There are few flight combat sims that have been as successful as Namco’s Ace Combat, and so it’s no surprised that Namco thought it wise to bring the franchise to the portable gamer with Ace Combat X for the PSP.
Namco’s always been known for good looking games, and Ace Combat X is no exception, though the small screen size of the PSP makes the portable version of Ace Combat a little less fun, simply because your objectives, enemies, and basically all the info on your HUD can be pretty hard to see most of the time. Other than that, though, the game certainly looks good, and plays pretty smooth as well.
The only problem with the gameplay, in fact, is that most of the flight control is relegated to the analog nub on the PSP. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, using analog features to control things such as pitch and roll, but the analog nub doesn’t really handle it terribly well. It took several minutes before I was comfortable executing even intermediate maneuvers that would be fairly simple using the Dual Shock, and worse yet the controls for yaw are mapped to the D-pad, making it nigh impossible to work both at the same time, meaning really complex maneuvers are out of the question under the current control scheme. A Namco rep informed me that there were plans to make the controls at least somewhat configurable, so hopefully players will be able to map the primary and secondary fire features to the shoulder buttons and the yaw control to the face buttons, which would be a far more elegant control scheme given the game’s core mechanics.
Ace Combat X will also feature wireless play, something Namco plans to really push with the new title. Few specifics were given about this feature other than that it was a primary focus of the game. You’d think that, were that true, more information would be forthcoming, but in the end I wasn’t able to wrestle much information about exactly how it would work from anyone at the Namco booth. Given that there’s not even a vague idea of a release date yet, though (when asked on Namco rep said “I dunno…. sometime this fall, maybe?”), it’s entirely possible that the finer details have simply not been worked out yet.
Ace Combat X still has a ways to go before it’s ready to ship, but since there’s no solid release date anywhere on the horizon, hopefully Namco can take advantage of that time to polish up the controls, and perhaps simplify the way information is displayed on-screen. We’ll be sure to keep you updated whenever new information on the title is released.
5/11/2006 Ryan Hartmann