Ace Combat is one of the few series that is always expected to keep the bar high in almost all its deliveries. A gigantic feat especially considering that we are talking about a series with more than a quarter of a century behind it. Ace Combat finally makes a come back after a long wait and deploy its seventh game, the title with which the iconic license of Bandai Namco has managed to fly higher than ever and offer us what is, without any doubt, the first great launch of the year.
The dark sky of war
As always, we are again faced with an arcade-style action game aboard airplanes in which we will have to wage an infinity of battles while we carry out missions of all kinds and we advance in a complex and elaborate story full of epic and unforgettable moments.
This time, we will return to the fictional world of Strangereal (very similar to ours, but with another geography and nations) where a new war has erupted on the continent of Usea between Osea and the kingdom of Erusea, plunging the world into a chaos that we will have to stop embodying Trigger, one of the best pilots of the air forces of Osea.
As we have already said, the plot is exciting and is full of surprises and unexpected turns of events, which manages to maintain our interest at all times while keeping it fast-paced, inviting us to continue playing to discover what is going to happen next.
The world is very well built and has a complex and credible political framework that forces us to be attentive to not lose detail, the characters have a lot of charisma, and you empathize with them almost without realizing it, and their careful narrative knows how to tell us what they want with a very Japanese and personal style.
If we had to use two adjectives to describe Ace Combat 7, we would not hesitate a second to mention ” intense” and “epic”, something that extends to all sections of the game, not just to the story.
Ace Combat 7 serves a very arcade aircraft fighting simulator that respects the bases of the series to offer us a “pure” experience without additives of any kind. Thus, we will have to pilot our fighter and perform all kinds of aerial maneuvers while trying to fix our enemies and targets to “greet” them kindly with our missiles, machine guns and special weapons.
The control is really good and intuitive, giving us the option of choosing between a simpler and more accessible configuration for easy turning, and another more realistic and traditional one that will force us to turn first to be able to make the turns. Both work wonderfully and adapt to the needs of each player, which is appreciated and helps break that barrier of entry that usually has the genre facing new fans.
Once at the controls, it will not take us five minutes to catch the point of the game and before we know it we will be doing all kinds of stunts in the air and ridding dogfights like real veterans. This is important since the duels are of great intensity and if we want to position ourselves with an advantage over the opponent to put them in our spotlight, we will have to “run it” and fly like real aces.
Here all the battles will be waged by piloting the aircraft manually and without the experimental automatisms, unlike Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. So the result of the confrontations will depend solely and exclusively on our ability, which makes each combat to be a tremendously satisfying and fun experience, plus a valuable lesson that will help us improve and polish our technique.
Attention to detail is important in Ace Combat 7 as we feel the weight of our fighters and the impact of the various atmospheric conditions that we have to face. Entering a cloud in a storm and with strong winds, for example, will considerably hinder the handling of the vehicle, while ascending to a very high point and with very low temperatures could cause the plane to begin to freeze, something that will obviously have negative repercussions at the controls.
Everything is taken care of to the extreme to transmit to the controls in the best possible way what we see on the screen, and even the smallest details show the love and care that the development team has put in to create the best possible game.
Another of its strengths is in its design of missions, simply spectacular. The variety of objectives that we will have to meet throughout history is enormous and there are no two equal phases, forcing us to adapt to all the changes of course and unforeseen that will happen during its development. There are escort missions, defense, pure combat, infiltration, duels against squadrons and special pilots that will put us on the ropes in the blink of an eye, to get a specific amount of points before the time runs out, to knock down certain targets before they reach a critical point, and so on. And always under different environmental and time conditions, and in unique scenarios.
As we say, the campaign is one surprise after another and if there is something that characterizes all the missions is the intensity of the action. There is not a single second of respite and they will not stop requiring our assistance in multiple points of the map while the enemies besiege us from all possible directions. At times, it can even be overwhelming, but we will always have the feeling of being submerged in a real war conflict of great magnitude.
