If you’ve been feeling the need, the need for speed with nothing console-based to satiate your urge, will Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown do the trick?
This release sees the venerable Ace Combat series celebrating its 20th anniversary (even though it can actually be traced back to 1995’s Air Combat on the first-generation PlayStation), and it does so in style.
Very much a game of three parts on the PS4 (two on the Xbox One, simply as it doesn’t support VR), this one’s been a long time coming, and arrives bearing a great weight of expectation. Cutting to the chase, it’s definitely been worth the wait.
Piling straight into the pilot’s seat for the single-player story missions – of which there are 20 – flings you straight into the high-G action, with a fairly simple hunt-and-destroy mission. It doesn’t take long for things to amp the intensity though, as the overarching story kicks in – along with the odd genuine shock.
It’s all set in 2019, in the same alternate Strangereal world that players of previous iterations will be familiar with, where the nations of Osean and Erusea are at each other’s collective throats once again following an uneasy peace that was overseen by The International Union Peacekeeping Force (or IUPF). Things weren’t helped by the construction of a space elevator. Yes, space elevator! Anyway, to cut a long story – and it is a long, but well-produced and entertaining story – short, you become a fighter pilot who goes by the callsign Trigger. You are not a horse. You are, rather, a newbie, which your fellow pilots like to remind you of, lots. But you’ll show them, right?
The action here is an absolute blast. Forget bare skies and sparse ground installations, you enter a detailed world with realistic-looking weather conditions and all manner of varying ground-based buildings and installations. Cool, all the more to blow up!
About the only thing that we can find fault with is the HUD, which is often rendered invisible depending upon weather conditions. This is a problem as it shows enemy locations, lock-ons and such. A simple shadow behind it and it’d be fixed.
You have a skill tree to master as you progress, adding new aircraft to your fleet, and improving them with various bolt-on bits and bobs.
Ace Combat 7 caters for all abilities, too. Go in basic and it’s more of an arcade experience, as you hurtle about the wild blue yonder locking onto enemy aircraft and torpedoing the living daylights out of them. Ramp up the hardness and the game obliges, requiring more by way of strategy and skill. Then there are the two control options, offering an arcade-like experience, or a more simulator-styled one.
If you want to play with friends – or strangers – Ace Combat 7 caters for your desire with two online multiplayer options in ‘Battle Royale’ and ‘Team Deathmatch’. The former pits eight pilots against each other in manic open-sky dogfighting, the latter requires teamwork to meet objectives. It’s worth noting that practice in the campaign will not only put you in good stead here skills-wise, but also when it comes to your arsenal, as most single-player upgrades are brought across to multiplayer. So, if you head into Battle Royale with your puny training wheels F-16 fighter, you will most likely become instant missile fodder.
The final piece of the puzzle is just for PSVR owners, with three bespoke missions – not just regurgitation of any of those from the main campaign – constructed especially for the format. This is no tawdry cash-in like many VR inclusions. Rather than the standard third person view, as you’d expect you’re strapped into the pilot seat and get the same view of the world that any fighter pilot who’s really risking their arse would. From pre-flight checks to takeoff and into battle, this is astonishingly great use of VR, although speaking of regurgitation as we were back there, the weaker of tummy may find themselves reacquainting themselves with their lunch. Hey, it’s just like the real thing!
It’s been five years since Ace Combat fans last got to get their Top Gun on, but it’s been worth the wait for this. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is kind of like SEGA arcade classic Afterburner II on serious steroids, offering a whole lot of gripping flight combat action for everybody from returning flight pros to those who are simply sky-curious.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.