Ground Textures, Orchestras and The Real World

Posted by Tylea002 (2295 posts) -

That's right, it's time for me to report back on what is quite possibly my personal most anticipated game of 2011:

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

I booted up my xbox, to put it a little bit of Saints Row 2 - lo and behold, the AC:AH (which I will always pronounce as a bird's caw) demo was online, waiting for me. It was promptly downloaded. I don't know how many AC fans there are on this site - I don't even know if I count as one of them, but this is a preview coming from the perspective of someone who loved the effin' shit out of Fires of Liberation.

Above: Angels in the Skies. Pretty, HD Angels.

The demo begins by letting you know that it is Ace Combat. The high point of the series, the way it meshes Radio Chatter and Orchestral Epics to create a real 'fist pumping' feel as you 'shoot down some bogies.' At first glance, you'd swear you were playing some kind of up-rezed version of 6. The UI's extremely similar, the basic flight controls feel right. However, things are different. For one - this isn't made up Japan world or anything - Welcome to Earth, motherfucker, and mourn the loss of David Caruso, because Miami's a battleground.

That's the first big difference right there, the story. Obviously, this has been known about for a while - and fair enough, because the Ace Combat story style has been somewhat middlingly received. Personally, I found the in mission radio chatter to be excellent, and the between mission, following that mother and also everyone says angels all the time for planes and GET IT IT'S A METAPHOR? Yeah, that was terrible. All gone now. The word Angel is not spoken. However, it's lost it's flavour. There could have been a way for them to continue the weird narrative ideas they've been having in the past, without making it seem like Call of Duty in the skies. (There are multiple characters, some significant first person 'moments,' and 'They hit I-95 is uttered. In this one demo).

But really, the story itself is irrelevant. The radio chatter is there, the sweeping music is there, so you would assume all they need to do is get the gameplay right, and then they'd have at least some level of a success on their hands. And, to a degree, they do. The flying feels good, you shoot down planes in the standard way. However, they've added a new feature, which is cool - the first time.

It zooms in, puts a degree of auto pilot on, and you have to keep your target in your sights, and perform QTE style dodging, to kill guys better. This has replaced the red bar that would appear on the screen when you were (almost) guaranteed a missile hit. Whilst it's cool, and the dodging system feels truly great, it just seems to make fights take way longer. The challenge in six, I found, was not attempting to dogfight - because dogfighting is usually just going round in circles. It was more about having lots of targets, and taking them all out without getting hit so much. Whereas this demo presents a level in which every fight is broken up into one on one engagements using this new mode - and even outside of this mode, planes just take longer to go down. It's not a game-breaker, and it's still fun, but I have my doubts that it'll hold out to the full game.

Also, you can fly helicopters, and that's dumb as shit.

To Summarise

  • I'm still excited, but more cautious after playing the demo.
  • It plays just like Ace Combat, controls wise. But the features that have been added really change the way you have to take down planes, and i don't know if it will hold up.
  • Helicopters, and the playing of them, is shite.

One Final Thing

The music! It's pretty damn awesome, listen to it.

It also follows the formula so much that the previous one is practically identical, without the electronic music. Once the main chorus set in of both, they are almost the same. But like, not the same enough that it's a new version of 'your favourite song,' just like - yeah. It's a middle ground that makes it feel like a pastiche, rather than a new theme that is epic and amazing.

It may not seem like a big deal, but the AC6 music has been iconic to me in gaming since I've heard it, and like, no one else but me will think this way, so ignore this section, but that puts a real bummer on me.

That is all, folks. Blogs be keepin' comin'.

#1 Posted by Tylea002 (2295 posts) -

That's right, it's time for me to report back on what is quite possibly my personal most anticipated game of 2011:

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

I booted up my xbox, to put it a little bit of Saints Row 2 - lo and behold, the AC:AH (which I will always pronounce as a bird's caw) demo was online, waiting for me. It was promptly downloaded. I don't know how many AC fans there are on this site - I don't even know if I count as one of them, but this is a preview coming from the perspective of someone who loved the effin' shit out of Fires of Liberation.

