Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Preview
Ace Combat will return this year, much to the delight of flight fans everywhere. Assault Horizon represents a reboot; a “rebirth” if you will, and will introduce a sweet new combat mechanic called Close Range Assault (CRA). Perhaps the biggest change will revolve around the amped-up intensity; those familiar with this franchise will recall recent entries, where we were routinely a fair distance from our targets. But this time around, developer Project Aces wants to put you in the midst of the action from the start; we’ll even be able to pilot helicopters and switch to the gunner in the rear (all for the sake of gameplay diversity, yes?). We will begin our harrowing journey in East Africa and end up in Dubai but really, the atmosphere and environment are almost secondary. This is about blood-pumping adrenaline from start to finish, which isn’t an altogether unpleasant concept.
For a bit of history, the first titles in this series, which debuted back in the original PlayStation days, were all about insane dogfighting with a small nod to the realistic and authentic. But recently, Ace Combat has taken on a more challenging position, and has been more about the mechanics of flying rather than the over-the-top battles with dozens of bogies. Well, like many other designers with legendary franchise names, Project Aces is returning to their roots with Assault Horizon, as you might’ve guessed from the available media. Close Range Assault is the key: when close enough to a foe, you simply press a button and enter the new mode. The camera will lock onto your target and you will temporarily forego control of your plane; during this time, you attempt to get your victim within the red assault circle. So basically, they’ve separated the two sets of controls normally required for dogfighting...how does that strike you?
Some fans may not like this; they may call it a “mainstream” alteration that detracts from any sense of realism the game may have had. And that’s a fair complaint. But as a trade off, we get a different gameplay style and the chance to see massive damage inflicted right before our eyes. You won’t just see a small explosion on the horizon where your missiles hit; you’ll see metal tearing free of the doomed plane and you’ll often fly right through those explosions. This is the kind of fast-paced entertainment that reigns in today’s world so it’s no surprise to see it included. It may have a lot less to do with realism and a lot more to do with shock value, but at the same time, we should expect a polished, top-quality production. Besides, in how many flight games do we get to watch a wing disintegrate when we nail it with well-aimed ammo? Sounds like a blast.
Online multiplayer ought to be fun, too. There won’t be a co-op mode for the single-player campaign – which will remain entirely single-player – although we have heard that Namco is contemplating bonus co-op missions. Can you say, “DLC add-on?” Based on the videos and screenshots we have at our disposal, we’re excited to see the end result, and although authenticity has taken a back seat for the sake of titillation, perhaps Ace Combat is in need of such an overhaul. The fans will have the final say, though. Expect Assault Horizon to land later this year.
2/7/2011 Ben Dutka