Ace Combat: Assault Horizon

By Koshai, Posted 15 Oct 2011

I just finished playing Ace Combat Assault Horizons on X360 and thought it was a pretty neat game. For everyone’s information, Ace Combat Assault Horizons is an arcade dogfighting game with many aircrafts and insane dogfighting scenarios. This is part of Namco’s very successful Ace Combat series and this game is the second one in the current generation (Ace Combat: Fires of Liberation being the previous one). So basically it has a story driven campaign and the player has to go through several missions. You are giving several choices of aircraft with different types of weapon armament and the player has to select the right one based on the mission scenario. The player then has to carry out several missions as the story progresses.


Unlike previous Ace Combat games in the series, the game leaves out its usual Japanese melodrama style sci-fi story and rather adopts the real-like Western war story just like Call of Duty or any other Tom Clancy games. I do not know why they have to adopt this strategy since there is already another game (HAWX) that adopts the same western like story. So the story goes like this, you are an Ace pilot trying to solve your own nightmare problem while you are battling against terrorists around the world. Your ace team is accompanied by some Russian ace pilots. The story includes twists and consiparacies and so on. I wont spoil you the fun anyway. I didn’t like the story since I felt the sign of cliché in storywriting. My question lies here, why do Namco had to adopt a Western story rather than stick to Japanese melodramatic meaningful story? Story is one primary element that Ace Combat series boasted and fans loved it a lot. In this game the story is pretty weak. It seems that the writers didn’t put that much focus on it rather than focused on bringing something new to the series. Yes this game introduced several new features which is more or less somewhat implemented effectively.



If you have already played Ace Combat games in the past, you will see a change in how the aircraft is controlled, which is somewhat easier to control but leaves out a lot of fun and challenge. You can however change back to original Ace Combat controls so control is not the major issue anyway. This shows that this game is actually meant to introduce new players to the Ace Combat series. Unlike previous Ace Combat games, big monster structure or planes and insane closed spaced flying (sort of tunnel flying) are absent, which is a bummer. Instead they introduced a concept of DFM and AFM. Using DFM, the player can chase down a high mauevareble planes and shoot down easily. In most cases in the mission, DFM is mandatory in order to shoot down certain key enemies. This lives out players freedom to use whatever strategy that they can implement. This plays a great role in story progression. In DFM the player can initiate close chase against the opponent until the plane is shot down or the plane escapes. It is challenging in way the player has to keep on tracking the plane and move furiously at some times. However, DFM automatically helps the plane change its direction which downgrades the challenge level significantly. That does not mean the player can leave out the analog stick and let the computer do the job. The player still needs to keep maintaining the course otherwise the opponent will evade. In the story mode there are some spectacular chase scenes using DFM which are delight to watch. For example, you chase down a plane which travels through Burg Hotel in Dubai and through the wings of a descending Boeing 747. Likewise, the enemies can also use the same DFM tactic on you and the chances of getting hit gets higher. You either can try to evade by evasion tactics or counter it by implementing the counter DFM move at the right time. It is like switching from defensive to offensive and it does require some skill to master it. This feature is indeed brilliant and sadly it is implemented very sluggishly. Also the mandatory use of DFM for killing some targets totally wastes the opportunity of using the more powerful secondary weapons. I just hope the developers consider implementing the system in later games more effectively. As far as AFM is concerned, it is also a nice system it will guide you when you attack a series of ground targets and the feature also increases the effectiveness of guns and missiles. In my point of view the implementation of AFM was a blessing considering the fact how the ground targets had to be destroyed in previous games. It is more fun during bombing missions.


Yes when I said bombing missions, there are several different types of missions in the game, which is new to the series. There is a chopper mission (which I had the most fun in it), bombing mission using bombers, AC-130 airstrike mission which is similar to that AC-130 mission in Call of Duty but little bit more intense in my opinion and gunner mission in a Huey chopper which has a more or less COD feeling in it. Yes as you see in the advertisement that Ace Combat Assault Horizon is the Call of Duty in air, they actually mean it. It has the same intense factor and similar gameplay style found in Call of Duty. Even the intro and ending presentation have theme similar to Modern Warfare. The control scheme in chopper mission has been changed to a more FPS friendly control (well supposed to be since choppers can stand still). However it is a welcome addition since there are hardly any chopper related games in the market.


Graphically, the game is way improved over the previous game. The explosions and cutscenes are fantastic and the guns eating away the plane is pretty entertaining. Indeed much satisfaction comes from these explosions and such. Even the chase scenes are a delight to watch. The weather effect is nice. The real cities are beautifully crafted (Washington DC, Moscow, Dubai) too. I wonder if the gameplay was improved and properly executed this game could have been a stunner. Same goes in sound department. In fact the sound elements are the best part in the game. Sound effects are pretty good and the music in the game is simply beautiful. In fact these soundtracks are some of the bests I have heard in games in recent times. Namco did an awesome job in keeping the presentation stunning.



I would also like to point out that unlike previous games, although there is no tunnel run or super crazy bosses, the game is extremely difficult. Even in normal settings, the game is a pain and may leave gamer into frustration. Still this difficulty can be overcome with little patience and at the end it could bring some satisfaction when some parts of the missions are finished. Players will have a long time dealing the game in latter difficulty modes. That’s said, the replayability of this game is pretty high considering there is lot of things to be unlocked and not to mention the multiplayer.


I haven’t played multiplayer but judging from my previous Ace Combat experiences, the gameplay would be the same. The addition of DFM and AFM will bring out even greater challenges especially in one-on-one battles. Also new in multiplayer player can also play with chopper. In fact players will spend more time in multiplayer then focusing on single player. There is a cooperative option where additional players can join in the campaign.


Summarizing the game, Namco did a bold move to bring something new to the series. It was necessary since the gameplay was more or less the same in all games in the series although all games are excellent. The game is both a blessing and a curse for any Ace Combat fan. It will favor mostly the newer people. The single mission campaign was a huge disappointment and I hope Ace Combat return back to its original storywriting roots. The gameplay is little bit flawed and newer features are not properly executed. Presentationwise, the game scores. I would recommend to newer players. For die hard Ace Combat fans, if they like changes, they are advised to get it, otherwise wait for the price to go down.


Score: 75/100

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