It has been a little while since an Ace Combat title has graced the consoles and the development team over at Namco Bandai decided to go a different route with this one. The setting is on Earth as you fly over locations all over the world ranging from the east coast of the U.S. to France to Africa and more. Assault Horizon is definitely a bit more streamlined than normal in the hopes of acquiring a bigger audience for the series. While there will undoubtedly be people who don’t like the new direction, my experience with it was a good one. I had fun soaring through the sky and over various cities as I was trying to shoot down my enemy. That’s not to say this game doesn’t have a couple problems though. Going through the campaign I did enjoy some of the diversity as one mission I would be in a jet, one I would be in a helicopter, one I would be in an AC-130 and so on.
As I was progressing through the story I was enjoying the action, however, it all seemed very familiar to me. It seemed like a lot of it was lifted from the recent Modern Warfare titles. I’m not mentioning that as an insult towards Ace Combat as I have enjoyed the storyline in those Modern Warfare titles and I enjoyed the storyline in Ace Combat. It was just interesting to see all of the similarities and then to see where the development team took the story next. I don’t have a whole lot of experience within this genre, however, I thought the various planes that you were able to fly in the game controlled pretty well. I was able to pick up the control scheme very quickly and once I accomplished that the game was a lot more fun. If you are having trouble with the controls I would advise to keep playing until you are used to them and then the game will become a lot more fun for you. I enjoyed being able to pick my plane at the beginning of a lot of the missions as well as selecting the type of weaponry that my aircraft would utilize. Graphically speaking I thought this game looked really nice and the cinematics were really well done. One of my favorite parts of a lot of the cinematics was the ability to look around. It might sound silly but I enjoyed being able to visually scan the area while someone was talking to me about the action that was coming up in the next mission. I thought the voice work was done really well and the radio chatter that you would constantly hear throughout the missions helped immerse you in the game even further and was a great way to keep the player updated on what was happening.
There is a bit of strategy to the game and you will definitely want to get good at utilizing it if you hope to survive. As you are flying you can try and shoot your enemy out of the sky with the gun on your plane or your missiles. Your missiles can lock on to your enemy, however, that doesn’t guarantee that they will hit their target once you fire them. The enemy can, and often does, find a way to avoid your missiles. If you get close enough to your enemy you can also engage them in dogfights by pushing in the left and right bumper. This brings the fight up close and personal and you have to be able to keep up with your enemy while at the same time getting your reticule over him long enough to turn red so that your missiles can lock on to him. You need to pay attention to a couple of different things in a dogfight, however, one of the most important thing is your speed. It is possible to go to fast and over pursue your adversary and then you will end up losing him and exiting the dogfight scenario. On the flip side your enemy can also engage you into a dog fight. If they are locked on to you then you need to do whatever you can to dodge missiles and escape. My favorite maneuver to accomplish this was slowing down and then, just at the right moment, hit both bumpers to perform a counter maneuver which would result in me chasing the enemy down instead of my plane being the one chased. Slowing your aircraft down comes with a big risk though and you have to plan it so that you can slow it down while at the same time making sure you can still dodge anything that is coming your way.
If you want to just kick back and relax there is also the “Free Mission” mode of the game as well. This is where you can play through any your completed missions and the goal here is to get the highest score. Your high score will be registered for each mission regardless of the difficulty setting. If you are the type of person that generally prefers multiplayer action over the story then the development team has you covered there as well. There are four main modes that you can play with Capital Conquest, Domination, Deathmatch and Mission Co-Op. All of these modes should be self-explanatory and can be a lot of fun to play with friends. There is a skill set feature that you can utilize as well where you can equip aircraft with skills to increase your performance in online, mission co-op and free mission. If you are a stat junkie there are also leaderboards for you to check out as well as your various statistics such as points/kills, aircraft usage, battle results and more.
While I did enjoy my time with this game there were a couple of problems. Going through the story I thought that the missions went on for far too long. It almost seems like they wanted to make really long missions to extend the play time of the campaign. It’s not like you are doing anything different either. You are simply trying to take out the sixth wave of enemy planes when the mission probably should have ended around wave three or four. Once you start a mission you pretty much know what you are going to be doing the whole time and it doesn’t really change whether it is the first minute or the twentieth. Also, there were some times when the difficulty spike was a bit uneven. There are probably going to be some people that get frustrated with the game once they hit one of those difficulty spikes. Hopefully they can fight through it because the game is fun but I can definitely see frustration mounting for some people.
Overall I did enjoy my time with Ace Combat Assault Horizon. Despite the complaints that I have I did have fun flying around all of the different locations across the globe and I enjoyed the story (even though parts of it were very familiar). I don’t have a whole lot of experience within this genre and the development team streamlined the game to try and get more of the casual audience to play it. I think they will be successful with that, however, it should be interesting to see what direction they choose for the next Ace Combat title. We are all spoiled this holiday season with the huge amount of titles that will hit store shelves before Christmas. With that said, if you have any interest in this type of game at all, you should really give this game a try. Don’t let it get lost in the shuffle as I don’t think there are many games of this type that will come out this holiday season. The game is a lot of fun and there is something satisfying about shooting your enemy out of the air and watching a big mid-air explosion.