Going a little off the beaten trail for this post. Turning away (only briefly) from PC flight simulation to consoles with an oldie but a goodie with Ace Combat 6.
What is ‘Ace Combat’ anyway?
I was a latecomer to the Ace Combat party. I picked up Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for my old XBox 360 a couple of years after its 2007 North American release.
Ace Combat emphasizes style and tight action oriented game-play over simulation level elements (which is why this blog post is off topic from my usual). The gameplay is, in a word, arcade. But it does do the arcade action with care that you don’t always find. The developers clearly tried to keep the insane action visuals semi-authentic and the aircraft handling mattered even if it was simplified.
Vehicles of destruction
The selection of aircraft is pretty good too. From the F-14D, F-15C, A-10, Rafale, Typhoon, Su27 and F-22 just to name a few.
Weapon load-outs are plentiful with hundreds of missiles expended in a single mission. Conventional missiles can be fired against air or ground targets, your cannon makes short work of nearly anything in-front of you, and a variety of special weapons that include cluster bomb cruise missiles and multi-lock and fire cluster missiles ensure that you can lay down some massive destruction.
A story set on an alternate Earth
The missions themselves are set against the backdrop of a cliche (or classic) wartime tale set in Ace Combat’s very own world typically referred to as “Strangereal” – geographically unique Earth with alternate nations and alliances.
In the story of the game, Emmeria, a country similar to the United States is invaded by neighboring Estovakia – a country with a stereo-typically Eastern European feel. Estovakia, devastated by an asteroid strike and years of internal strife decides to strike out and attempt to secure desperately needed resources of its neighbor.
The developers do a pretty good job of telling a story both in the skies and on the ground with short diversions to a couple of characters including a civilian trying to find her daughter, a gun-ho tank crew, and a war-weary Estovakian colonel.
In the air, your trusty wing man Marcus “Shamrock” Lampert (yes my callsign was inspired here!) is always there to help you blast baddies out of the sky. Although realistically all of the friendly AI are there largely to make you feel better – The player causes most of the mayhem.
Fun action but some downsides too
Considering what the old XBox 360 was capable of, Ace Combat definitely pushed the graphics to the limit of what it could do. Each mission had hundreds of ground vehicles, ships, tanks, surface to air missiles, and hundreds more aircraft in the skies. And the aircraft themselves were stunningly detailed. A hangar mode gave you a good chance to examine each aircraft in detail – the graphics still hold up fairly well today.
The missions play out with some level of player choice too. You never feel like you’re on rails although realistically the outcome is largely the same – destroy everything that is an enemy and move on.
The writing is at the level of cheesy (yet epic) anime and the voice acting is even worse. The AI is fairly simple although it does put up a pretty good threat when a half dozen missiles get sent your way.
If you’re looking for a fun diversion and see Ace Combat 6 in the bargin bin definitely check it out.
Other Ace Combat Games
Ace Combat 6 was the last of the original line of Ace Combat games and the only one to appear on XBox 360. Previous entries came out for PlayStation and PlayStation 2 dating back well over two decades worth of gaming.
Following Ace Combat 6, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon took the series towards a more western audience with a more gritty scenario set on a near future version of our own Earth with familiar countries and military alliances. I played it but never fell in love with it the way I did with Ace Combat 6.
A teaser trailer showing off Ace Combat 7 and a presumable return to the classic formula came out over 9 months ago. Not much has been shown off since but this PlayStation 4 based game is supposedly going to support PlayStation VR so VR junkies might want to keep that on their radar.