Being a Top Gun without Tom Cruise
August 7, 2007 – Since I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was younger, flight simulator games have always been an obsession to me. Therefore, whenever there is a new title that involves any kind of flying simulation, I immediately find out anything I can about the game. In my constant search for a flight simulator that will keep my interest as well as give me some clue for the cockpit on consoles, Ace Combat has been one that has made me happy. I know there are plenty of simulators on the PC, and I have played many of them, but I have always wanted that experience on my consoles to be that good.
Namco/Bandai is taking that next step into delivering a quality flight simulator by having their next installment appear only on the Xbox 360. I recently got the opportunity to see what we have in store from the latest Ace Combat series. Read on to see how it is shaping up.
From the beginning of the demo, I noticed the obvious upgrades to the graphics. Everything looked extremely realistic, right down the lettering on the sides of the planes. I was treated to a nice cinematic of the formations of the fighter-jets and then it was time to dive into the action of the game. Your pilot code name is Garuda 1, and you are flying solo until you are given a wingman who used to be Shamrock. The two of you head off from formation to confront the opposing forces. The controls feel a bit forced at times, and this was a little depressing considering how much the game appeared to have advanced from the PS2 days. Instead of placing the missile and machineguns on the triggers, you have the face buttons to worry about. The triggers act as your accelerate and de-accelerate, which is all fine and well, but they don’t actually feel like you are doing anything. This is a major problem I have had with flight simulators across the board. I understand the need to keep it as realistic as we can, however, I think it is time that we receive a little speed representation in the games. Not saying that the vibrations don’t give you a sense of this, but the whizzing speed of the enemy or friendly planes are not as enticing as they could have been. More often than not, your speed feels more like a slow parachute than a mach three fighter.
I fought over Gracemaria, and from a distance the landscape looked great. Only after getting closer do you really see the fuzzy details of the lands below, but this is still a demo and making the landscapes sharper could be one of the things that Namco/Bandai is working on; I really hope that this is the case. After all, if you have the detail levels to the max when it comes to the planes and the skies in which your dogfights take place, then the lands you are protecting should look as good. Nevertheless, to make up for the graphic problems I can say that the radio communications voice acting is believable. Nothing feels horribly forced, and everyone, even your wingman, seems to have valid advice for how to take on the enemies, which comes in very handy when you start taking enemy fire. When three enemy fighters were attacking me, my wingman informed me about my special weapon, the launching of four heat seekers, and I narrowly pulled out of the fires of the sky.
The other thing that is very interesting about your wingman is that you can direct him on what to do. Cover and attack were the two options I had. Cover worked a whole lot better than the attack. While Garuda 2 was a great pilot on his own, he seemed a much better suit to cover me while I was attacking the enemy. During the demo, after the first wave was eliminated, it was just a few moments after the commander suggested that the fight was over that we were ambushed by another set of fighters. The only difference this time was that instead of trying to stand our own, we were grossly outnumbered; therefore, we had to return to base. That would have been simple enough except I was given a time limit to race to the western side of the grid, past all of the enemy fighters. After playing for the short amount of the demo, I finally caught a glimpse of some of that speed I was asking for. It was nothing spectacular, and I wish that it would be implemented a little better, but the vibrations and the whizzing tree-lines below almost captured the speed.
While Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation may not have completely hooked me with the demo, I will still be picking the title up; there is just too much that could cause it to rise above the ashes of the flight simulators from the past year. Moreover, there is a bonus Joystick control that you will be able to find bundled with the game which will come in handy for players that want a flight simulator on their console and want to grip the stick while singing “Danger Zone” in their heads. Look for Ace Combat 6 to hit shelves this October and aim for the sky.
Ace Combat 6 truly brings air combat games into the modern era of gaming
June 29, 2007 – Ace Combat, a series which hasn’t changed much except for 3, the anime styled game, is truly reaching for the next generation in terms of graphics, gameplay, and story. Yes, it’s still about fighting jets rushing through the sky, shooting and bombing targets, but the experience feels so much more human. You no longer feel removed from the human element of war and the game no longer feels like just a game.
The graphics of the jets are very close to photorealisism and are based upon 20 licensed jets including the F-15 E Strike Eagle, F-22 Raptor, and the A-10 Warthog. You can pilot in third person or in first, which delivers an extremely realistic cockpit experience. Even better are the environments themselves which truly look photorealistic. It’s as if you were on Google Maps, checking out cities below. There’s no word whether the detail is that good if you swoop by a building, but that’s just kind of dangerous, you know?
Speaking of danger, the game tones it down a bit during the first few missions which act as training missions, but later, the missions get dangerous, and you’ll need help. Once you build up a special meter, you can either ask allies to cover you or attack the enemy, which is something new to the AC series. To use allies, you only need to look at them and press up or down on the D-Pad. If you use allies in each mission, you’ll have more later on in the game. It’s a bit like unlocking characters in a fighting game.
As far as enemies are concerned, they too bring a more humanistic approach to the game as their A.I. has been upgraded. Both individual planes and and formations will act more skillfully. Think of the game as a “Stealth” type experience, only you fight planes without annoying voices and there’s not Jamie Foxx to help you.
Another big part of the more human-like game is the story. A group of planes launch an attack on King’s Bridge in the fictional home city of Gracemeria. You scramble to defend your home and then go on missions to destroy the enemy. There’s lots of cutscenes with dramatic acting and high quality sound in between fight scenes, helping mold the game into a cinematic-like experience.
If you truly want to make the game a unbelievable experience, then you should pick up the Ace Edge Stick and throttle controller by Namco. The stick is very similar to a real jet’s flight stick and the throttle is very similar to a real throttle. Just push gently on the throttler to go forward and use the stick to move around in true 3D. Take that, Six-Axis controllers! It makes sense that Namco didn’t want to develop Ace Combat 6 for the PS3. 360 controllers are just amazing to look at and use due to their high development quality. Also, the 360’s online program Live has always been attractive to most gamers and Namco is going to use that to support online gameplay, including the following matches: Deathmatch, team deathmatch, and cooperative play, where friends can take down A.I. controlled jets.
Ace Combat 6 is looking to be one of the best simulations in console history, and by far, the best Ace Combat game in the series. I recommend it for all flying game aces, Ace Combat fans, and fans of unique controllers, such as the NegCon, GunCon, R.E.4 Chainsaw, Bongo Drums, etc. Look for it this fall.