1001 Videogames I must play before I die!
No.0028 Ace Combat 6 : Fires of Liberation
Hey! I remembered this thing! The blog I mean, not this game as such. One of my new years resolutions for this year has been to write more as I really enjoy it and I'm badly out of practice. So I am determined to at least reach entry number 100 on this perhaps ludicrous mission within the year which means these posts will probably get a little shorter to enable that. Anyway, onto the game!
I've never played the older Ace Combat games and I only really heard about this one because some people got upset that the newest entry in the long running series was going to be an Xbox 360 exclusive and shun its traditional Playstation homeland. I played a demo and didn't really like it to begin with. The voice overs from other pilots were annoying and I wasn't really sure what my objectives really were. I was just thrown into an F-16 and told to defend my city, and that was about it. Eventually I got the hang of things. Shoot down the green boxes, open the airbreak while turning to turn quicker, don't crash, all that stuff and I started to really enjoy it. I probably played the demo mission about 20 times before I finally found a copy of the full game. That's when I got to play with the best part of this game. It's mission structure.
Each mission is broken up into separate operations. To progress you have to complete about half of them to turn the battle in your forces favor. Sometimes there can be as many as eight to choose from and they will all involve different mixes or air-to-air or air-to-ground combat. This means that without having to load a new mission you can decide that you're board of dog fighting and want to shoot some defenseless ground targets for a bit instead. You can't complete all the operations in a single go either and some of the later levels have so many that you could replay a mission but not repeat any objectives. For the most part at least, once the multiple operations section of each mission is finished there is always a single final objective that often provides a story twist. You'll start to see them coming a mile away after a bit. I remember more then once sparing one last mission critical silo from annihilation just so I could land and rearm before a predictable counter attack arrived. There are also loads of secrets. Some just unlock back story for the other units that fight along side you but I really enjoyed tracking down the hidden ace pilots in each mission to unlock extra paint jobs. It was a great way to make a really basic unlock feel like a serious achievement!
The story is a bit weird. I stopped noticing the anime weirdness in the actual plot fairly quickly, but between missions there are cut-scenes showing the toll that the war is taking on various people both military and civilian. They have near constant monologues explaining what is happening in an almost patronising way. At one point when a woman is fleeing a city while it is being invaded she see a tank sitting by a bridge with the crew hurrying the civilians across before they blow it up to slow the enemy advance. The tank crew tells the woman this, then her monologue tells us what she was just told. Later we see the same woman passing the burnt wreck of a tank and I thought to myself "That's probably the guys from before" and as soon as I was done she immediately told me just that! Whenever there is any kind of suggestion or metaphor, visual or spoken, it is immediately, explicitly explained like the character is a refugee version of Garth Marenghi! I actually think the cut-scenes could have been really quite good and moving if all of the narration was just removed. It would suddenly become really subtle and clever, where as it now just feels like the developers were terrified you wouldn't understand the motivations of characters that don't actually matter to the main plot anyway.
But for all it's quirks, I love this game. I think there are some other Ace Combat titles on my list and I look forward to trying them out. Especially since none of them are Assault Horizon which got rid of the mission structure I enjoyed so much in favor of hand holding and scripted scenes. As far as I know it was never ported to the PS3 but its six years old now so a cheap copy shouldn't be hard to find. If you like shooting things down whilst going very, very quickly this game will provide hours of fun!
So much for these being shorter...