The difficulty is also very well measured and normal will make us sweat and strive to get to the end. Here the victory is not given and you have to win it, and the AI of the enemy pilots will not walk with squeamishness when it comes to finding us the tail and mowing us with everything they have in their hands in order to finish us off.
In total, completing the game will take us an average of twelve hours, something that is obviously very variable depending on the level of difficulty and our ability piloting fighters , although the campaign is so fun and challenging that it is very replayable, not to mention that Taking out the highest scores and ranks of each mission is a very stimulating challenge and only suitable for the best.
Dogfights in the Online mode
Beyond the story, the title includes an addictive online multiplayer competitive mode with which we can enjoy their fantastic dogfights against other players in team battles or all against all with a maximum of eight pilots per game. The combats are as funny and as frenzied as you could imagine, although we are a little disappointed at how little it is in terms of modes, options and content, aspects that are quite short. Of course, the room search system works really well and the zero lag is practically priceless.
The potential of virtual reality
Finally, one of the novelties of this release that has generated more excitement among fans is its compatibility with PlayStation VR in the PlayStation 4 version, allowing us to enjoy the fantastic gameplay of the saga from the cockpit of the fighters as never before we had done.
The bad news is that this mode consists of only three very basic and short missions, so it looks more like a technical and experimental demo than anything else. Of course, the sensations that transmit play in this way are an authentic past, no doubt one of the best experiences we have ever experienced in virtual reality because immersion is total. Also, no tide, which has a lot of merits if we consider the amount of aerial acrobatics that we will have to perform. In fact, we liked it so much that we can not wait for Bandai Namco to decide to make a game of the saga focused entirely on virtual reality, because the base is fantastic.
An audiovisual show
With regard to its graphics section, we have a high-level game. The modelling of the planes is very detailed, the recreation of the skies is wonderful and the scenarios are more complex and results than you would expect, although, evidently, their textures are nothing special. Probably, the best part will take the effects and lighting, able to raise the show constantly, but we can not forget to mention also the great staging and great artistic design.
Finally, as has been usual in the series, we have one of the best soundtracks we’ve ever heard in a video game, full of tremendously epic and unparalleled strength that do not hesitate to experiment with different styles to create sounds unique and enhance everything we see on the screen, making every second of the game something extremely memorable and exciting that we will not forget easily. We are probably talking about the best musical work that the series has left us to date, which is not saying very little. And if that was not enough, some of the best classic Ace Combat tracks for the multiplayer mode have also been rescued.
The effects are also at the same height, with very cool and immersive details, such as the “plugged ear” when we go through a cloud, and the dubbing comes to us in both English and Japanese, with great interpretations in both cases.
If you do not understand the English (or Japanese) hearsay, we can assure you that playing and reading at the same time with the intense development of the missions is almost impossible, and everything they tell us on the radio is very important, both in the story as in the playable. In addition, the characters do not stop talking and if we are not attentive we will miss critical information to overcome the battles successfully. In fact, in our case, we had to change the voices to the language of Shakespeare so as not to have to be aware of the texts, since when we did not know what they were saying in Japanese it was proving to be an odyssey to move forward. A pity that this may be a point that limits their enjoyment for some players.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is one of the most iconic, veteran and most iconic series of the industry. With the Skies Unknown, Bandai Namco has flown to new heights to offer us an impeccable, varied campaign, full of action and with a lot of epic and unforgettable moments that will have us stuck in our seats from the beginning to the end while enjoying the absorbing story. And all this reinforced by a spectacular graphics and audio effects.
Perhaps its multiplayer, although fun, has been a bit short, and virtual reality missions can’t offer more than being a brief technical demo (impressive) of what can be achieved with this technology, Ace Combat 7 is one of the first great game of 2019 that has just started, so do not hesitate to spread your wings and furrow the skies of war once again.
We prepared this review with a review code for the PS4 version of the game provided by Bandai Namco.