"Not exactly an ace, but a damn good game."

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is the newest installment in what is likely the most popular air combat game series ever. In a look to possibly expand their horizons, Project Aces have casualized the game somewhat, and introduced a very interesting new set of gameplay features, primarily the DFM. (Dogfight Mode) I'll be covering these and more in this review.

Plot: 5/10
Written by the New York Times bestselling author Jim DeFelice, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon branches away from the fictional worlds of most of the other entries of the series, this time taking place in the real world in the not too distant future. You primarily follow Lt. Colonel William Bishop, an ace pilot for the NATO forces' 108th Task Force who goes by the callsign "Warwolf 1," as he attempts to shut down an insurgency in Africa. Not long into the game the 108th Task Force discovers that the rebels have a new type of weapon dubbed "Trinity," which acts as a small nuke. The rest of the game follows the efforts of Bishop and a handful of other characters as they attempt to get rid of all the Trinity weapons before they can be used. This is definitely not the greatest Ace Combat storyline, but it suffices, plot isn't really what you play an air combat game for. However, despite that, they did a hell of a good job with the presentation. During DFM the main dogfights of the game become riddled with some gorgeous set pieces and a good deal of the storyline segments are told through first person view, immersing you even further. The storyline takes around 6 to 7 hours to complete.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
As I mentioned in my introduction, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has some neat new gameplay features, the most prominent being DFM. DFM involves tailing your opponent close enough so that a ring appears around them on your HUD. When this happens, you can press the R2+L2 triggers at the same time to get a zoomed in view of the dogfight and you enter a sort of pursuit mode where you and the other pilot zip throughout the skies, you trying to get your targeting reticule on him long enough to lock a missile and him trying to evade and break your DFM. What I found pretty intense was that the opponents can also do this to you, even in the online mode, so if you love dogfights that keep you on the edge of your seat you can be on both sides of the barrel in this game. In addition to DFM there is ASM, which stands for Airstrike Mode. These allow you to fly on a set course through the stage to do bombing runs on ground forces. While it isn't anywhere near as used as DFM, it's a nice touch. Due to these new gameplay additions, a new control scheme was implemented which kind of tightens what you can do in the air, however by tinkering with the options you'll be barrel rolling your heart out just like the old days. In addition to the signature planes of the series, you can now control an AC-130, stealth bomber, helicopter, and a door gunner of a helicopter. During these segments you play as different characters and a new style of play, and each are done rather well. There is an online mode featuring mission co-op and various online battle modes. I haven't really delved into the battle types but co-op is quite fun.

Sound: 10/10
Come on, it's Ace Combat, baby! The tunes in this game are amazing, every song gets you pumped and ready for your next dogfight as you soar through the air dodging missiles to intense rock music. The various vehicles sound just fine and the various artillery give off a glorious "BOOM!" Chatter between the pilots is almost constant but never an annoyance, although I did find it a little hard to follow what they were saying while I was in a heated battle. Character voice acting is well done as well with some real chemistry between the main characters.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Do you remember those old ads you would see in magazines with pictures of real jets, and they would ask you to pick out which were real and which were in-game? Graphically it's the same deal here, the jets look awesome and really shine on this generation of consoles. Explosions look great although when you fly through them you can certainly notice the mass of pixels used to create them. Character models are alright, not quite amazing but they get the job done, though I found Bishop's face in particular to be a little weird.

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon takes a bit of a step towards the more casual side of gaming, but there's still plenty here for hardcore fans of the series and newcomers as well. If you've been dying to get away from the slew of FPS in recent years, this might be what you need.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/18/11

Game Release: Ace Combat Assault Horizon (US, 10/11/11)


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