Game Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Posted by Reggie
I have played most of the Ace Combat games dating all the way back to the first on the original Playstation. As a franchise supporter there were always things I expected such as the ability to purchase aircraft, winning medals for completing certain objectives, and following a made up and somewhat decent story. There was always a high-flying level, a ship sinking level, a ground-target level, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-in-a-ravine level, and the final level where you shoot down an absurdly oddball large aircraft. The latter being somewhat cheesy, but it was just part of the game. The boss is always bigger than the rest. As a player, you embraced it; expected it. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon takes the classic arcade flying game to new levels.
Gone are the in-depth briefings prior to your mission. Absent are also the post-mission briefings showing you how you performed. Boo! The old mission briefings told you what to expect so you could carefully choose your aircraft and missile assortment. Now, you get “air to ground” (for example) written at the top of your menu screen and that’s all you have to go with. Assault horizon introduces a whole new playing field where you pilot an AC-130 Gunship, B1 Bomber, attack helicopter, and an assortment of fighter jets. You also get to be a gunner in the helicopter. On some levels you switch from different airframes based on what the mission entails. Though I miss some of the old standard Ace Combat levels, I embraced the feel of the new game and variety of aircraft at my disposal.
The story revolves around a rebel insurgent group out of Russia that has access to some high-tech jets and fictional Trinity bomb. It boasts the power of a nuke. Why they didn’t just call it a nuke is beyond me. After a bunch of Russian pilots serving in the coalition defect to the Russian insurgent group, the battle rages in the skies and on land. In the end, it all boils down to revenge. The Americans accidentally killed the insurgent leader’s wife in another country which leads to the rebel assault. Sounds like a Call of Duty plot. During the game, I lost interest in the story. There wasn’t enough storytelling in the game to make it that compelling or give it any real depth. It came together at the end, but by then I kind of forgot what was going on.
Game play is much different from past games. You used to tail an enemy until you were within range and fired your missiles. Most of the time you hit, sometimes miss, but it wasn’t that difficult to take an enemy fighter down. In Assault Horizon, the best way to take down an enemy is to enter dog-fighting mode. This mode puts you right behind the fighter and when your meter (circle) fills red, lock-on, fire, and most of the time you would destroy your enemy quickly. Team leaders were harder to shoot down, thus making it difficult on the eyes as they weave and bob sometimes between structures. See the video below for an example. Despite the new tactical method of aircraft engagement, it got very tedious as you have to enter dog-fighting mode “almost” every time you wanted to shoot down an enemy. And the enemy kept coming…and coming…and coming. Sometimes I thought missions would never end.
The worst thing about Assault Horizon was my wingmen. They were the worst possible wingmen in the history of human flight. How is it that I have to shoot down six enemies before my entire squadron shoots anyone down is a mystery. The only thing they are good for is reminding me of my primary target. Sometimes you get distracted by shooting down enemies while your primary target is flying free. Otherwise, your wingmen should be court-martialed.
The missions felt as if they would never end. The only thing that saved this game were the frequent flyer saves that appeared after every major battle. If I happened to crash and burn, I didn’t have to start the entire mission over which was a fix from the old Ace Combat games. For that I am thankful because this was one of the most frustrating games I played in a long time. I will never understand why the creators made the prime enemy fighter jet have super strength impenetrable aircraft skin. I must have hit that plane ten times with missiles before it finally ended. There is no aircraft in the world that could take that many missile hits. A bit unrealistic!
I like the new take on an old game. It is refreshingly updated. Dog-fighting mode was pretty cool, but after a while I realized this was the most practical way to shoot down aircraft; the ONLY way to shoot down team leaders. Therefore, it got tedious. The story could have been better; more depth would have been nice. More simulation would be great too; taking off/landing, perhaps some aircraft carrier missions. Stories of revenge don’t do much for me. And how could any insurgent rebel group get control of so many high-tech fighter jets and weapons? Either be realistic or not. Let’s just have a conventional war with another country’s Air Force. Assault Horizon was somewhere in the middle; part fiction/part reality. I started off with great anticipation, but ended desperately just wanting it to be over. My level of frustration was at an all time high on the last few missions. Is it a bad game? No. It could use a little polish, reality, simulation, and shorter more frequent missions. It seems as though most of my game reviews end up saying “wait for the bargain bin.” Well, wait for the bargain bin on Assault Horizon.