing.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Colin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best