It’s been over 10 years since the last proper Ace Combat game but Bandai Namco is back with Ace Combat 7: Unknown Skies, a ride that never ends. So let’s take a look at what the game improves on, and how it fares in the era of Battle Royale games.
Visuals and Eye Candy
Ace Combat 7: Unknown Skies is the first game of the series to release on the 8th generation of consoles and the 2nd title to release on PC. The game runs on Unreal Engine 4, another first for the series and really makes use of both, the engine and the available hardware. The game is absolutely visually stunning, with a realistic lighting and weather system that for the first time, affects the gameplay and interacts with the player. While the game itself is not a Simulation game, the visuals are at times hyper-realistic with a lot of punchy saturated landscapes as well as mellow grey skies, especially during storms.
On the consoles, there’s visual pop-in on ground textures which is especially evident when engaging with ground forces that can really hamper your experience. The lack of Anti Aliasing is quite evident as well on base consoles. Sadly, in terms of performance, the base consoles do not run the game at a solid 60fps, with the PS4 hovering at around 45-50fps and the Xbox One at 35-45fps. The enhanced consoles, however, do run most of the time at 60fps with minor drops at times.
The VR mode is truly immersive. While the PSVR runs at a lower resolution, it is still extremely immersive with the cockpit view and you can see the detail that was put into the game and granulity of the various effects.
Visually, the game is an absolute treat to look at and will pull in people who don’t even play games to watch you play as they’re mesmerized by the gorgeous visuals.
Sound Design and Audio
Good sound design is very important in a title like this in which aural information is extremely helpful and important as it will help you in gameplay and its safe to say that they’ve knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. You will start reacting to those audio cues and in no time they will be such a valuable asset.
The sound effects are all a treat with booming and punchy explosions, the powerful sound of a cannon firing, the rattling of various parts of your jet, the whooshing of missiles and the different engine sounds that all come together in this fantastic aural package that helps with the immersion and works wonderfully with the visuals.
Dialogue and Voice Work is good and not over the top unlike a lot of the past Ace Combat titles. There wasn’t a lot of “fake” enthusiasm or really bad writing. It’s not the best acting you’ll hear but it’s pretty good and won’t make you scoff at how weird the people are.
Onto the music which is well rounded and takes inspiration from its predecessors and films like Top Gun. It has a bit of variety to it and if you’re a fan of techno and electronic music, you will enjoy it, however, that’s not the only genre that the game has. It’s not the best OST out there but it is enjoyable and won’t make you want to turn it off.
Story and Gameplay
Let’s talk about the story which is a bit of a cliched tale but it isn’t too bad. Two neighbouring nations are at the brink of war, our protagonist has been put in jail and as part of the rehabilitation process, we’re thrown in with a bunch of other renegade pilots to do missions. The story is good and does decently to take itself seriously when it needs to while also embracing the more shooty shooty bang bang and, over the top aspect. Want to know how to stop all-out war and conflict between two nations? Blow everything up, that’s how apparently.
Story missions tend to change dynamically with both stealth and all-out dogfight missions. Choosing the proper jet is very important as choosing one that doesn’t suit the type of mission will just make it harder for you. Objectives can also change during a mission so you need to keep that in mind while choosing your jet. This makes you pay attention to mission briefings which will give you information as to what you can expect thus helping you choose your jet.
Each battle you partake in will give you credits which you can use to buy new jets and also to upgrade them. From long-range missiles to more durable jets, there’s a lot of upgrades to choose from and you can be assured that you’ll be flying a lot of different jets.
The controls are a bit of a mix between realistic simulation controls and a more relaxed arcade style to provide a comfortable experience that isn’t too confusing or difficult. You’ll be flying around trying to build up the energy to pull off fast manoeuvres while also trying to not stall out, which can leave you defenceless and at the mercy of the enemy.
Speaking of enemies, the game has Easy, Normal and Hard modes. Easy is simpler than the other two but by no means, a cake walk. It can get tough if you choose the wrong jets and weapons for a mission. Normal makes the enemies smarter and bit less predictable while Hard mode is truly hard and will really test you, especially the missions with timers on them. The game is about 12-15 hours when playing on Normal.
The Multiplayer has both private and public lobbies has a Death Match mode, Team Death Match mode and of course, a Battle Royale game mode.
There are also a couple of VR Missions that are a timed exclusive for the PSVR for now but is damn good and we can’t wait to see it make its way to the PC in a years time.
TL;DR and Final Impressions
The game is extremely fun and gives you that exhilarating feeling of flying a jet, dog fighting and in general being even cooler than Tom Cruise in Top Gun. It’s the complete package and there’s no game out there as of now that can give you a similar experience in terms of gameplay, visuals and, audio fidelity. It is also not only simple to get into but also an absolute joy to play from start to finish and we can’t wait for the PC release on February 1st.
On consoles though, there is a clear issue with the erratic framerate on base consoles and it would honestly be best to lock it at 30fps for now for a smoother experience. Along with that, the lack of good Anti Aliasing and the pop-in with the ground textured along with a few other minor nuances are the only things that I didn’t enjoy about the game. A lot of the graphical issues will probably be ironed out on the PC hopefully but for now, I really do recommend this game on consoles if you don’t have a PC to play it on.
If I were to give it a score, this game would be an 8/10.
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