Air combat games have always been somewhat of a lucky dip in my eyes, you’re either in for a downright brilliant flight experience, or an atrocious mess. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is quite clearly attempting to fly in the face of convention and break the general impression that people have about the Ace Combat series.
Gone are the hard to control planes, with poor graphics and an unresponsive control system, and in their place is a responsive, action-packed, full-fledged flight combat experience with eye pleasing graphics and a state of the art combat system. From the start, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon impresses.
Previous Ace Combat games were essentially pretty unrealistic and unchallenging, as simply holding down the trigger and shooting things will get you pretty far. Namco and Project Aces have obviously worked extensively on getting rid of that system, and now we have a fully-realistic combat experience set in the skies.
Most air combat games include several repetitive missions and are glued together by a number of generic and un-enthusing cut-scenes with poor graphics and audio. Assault Horizon has definitely broken the mould in those respects.
The game is set in the year 2015 and tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop, leader of the Warwolf Squadron. An anti-government group in Africa have secured a powerful weapon called Trinity and without revealing too much, Bishop needs to sort those nasty Africans out, with planes and guns, baby.
When in the sky, Assault Horizon looks outstanding. Your environments are based on real imagery taken from satellites orbiting our very planet, and there’s enough different environments to go around too. So there’s no repetitiveness here, no sir. There’s also a variety of different camera angles to choose from. Cockpit view, top-down view, pilot’s view, wing-view, it’s all there, and they look good. The only slight gripe I have with the graphics is in the cut sequences, the characters looks very square-ish and pixilated, at times, you swear you’re watching cut-scenes from a Playstation 2-era game. Anyway, once you’ve skipped the cut-scenes and you’re kicking butt in the sky, you soon forget about that.
A nice element of Assault Horizon is the ability to undertake missions outside of the wonderful jet fighter environment. There are a number of helicopter-based levels, rail shooter sectors and some magnificent AC-130 levels. This nice variety keeps things fresh and interesting, so you’ll never get bored of shooting infidels on foot from the side of a helicopter, dog-fighting rival jet fighters and, of course, just whizzing about like some kind of kamikaze jet-fighter person-thing.
Dog-fight mode is a welcome feature in Assault Horizon, it allows you to chase behind other jets and lock-on to them, allowing you to follow their slick-manoeuvres and their desperate attempts to get rid of you as you throw a number of deadly missiles their way, as well as unloading a few rounds of machine gun fire into their plane. Eventually, if you’ve managed to stay in dog-fight mode, you will see your opponent’s plane explode in spectacular fashion, and when I say spectacular, I mean it. The in-air explosions look superb, and make you crave another one.
The game’s audio adds quite nicely to the authentic and realistic air-combat experience, with regular tactical radio-ins coming from your in-air and HQ-located team-mates. You then have a number of rock-metal style background tunes, which give you a nice, aggressive attitude when flying through the skies and dropping missiles on those nasty baddies. Appropriate and incredibly fun.
Assault Horizon not only brings to the table a fun campaign and free-fly mode, but it has a new take on multiplayer combat. There are several modes for you to get your online combat fix from, and they’re all brilliantly designed and well thought out. You have the usual Deathmatch mode, which does what it says on the tin, then you have some new (but welcome) additions in Capital Conquest and Domination, both of which require you to work together with your team-mates rather than against them.
Jet fighting games often pop up out of nowhere before exiting the market quietly (and usually limping financially), but Assault Horizon seems to be different. Project Aces have obviously put a lot of work into re-shaping the Ace Combat series and perhaps even reshaping the flight-combat genre, which has gained a bit of a bad rep in recent years. Assault Horizon has, instead of just continuing the genre’s pattern of producing hard-to-control simulators lacking in storyline, taken things to a whole new level.
So there we have it, if you’re a long-time air-combat veteran, or perhaps someone that’s just a little curious of the genre, this is the best air-combat effort to have surfaced for a long while. Well worth the fourty or so quid for a copy.
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