Dogfighting To The Death
Combat-based flying simulators aren’t exactly common in the current gaming landscape. Sure, you get two or three a year, but truly blockbuster games in this genre are unfortunately few and far between. Fortunately, the Ace Combat series has become known for bringing their A-game to this tiny niche genre and delivering a quality experience to gamers. The latest Ace combat game, Assault Horizon, delivers on this tradition of quality.
The game takes an ultra-modern spin on the flight simulator and drops you into a militaristic conflict in Africa. It features a story by well-known author Jim DeFelice, and features a decent amount of cutscenes and plot points. Although the Ace Combat series has always had a narrow narrative focus, this is the first time that they are trying to tell a big cinematic story with the game. For the most part, it works. Though I’m not exactly a huge fan of military fiction, for those that are, Assault Horizon gives players an interesting story worthy of the series’ reputation.
But if you’re not terribly interested in the plot here, that’s not a big deal; Assault Horizon definitely has the flight-based gameplay nailed. Mission format is strictly arcade-based, and you’ll have a variety of missions to perform within each level. As you reach checkpoints, you’ll gain the ability to go after bigger and more challenging targets. However, even though the game throws you into the fray very quickly, the learning curve is nice and balanced for those who don’t have much experience with flying simulators.
Most missions have a pretty basic format, which involves flying around a large open area, finding targets, and taking them down. Going after targets is a two-stage process that involves tracking an enemy and then going into dogfight mode. Dogfight mode is a very close tail that allows you to fire short-range missiles and machine-gun fire. However, once you enter dogfight mode, you are more susceptible to missile attacks from the rear, so you don’t want to do this until you’ve tailed your enemy to a remote location. From here, you’ve got to dispatch your target quickly, as the enemy A.I. will often swoop in to help an embattled comrade.
Unfortunately, the allied A.I. isn’t as good. Though enemy A.I. works together well, your own forces don’t actually know the meaning of teamwork. Even though you’ll see plenty of friendly planes flying around the level, they never actually go after any of the targets or help you out when you have someone on your tail. Fortunately, if you have a friend, you can play a co-op game, which will make tougher levels a bit less brutal. Playing co-op also helps make the game feel a bit more strategic.
Multiplayer fans will also appreciate the game’s online offerings, which allow you to take part in team-based aerial battles with up to 16 people. There isn’t much depth to the online modes, but they make for a nice competitive component to the game. I do wish that there was a bit more variety to the online component, but with this type of game, I don’t know how much could have been done here.
About the only thing missing from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is hardcore flying mechanics. Though Assault Horizon is an aerial combat simulator, there is a decided focus on the combat portion of the gameplay instead of the flying. You can do some crazy flips and upside-down maneuvers in this title that wouldn’t exactly work in a realistic flying simulator, and if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require just the most basic aerial maneuvers, then you’ll be disappointed. However, if you don’t mind the game’s very liberal approach to flying, the combat is very satisfying, and forming a strategy to go after swarms of enemy planes forms the backbone of this title’s core gameplay.
Although most of the game will be spent chasing down enemies in jet fighter aircrafts, these missions are punctuated with some new content, including a helicopter flying mode and a door gunner mode. These aren’t terribly difficult, but they provide a nice contrast to the regular search-and-destroy type missions. Though you probably won’t get much strategic value from these modes, they are fun and expand the game’s already generous roster of aerial aircrafts.
Planes look incredibly detailed, and the gritty battlefield in the sky is wonderfully realized. The game has a minimalistic hub interface, which is in line with its overall arcade feel. Though certain stages do look a little bit flat and explosion animations are a bit repetitive, the game looks good overall.
The audio in Assault Horizon is a bit more of a mixed bag. Though the soundtrack itself features a beautiful score, the game’s sound effects are extremely repetitive and can become grating very quickly. Some of the dialog in the game also suffers from this issue, and allied buddies end up being quite the annoyance after repeating the same remarks over and over again.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon isn’t without its flaws. The game is a little bit on the short side, and doesn’t have a very deep multiplayer component. However, as an arcade-style aerial combat simulator, the game gets the job done and should provide a great experience for fans of the genre. With a great story and fast-paced strategic gameplay, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has plenty going for it, and is a worthy entry in the Ace Combat series.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The skies are highly detailed and planes look beautiful. 4.0 Control
Controls are standard flight simulator fare and work very well. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is great, but sound effects can be grating after awhile. 3.5 Play Value
There’s not too much post-game content, but the story mode is plenty of fun and multiplayer modes are a nice diversion. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best