By: Jeff Cater
Since the last official release of the Ace Combat line (Assault Horizon, 2011) fans of the series have been looking forward to another romp in the skies. Project Aces and Bandai Namco have gotten their most recent project, Ace Combat Infinity, past beta and onto the tarmac. With the introduction of a free-to-play model, will players be as eager to take off?
I found my time in any of the given planes to be very snappy and reactive; it definitely rewards both careful piloting and twitch reactions during combat. Franchise veterans will immediately feel at home in these skies, as the controls haven’t undergone any major changes.
The tilt of your plane is done using the L2 and R2 buttons rather than being assigned to directional input from the stick: this allows a more immersive flight experience and also makes precision much easier. Switching weapon categories with square in the heat of battle is easy, while the circle button will let loose a volley of missiles or rockets.
For being a “Freemium” game, they certainly did not skimp on the visuals. Cities are stocked with fully rendered buildings, theme parks, forests and wide open skies. Each plane features animated flaps and tail detail, so the exterior camera is just as fun to use as the cockpit choice.
The sense of speed in this game is believable as well; if you start taking a turn or start climbing the sky, your plane will show the moisture being cut by your wings. A few visual effects have been added to the combat as well, such as oil splattering all over your canopy if an enemy exploded in your vicinity. The game also moves at a decent clip with no noticeable slowdown.
Filling out the aural portion of the game are explosions and epic rock riffs snagged directly from older Ace Combat titles, so fans of the soundtrack will be pleased to hear some familiar tunes. The little bit of voice acting that you have to put up with is passable; and thankfully not constantly crammed into your ears.
In this installment, your primary mission is to overlook and protect various sectors of Aces’ “strange world” (real countries re-named) after a huge meteor shower wreaked havoc upon developed and undeveloped countries alike.
Ace Combat Infinity currently offers both a single-player campaign and online co-op. The unifying factor between these two modes is the fact that you must spend Fuel in order to play. This doesn’t seem too bad until you realize that you get one unit of Fuel every four hours, with storage that fits only three units of Fuel. This means that unless you pay the $19.99 for the single-player pass, you’ll only be able to play three missions a day. Furthermore, unlocking additional campaign missions through gameplay is a long and arduous process, with several hours of grinding unlocking a mission that lasts maybe 20 minutes.
Aside from the silly payment model, the gameplay is as Ace as ever. Online Co-op is particularly fun as each team has two members and there are four teams vying for the top position by destroying AI-controlled planes and ground vehicles. Every now and then during a co-op match a timer will start counting down until a more challenging enemy appears, which is usually a flying fortress that is extremely difficult but satisfying to take down.
While the game can surely use some work when it comes to the pricing model, Ace Combat Infinity is a darn solid dogfighter and has much potential to shape up into a game that people are excited to play and pay for. As it stands, the game doesn’t have enough draw to entice gamers to pull money from wallets, but it could definitely pick up steam with some simple additions and revisions.