Review: Flying high to the heavens, Ace Combat takes the player on an incredible journey to take back Gracemeria.
Since the advent of next-gen gaming heralded in the high-definition era known for its pretty bells and whistles, video games have begun to bring us bigger and more photorealistic worlds than ever before. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation is a prime example of that. With its majestic vistas and beautiful skies, this is the definitive game to show off what the Xbox 360 can do.
Equipped with a decently sized roster of fifteen planes, some real and some fake, you'll be living out the life of an Air Force pilot whose country (Gracemeria) has been raided by the Estovakians. With Gracemaria abandoned and its inhabitants forced to regroup in exile, you'll be sent on a mission to help take the country back. Along the way you'll be engaging in missions ranging from taking out enemy bombers, protecting targets, to destroying huge anime-inspired flying fortresses. Although this takes away from the ?realism' of the game, the series has never been about trying to replicate real life. Instead its about the fast-paced intense arcade gameplay which has made the series famous.
The game is about as intuitive and easy to grasp as the previous entries in the series. Although the game initially has a steep learning curve as you learn to pilot the ship around the soaring skies, the tutorials will show you everything you'll need in order to fly. People expecting a true flight simulator similar to Microsoft Flight Simulator will be disappointed with the game's arcade style controls. A flight stick is available, which helps bring more realism to the game, although it isn't particularly needed for anyone who just wants to pick up the game every now and then and play.
Each of the game's thirteen mission are split up into a series of different operations that allow the player to choose missions based on their plane and weapon loadout At any given time, a battle may take place on sea while another one takes place at the other side of the map at your airfield. It makes the player think about which one is important to complete and adds a living, breathing environment to the game.
Although several of the missions feel the same, the game's atmosphere warrants the player to come back for more each time. This adds a huge amount of replay to the game, which is a godsend as the single-player campaign lasts only about four to five hours. Throughout the game's missions, you'll be able to access allied attacks in addition to sending direct orders to your wingman in order to help you finish missions. Thankfully, the computer AI is quite intelligent when it comes to survivability so you'll never have to worry about sending your partner into a crowd and having them die.
In addition to the single-player campaign, the multiplayer modes in the game are just as fun. The game modes vary from team battling to online co-op missions, which are a blast to play, and thankfully there's a healthy amount of people playing the game at any given time.
Aside from the gameplay, the presentation is nothing short of amazing. From the armor plating on the jets to the lush backgrounds, you'll be in constant awe of what you're seeing. This is easily the 360's best looking visuals to date. The only problem occurs when you crash into the ground. When the camera zooms up close to the wreckage, you'll immediately notice a steep drop in the quality of the textures which isn't a complete loss considering how beautiful the rest of the game is and that the only time you see them is when you die.
The game's audio is just as strong especially if your gaming area is equipped with a 5.1 or higher surround sound. You'll hear planes flying by on your left and right, missiles being launched out of every speaker, and your fellow wingmen yelling out random comments during the middle of the fight, all helping to create a fantastic atmosphere for the game. Almost none of the comments that they make are repeated, which is a more than welcome departure from games like Dynasty Warriors or Ninety-Nine Nights.
Accompanying the game's strong audio is a fantastic epic score. Reminiscent of famous war films, the game's soundtrack is something that you'd expect to hear coming out of the likes of Hans Zimmer. Although the game's audio motif is constantly repeated throughout every piece, it ranges from simple accompanied French horns to a full-blown orchestral symphony making each time you hear more and more intense.