Above: Angels in the Skies. Pretty, HD Angels.

The demo begins by letting you know that it is Ace Combat. The high point of the series, the way it meshes Radio Chatter and Orchestral Epics to create a real 'fist pumping' feel as you 'shoot down some bogies.' At first glance, you'd swear you were playing some kind of up-rezed version of 6. The UI's extremely similar, the basic flight controls feel right. However, things are different. For one - this isn't made up Japan world or anything - Welcome to Earth, motherfucker, and mourn the loss of David Caruso, because Miami's a battleground.

That's the first big difference right there, the story. Obviously, this has been known about for a while - and fair enough, because the Ace Combat story style has been somewhat middlingly received. Personally, I found the in mission radio chatter to be excellent, and the between mission, following that mother and also everyone says angels all the time for planes and GET IT IT'S A METAPHOR? Yeah, that was terrible. All gone now. The word Angel is not spoken. However, it's lost it's flavour. There could have been a way for them to continue the weird narrative ideas they've been having in the past, without making it seem like Call of Duty in the skies. (There are multiple characters, some significant first person 'moments,' and 'They hit I-95 is uttered. In this one demo).

But really, the story itself is irrelevant. The radio chatter is there, the sweeping music is there, so you would assume all they need to do is get the gameplay right, and then they'd have at least some level of a success on their hands. And, to a degree, they do. The flying feels good, you shoot down planes in the standard way. However, they've added a new feature, which is cool - the first time.

It zooms in, puts a degree of auto pilot on, and you have to keep your target in your sights, and perform QTE style dodging, to kill guys better. This has replaced the red bar that would appear on the screen when you were (almost) guaranteed a missile hit. Whilst it's cool, and the dodging system feels truly great, it just seems to make fights take way longer. The challenge in six, I found, was not attempting to dogfight - because dogfighting is usually just going round in circles. It was more about having lots of targets, and taking them all out without getting hit so much. Whereas this demo presents a level in which every fight is broken up into one on one engagements using this new mode - and even outside of this mode, planes just take longer to go down. It's not a game-breaker, and it's still fun, but I have my doubts that it'll hold out to the full game.

Also, you can fly helicopters, and that's dumb as shit.

To Summarise

  • I'm still excited, but more cautious after playing the demo.
  • It plays just like Ace Combat, controls wise. But the features that have been added really change the way you have to take down planes, and i don't know if it will hold up.
  • Helicopters, and the playing of them, is shite.

One Final Thing

The music! It's pretty damn awesome, listen to it.

It also follows the formula so much that the previous one is practically identical, without the electronic music. Once the main chorus set in of both, they are almost the same. But like, not the same enough that it's a new version of 'your favourite song,' just like - yeah. It's a middle ground that makes it feel like a pastiche, rather than a new theme that is epic and amazing.

It may not seem like a big deal, but the AC6 music has been iconic to me in gaming since I've heard it, and like, no one else but me will think this way, so ignore this section, but that puts a real bummer on me.

That is all, folks. Blogs be keepin' comin'.

#2 Posted by Stahlbrand (838 posts) -

Hey man, nice post.

I've been a fan of Ace Combat since AC2 on the PS1, and I've enjoyed all the console-based sequels since then. I was excited when they announced a new game in the series a year or more ago, but to me it seems they are making the game for a different audience. I played the demo and came away quite disappointed.

I am fully not down with the change of setting to the real world. Contemporary US vs Russia is the new WW2 of videogames, and Project Aces already had a good thing going with their fictional nations - sidestepping the impossibility of a major air war between US and Russia, and giving them wiggle-room for super-weapons and flying fortresses that don't need further explanation.

