Ground Textures, Orchestras and The Real World

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.
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'.