The Ace Combat series has always been the alternative to the really dry and cut realistic games on the PC that grognards and flight jockeys love. Don’t get me wrong, they’re called flight simulation games for a reason, but I shouldn’t have to go through advanced training and orientation with a F16 if I just want to fight some planes or take out enemy installations.
Enter Namco’s Ace Combat series, it’s like a sim-lite for PS2 owners. It takes place in an alternate form of our own Earth not featuring the countries we’re accustomed to, instead it features the primary countries of Osea, Ustio, Yuktobania, and Belka. There are some twists from our reality, planes of fictional variety and super weapons that aren’t very likely in this day and age, but this is just a game, you play to be entertained. Let’s start off with the graphics.
Graphically this game looks great. The planes look realistic, the particle effects and explosions look great. The landscapes and ground targets don’t really stand out, but then again you won’t be zooming in and taking a close look when you’re sweeping in and popping a few missles in their direction.
The other planes look great too, and in the midst of a dogfight the game never really slows down, even when dodging a half dozen missles, which is great to maintain flow. The cutscenes are live actors, but it really isn’t as campy or corny as some of the early live action FMVs like in Red Alert from Westwood. Bottom line: It looks great for a PS2 game, but don’t expect hyper realism like it’s a modern PC.
The sound and music in this game are great. There’s one track in particular that uses Spanish guitar mixed with some classical elements that sounds great and really fits the mood of the game. The explosions sound realistic to me, but I’ve never really taken a plane out at 11000 feet.
There’s radio chatter during missions from enemy pilots and your allies, and for the most part it’s well done. Certain voice actors aren’t necessarily good and detract from the whole immersion though. Don’t let that throw you off, it’s nowhere near the early PS2 attempts from Square-Enix in terms of horrific voice acting. Music and ambience get a big thumbs up otherwise.
Then there’s gameplay. For a game like this, it needs to be fast-paced due to the type of craft you’re zipping around in. Namco delivers on this front, missions on average can take you between five minutes up to twenty minutes, which isn’t too terribly long. The game’ll last a good 3-4 hours your first runthrough, but the game has a great deal of unlockables and trying to get the extremes in all the ratings will take seperate playthroughs, it isn’t necessarily boring after that though.
There’s also a versus mode, where you can shame friends in dogfights in planes you’ve unlocked throughout the game. If you’ve played Ace Combat 4 or 5, don’t expect anything new, it’s really just more of the same. As a fan of the series I welcome it though, it’s fast paced action in fast planes. What more do you want?
Overrall if you’re looking for a game to kill some time with or you’re simply a fan of the series, I wholeheartedly recommend playing this. If you just plan to run through and not go for any of the unlockables, don’t bother picking it up until a price drop occurs or you rent it. If you’re a fan of the series like I am, pick it up, it’s well worth the money spent in my opinion.