Replay Value: 8.5
Not only did AC2 exceed my expectations; it also cut into that precious leisure time that Twisted Metal 2 Shoot Out '97 were hogging! I was seriously impressed. The graphics are sweet. If only all airplane games looked this good. The first thing AC2 will do is to dazzle you with its cool graphics. Terrain and cloud pop-in are slightly noticeable, but not distracting. Once in the screen, these effects look gorgeous, and you get that feel of flying many similar games have lacked. The HUD (heads up display) is perfect. It is a very realistic looking display, with much of the same info that's present in real HUDs.
There are two kinds of control: the novice (just pitch and yaw) and the expert (roll time!) controls. Both are very easy to use (players inexperienced in flight games will have more fun using the simpler novice controls) and are customizable. This game has excellent control. This game definitely has one of the better game soundtracks (in terms of retro music), possible some of the best 80's rock I've heard in a while. This game's music will remind gamers of the movie "Top Gun". I'm certain, of course, that this was the idea. The sound effects are quite hot, too. The engine noises are good (even though they loop regularly), and the missiles are excellent. The navigator is informative yet annoying, but you can turn him off. My real beef, however, is the lack of a stall horn. Let me say right now that this is not a "flight sim".
That said, let me say that it still rocks. It does, however, have more in common with a flight sim than it does with, say, After Burner. As a die-hard flight sim fan, I see enough well designed features in this game to make it fun for both them (the non-flight simulator people) and me. Things like a realistic HUD and a flight model that accurately depicts "corner velocity" (the speed at which a plane turns the fastest, usually ~450 knots) strike a sweet spot with me. Namco's target audience with this one was non-flight sim fans, and they hit that perfectly. Another treat about this game is that the mission sequence is not completely linear. That means certain successes/failures will lead to some different missions. Also, there's 3 "secret missions" giving players yet another reason to play it again.
I think the people at Namco were trying to predict the future of air combat with this one. This shows by the magnificent designs in the XFA-27 and the nuclear energy core levels. This game gives a good bridge to the futuristic third game AC3: Electrosphere. Also, knowing Namco well, you know that instead of many cheat codes they are going to bring hidden extras for those of you who beat the game. There is a mode after you win a few times called "Model Screen". No it's not full of handsome and beautiful models, but models of every plane and chopper in the game. You get to view them up close and different colors.
While it's not a game you'll play over & over forever (even though I did), it has enough replay value to make it worth your money. This game is a great example of what a sequel should be. Everything was improved from graphics to story line. And if you don't believe me, go to your rental store and pick the "darn" thing up!