I thought the controls were way too forgiving, in previous games you had to practice and use a deft touch to be a good pilot. The F-22 in the demo handled better than the reward bonus jets you get in other AC games for completing the story on hard. DFM ruins the game for me, I wash shocked that you couldn't crash even if you try to steer into a building, QTEs are contrary to player agency in general, and completely uncalled for in a fighter game.

I don't know what the rest of the sound track is going to be like, but I though the song in the jet demo was really annoying, just a crunchy nu-metal riff over and over. I know it is a cover a better song from a previous game, but I felt that the new version was just as generically 'western', disappointing, and off-putting as the rest of the demo.

Have you played AC4:Shattered Skies or AC5: The Unsung War? Those games had great (greatish? great in a really anime-ish kinda way) stories and voice over, like the non-angel stuff with Shamrock's family and the redemption arc of Fires of Liberation, but better. I don't think that is going to happen with the new world of "they hit I-95!" garbage. If you haven't played AC4 or AC5, you really should, b/c AC6 was great, but 4 and 5 were just a little bit better.

AC:AH just seems to be another awkward attempt by a Japanese dev to mimic successful games by western devs, but by lifting the wrong things, and losing their own distinct flavour in the process.

I don't know, I'm pretty bummed by the whole thing.

#3 Posted by Starclopsofish (88 posts) -

Just played the demo- I'm pretty disappointed. I tried taking down a "tgt ldr" without CRA and... it appears to be impossible. I counted at least 12 missile impacts, and he didn't go down. Using the gun is out of the question without a lead indicator, and since missile damage > gun damage, there really isn't a point anyway. As soon as I engaged CRA, he magically became vulnerable and the second hit destroyed him.

To end the madness, I decided to crash into the ground. Much to my surprise (and exasperation) hitting the ground at supersonic speeds apparently isn't sufficient stress on the aircraft to result in a game over. "Well, now it says 'critical damage' ", I reasoned, "the next impact will surely do me in." It didn't. In fact, after the third impact finally killed me, upon further experimentation I discovered that if one rotates the wings to about 45 degrees and is careful enough, you can hit the ground (at least) FIVE times before dying.

Second poster is right. This 'reboot' was completely unnecessary and if the full game is just like the demo, it really suffers from it. It's especially frustrating from my perspective, being an American absolutely disgusted with my country's foreign policy and imperialism to have to fight for the very monstrosity I try to dissociate myself with every day in yet another game. I could at least relate to the characters in say, AC4 and 5.

Apparently, the fictional universe was much too played out, but fightin' turrists and ruskies is fresh and innovative... *sigh*...

#4 Posted by Tylea002 (2295 posts) -

@Stahlbrand: Cheers man! Alas, 6 has been my only brushing with the series, because I've never owned a PS2. I've heard really good things about 4 and 5, as well as the first PSP game, with the journalist, if I recall correctly. Maybe I'll get opportunities to play them in the future, because alas, this does seem like the 'genericification' of the AC series.

@Starclopsofish: Bloody hell, I forgot to mention that! YOU BOUNCE OFF THE GROUND NOW. Which seems really stupid. I understand why, to stop punishing one hit kills, but if you were flying that close to the ground it was your own fault.

Indeed - clearly it is more innovative to bring it to the same story as everyone else, than your own, unique style.

Also, Stahl you raise a good point: Superweapons such as The Chandelier will not be in this game if it's going for realism. Things like that god damn flying fortress were highlights of 6 - distilling it to these same dog fights is not filling me with hope.

#5 Posted by Devil240Z (3350 posts) -

I will be ok with the non jet levels if they don't take jet content from the rest of the game.

Also my biggest fear is that this game is gonna have COD style jumping around between characters.

#6 Edited by Sunjammer (914 posts) -

I loved the demo, but wound up hating the game. Like you, I'm a big fan of AC6. Assault Horizon doesn't hold a candle to AC6.

And yeah, it has CoD-style jumping between characters. And the same degree of scripting.

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