One of the top priorities for this past vacation was to get back in the virtual cockpit. My love for the Ace Combat series is well documented in the past but since Namco's last outing on Nintendo machines was Assault Horizon Legacy on 3DS, I have been missing out on the series big HD counterparts.
Enter Assault Horizon Enhanced Edition, the 2013 PC port of the HD console game that divided both critics and fans alike. Now I have first hand experience as to why this happened.
I feel bad for Project Aces here. Ace Combat was, is and always will be a niche series. As such, most professional reviews never focus on what matter to me as a fan(atic) Ace Combat player so you can throw review scores right out of the window. So what could the producers do to appeal to a wider, western audience? Simple: Turn the franchise into "Michael Bay's Call of Duty With Planes & Helicoperts"!
Warwolf Leader's F-22 Raptor w/ Supersonic Livery
Sounds like a solid plan in theory. Thanks to last generation hardware, the series took a huge leap into the graphics department. It became difficult to distinguish between real life combat air plane photographs and screens from Assault Horizon. In motion things looked even better, with impressive particle details, cloud and weather effects and Burnout style slow-motion of enemy planes and ground targets exploding in manners my young mind could only imagine when I was playing River Raid on ZX Spectrum. It was true orgy of destruction that surely delighted long time fans of the franchise and maybe even got a few new nuggets along for the ride. However much like Icarus flying too close to the sun, this is also this games undoing...
Warwolf versus Akula head-on
When I boot up an Ace Combat game, I want to fly a plane freely. I do not want to be forced to pilot an Apache Helicopter with radically different controls, take over as the Heli's gunner and play on rails Duck Hunt for the 2010's or participate in Hercules AC-130 missions where I shoot tiny dots on the thermal imaging scanner. It took me several tries until I finally got past the first Heli missions and was able to fully appreciate the classic Ace Combat style gameplay that comes after, something I'm not sure many people even got around too after such a cruel "tutorial" that would definitely scare off newcomers to the series.
Besides the very well made, quick time events cut-scenes that move the story along between and mid missions, the biggest addition to this game is "Close-Range Assault" or CRA for short. It exists in both aerial and ground assault variants and it turns the game into "Michael Bay's Afterburner". Triggering on-rails predetermined paths, it's up to you to keep up with enemy targets and more often then not perform counters in order to keep them from chasing you (enemy AI will also use CRA on you!). Not a bad thing by itself mind, but the fact that some of these are mandatory, pre-determined and the entire final battle against the "end boss" force the player into using this new feature is infuriating. Nice try but no cigar here from me, Project Aces. Glad you removed it from Ace Combat Infinity, it quickly overstays it's welcome.
Press "Y" to punch the air and win at life
Overall Assault Horizon is not a bad game, it's just not the best in the series. So it was definitely time very well spent, especially with the option to switch audio to Japanese, making sure I would annoy everyone in the room when I was playing because it was all out of context gibberish unless you were actually playing the game. I'm glad to have completed the single player campaign mode so I am now up to speed with the series.
For your entertainment, please take a look at "Hostile Fleet", an impressive anti-naval mission where ship anti aircraft fire and explosions truly shine. Keen eyed folks will notice that I am not on a F-16 but instead in JASDF Mitsubishi's F-2 "Viper Zero".
That... was a lot of fun!
Would I buy It today for Wii U?
Not this game exactly but ever since I saw the possibilities of a dual-screen Ace Combat game I dream of Namco delivering something on Nintendo's current generation home console. They could even have versus and co-op play for to players at the same time, extending the game's longevity. Not sure if there are enough players out there with the same opinion, but you could definitely count on my money day one.
In Memory of Goose
That's all for today. Hope you enjoyed this arTAYcle. Catch you on the bounce! ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ
Next time on Games of Summer 2014: Old faces in new clothes, the forever tournament continues...
*OMAKE* Why yes, I did manage to sneak in a few hours of flight into Ace Combat Infinity. You know , when my dad wasn't hogging the PS3. It is as I feared, an excellent game in the series that I sadly just can't get around to accept it's current F2P model. A shame...